Friday, 9 August 2013

Forgotten Book - Found Floating

It's a standing joke with crime writers that a visit to an exotic location should be followed by a book in the same setting, so that the trip can legitimately be treated as tax-deductible. It's also fair to say that writers who travel far and wide often feel inspired to transform their wanderings into fiction. A Mediterranean cruise features in my Forgotten Book for today, and I'm sure that the author, Freeman Wills Crofts, must have been on just such a cruise not long before he wrote the story.

One snag was that his trip, which included a stop in Cadiz, took place before the Spanish Civil War, and by the time Found Floating came out, he needed to explain in a prefatory note that the cruise undertaken by William Carrington and his family also pre-dated the conflict. But you can bet that Crofts enjoyed his cruise. He devotes a whole chapter to an account of the cruise ship! Even allowing for the fact that he did introduce some plot material as well, this "Interlude" as he describes it was a bit much, I felt. On the whole, the story is more about travel than the fairly ingenious murder plan at its heart.

William Carrington is a wealthy businessman, but there is a rift in the family about who should take over. His appointed successor, Mant Carrington, has recently come back to Britain from Australia, and he is not universally popular. He is the main target of an attempted poisoning, and the cruise is intended to aid the recovery of those who were affected, but Mant is not destined to return alive. Inspector French is given the chance to join the ship, and very pleased he is about it too.

The killer's scheme is quite complicated, but I must admit that French's unravelling of it did not keep me gripped. Part of the problem was the very small pool of potential suspects, and the fact that I didn't really care about them. Nor did I think that the killer's motivation was adequately signposted. Crofts wasn't very interested in criminal psychology, and this makes Found Floating a flawed book. He did much better in some of his other novels, but at least I'm sure he had a great time in the Med,!


Kelly Robinson said...

I've read some of Croft's short stories in anthologies, but never any of the full length ones. Thanks for the review.

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks for the comment, Kelly, good to hear from you.

The Passing Tramp said...

Centering much of the narrative around a specific character's personal drama, as opposed to the detective's investigation, tended not to work well for Crofts, who had not the gifts for strong characterization. Christie could have done a lot with this plot, which is good, but she surely wouldn't have had a male love interest named Runciman Jellicoe! "Oh, Runciman!" just doesn't work.

With my apologies to nay man out there actually named Runciman.