This book I just stumbled upon browsing the new fiction shelves at the library one day. Its been quite a while since the last new episode of Sherlock and I was in the mood for just a classic murder mystery without all the thriller fluff that takes up most of modern-day mystery books. Plus, it’s a British classic crime novel, and I have enjoyed the last few of that genre that I read. This one in particular caught my eye because of its history. Willis Freeman Crofts was just as well-known in the mystery literary circles as Agatha Christie and Sir. Arthur Conan Doyle. With this particular novel, he inverted the typical mystery formula by presenting the views from the murder’s perspective. It was quite a novel take during his time.
In an English city, a murderer colluded with a local zookeeper, George Surridge to use snake venom to kill an old professor in order to gain his inheritance. The novel starts out with the murders, setting up their motives and already putting the reader’s sympathies in question. The famed Inspector French doesn’t even make an appearance until nearly the last fourth of the novel, just when you think things are wrapped up the murderers will be able to get away with their scheme. The entire process was so interesting to me. Especially the way the two accomplices worked together. One procured the venom, but had no idea how the other administered the venom to the victim. Since the reader was kept in the dark, we were able to follow through Inspector French’s detective process and piece together the missing parts of the puzzle to figure out how it was done, not necessarily who it was done by.
Since the book was written in the 1930’s, there’s a certain elegance to it, a subtle and snarky sense of humor belies the entire book. George Surridge is trapped in a loveless marriage. He starts an affair with a young woman he meets at the zoo. Soon, his affair ends up putting him in debt that only the inheritance of his aunt will rescue. Although he catches himself wishing her dead, he takes no actions and feels guilty (sort of) for his thoughts. When his aunt does actually pass away, he finds out from the lawyer, Capper, that all of the inheritance money has been spent. This is how Capper recruits his accomplice. Capper explains that the death of his uncle will provide both men with the funds that they so desperately need. Here we have motive, as well as a basic outline of how the murder will take place. The book was a wonderful read. I was eagerly looking for more books in the Inspector French series, as he works likes a Colombo type of detective. Those are always fun stories. I loved watching Colombo as a child with my mom. Unfortunately, there are no more books by Crofts available in my little area of the Bay Area. Maybe more will be re-published soon. This was a wonderfully engrossing novel that any mystery or British literature fan will appreciate and enjoy.
The post Book Review: Antidote to Venom by Willis Freeman Crofts first appeared on The Novel World.