This is the only book by Freeman Wills Crofts which is on Project Gutenberg. Of course it’s one of his first crime novels, dating from 1922, his books were published from 1920 until his death in 1957. I think he did improve over the years.
Seymour Merriman is in the wine trade and part of his job entails travelling around France and visiting vineyards. On one of his travels his motorbike runs out of petrol in a rural district, stranding him in what he thinks is the middle of nowhere, but he discovers a tree felling business nearby and walks there, in the hope that they will be able to sell him some petrol.
On the road down to the offices Merriman meets a young woman and she arranges for him to get some petrol but Merriman’s suspicions are raised by the strange movements of one of the lorries which was being used at the tree felling business. He’s determined to find out what’s really going on.
Around about half way through this book I started to get the feeling that it was beginning to drag but almost as soon as I thought that the whole thing was enlivened by the appearance of Inspector Willis of Scotland Yard.
My one gripe is the romantic element, I’m really happier to have my vintage crime sans romance, but a lot of people must see it as a plus, publishers included. Just think of all the episodes of Morse which involve Morse and love interest, I could just do without it. Maybe it’s my age! No – scrub that – it’s just that I’m not much into romantic fiction, unless it comes with a big dose of humour.
As I said though, The Pit Prop Syndicate was Wills Crofts’s first foray into fiction and it’ll be interesting to see how his writing improves over the years, and of course, as I downloaded this onto my Kindle for free, everything’s hunky dory, especially as I don’t have to find shelf space for another book.
If you’re interested you can download it here.