It’s that time of year again where we’re all skint, it’s cold outside and we’re most likely having an alcohol free month and/or have started some depressing new fad diet. Bets are on that you’ll cave before payday. Never fear my friends, the Croydonist is here to keep you entertained and distracted from temptation. Put the cupcake down, place the bottle opener in the drawer and settle down on the sofa after your hard workout at the gym. It’s time to get nice and snug with a good book.
Well… after you’ve read this book review of course and then purchased said book. Without further adieu, let the review begin!
I love a story based in a place that I know. It somehow makes it more real and heightens the imagination – being able to visualise places mentioned – making me feel more involved in the tale. So ‘The 12.30 From Croydon’, by Freeman Wills Crofts, originally published in 1934, was a natural choice given its touch of Croydon in the title. The story is, however, mainly set in London and Yorkshire, with Croydon having a brief but important cameo.
A crime novel, unconventional in its delivery for the time, sees the story from the criminal’s perspective – more of a ‘Howcatchem’, than a ‘Who Dunnit’. It begins with the death of Andrew Crowther, a wealthy retired manufacturer, on the 12.30 flight from Croydon to Paris. We see the killer’s motives, the preparations for the crime and the devious tactics to cover his tracks.
From the outset, the level of detail in this book is a delight to pore over. Starting off with the excitement of the early days of air travel, we are transported to another time, with accounts of the arrival at Croydon Airport, the weigh in, the cabins, and the thrill of possibility with man’s new achievements in aviation. It’s packed with historical detail and an air of innocence that can’t help but make you smile. I wonder if I was in such awe as a kid when I flew for the first time? After a near crash and emergency landing in a field in Vietnam, I am not the aeroplane’s number one fan! But that’s another story.
The build to the terrible event is fascinating, disturbing and absolutely gripping, as is the development of the characters and meticulous attention to detail, to shape the many twists and turns that make this book truly great.
The underlying tension in the first half of the book is ‘hold your breath’ good, leading into a thrilling ride for the second half. There’s betrayal, greed, unrequited love, fear and loathing (not in Las Vegas – sorry, I couldn’t resist) and a blend of suspense to keep you on the edge of your seat. No nail biting please, you gave that up as one of your new year’s resolutions, remember.
Now this may seem like the tick box of things for many a detective novel, but predictive text, it ain’t. There’s clever courtroom antics and it’s full of surprises that you really won’t see coming. From start to finish, ‘The 12.30 From Croydon’, is a book that does battle with the forces of conscience and self-delusion, of trickery and greed, blending it all into a gripping crime drama that stands the test of time.
The question is, will the killer get away with it?
Posted by Angela