Mystery in the Channel, by Freeman Wills Crofts, was first published in 1931, the same year as last week's Forgotten Book, The Secret of High Eldersham. The two novels are very different, and this illustrates the point that the range of Golden Age fiction - even in the case of authors such as Crofts and John Rhode/Miles Burton, who are often lumped together and labelled "humdrums" - is actually quite extensive.
A steamer sailing from Newhaven to Dieppe comes across a yacht which has an apparently dead man on deck. The crew board the yacht and find another corpse down below. What on earth has happened?Wisely, a decision is taken to call in Scotland Yard, and the case is passed to Inspector French, that most dogged of detectives.
It soon emerges that the dead men were prime movers in a dodgy financial business. Were they fleeing their creditors, and if so, who made their escape from justice more permanent than they'd intended? In 1931, this was a highly topical story-line, and Crofts makes it very clear, all the way through the book, that he is contemptuous of those who exploit the financially vulnerable. His sympathy is for the victims of the swindlers, ordinary people who face ruin.
I enjoyed this story. It is well-constructed, as usual with Crofts, and suspicion shifts from one candidate to another in a very satisfying way. There's a good, dramatic climax, too. All in all, a good example of Crofts' skill at plotting, and a story that is sufficiently "different" to be well worth remembering.