JOHN CREASEY – The Toff Among the Millions. Walker & Co., US, hardcover, 1976. First Edition: John Long Ltd., UK, 1943; paperback reprints, UK: Panther, 1964; Corgi, revised edition, 1972.

The Toff Among the Millions

   The title could be taken in two ways, I guess. What begins with Richard Rollinson’s determined attempt to throw ice cold water on a friend’s summer romance leads not unexpectedly to a case of murder, perhaps of a missing industrialist supposedly worth a good many pounds. Rumors being what they are, this could also have been called The Toff and the Stock Market.

   Of course, as either protagonist or antagonist, the Toff is “one in a million,” so there you are. If you’ve never been properly introduced, the best description I could give might be that he’s a foppish sort of imitation of the Saint, complete with a devoted valet named Jolly, This particular book shows its age rather badly, however, and it’s not at all recommended for beginners. Just as in all too many bad radio dramas, the mystery is applied in layer upon layer of confusion and clod-pated characterization, so that at any stage the problem for the reader really becomes figuring out exactly what it is that’s going on.    (C minus)

— From The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 3, No. 2, Mar-Apr 1979.

[UPDATE] 07-21-07.  Ouch. I’m afraid that at the time I didn’t care very much for this one, did I? My general impression of the books in the Toff series has been that they’re very uneven, and perhaps the same might be said about Mr. Creasey’s work in general. This could have been one of the Toff’s lower spots, or perhaps it was I who might have been having a better day.

   Or? Here’s another possibility. Creasey first wrote the book in 1943, and at least by 1972, if not earlier, it had been revised for the Corgi edition. I’m not sure how much rewriting might have been involved, but maybe it just didn’t work –the book was written in one era for one audience, and then revamped for another, more sophisticated one. In any case, here’s a book I’d like to have another chance at. Maybe someday.

   Whenever anyone stops by where I live and asks me if I’ve “read all of these books,” my answer is always, “some of them more than once.”