William F. Deeck

FREEMAN WILLS CROFTS – Fatal Venture. Hodder & Stughton, UK, hardcover, 1939; Dodd Mead, US, hardcover 1939, as Tragedy in the Hollow. Popular Library #18, US, paperback, under the latter title, 1944.

   Perhaps another dubious entry here. Charles Bristow has a good idea: Buy a salvageable ship and set it up to cruise around the British Isles, visiting hard-to-reach attractions, at a price the average person can afford. As the scheme is developed, however, the ship is turned into a floating casino and priced accordingly.

   Although the ship is registered in France, the British Government is embarrassed by this flouting of their gambling proscription. Inspector French is asked to take a holiday on the.ship with his wife, Em, in the hope he will spot some irregularity and be able to halt the gambling. No irregularities occur, unfortunately, but there is a murder.

   Some criticize Crofts’s novels as being dull, a view with which I do not agree. Oh, sure, the prose is mostly pedestrian and occasionally the detailed confirmation or breaking of alibis can be a bit tedious, but on the whole, Crofts manages to hold at least my attention. Try this one, or one of his many others; you may agree.

— Reprinted from MYSTERY READERS JOURNAL, Vol. 6, No. 2, Summer 1990, “Vacation for Murder.”