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The Cask

3.70  ·  Rating details ·  279 ratings  ·  48 reviews
Freeman Wills Crofts was an Irish mystery author of detective stories during the Golden Age of Detective Fiction. At the age of seventeen he apprenticed as an engineer and started working as an engineer. In 1919, however, he had to be absent from work due to a long illness and, during his absence, he wrote his first book, a mystery story that established him as a master of ...more
Kindle Edition, 357 pages
Published March 4th 2015 (first published 1920)
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3.70  · 
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 ·  279 ratings  ·  48 reviews

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Aug 06, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Freeman Wills Crofts (1879-1957) was one of the most successful of the crime writers from the Golden Age of Detective Fiction, writing a book almost every year during his writing career. He was a member of the Detection Club, alongside Agatha Christie and Dorothy L Sayers and became a full time writer in 1929. The Cask was his first ever novel, written in 1920 when he found himself off work with a long illness. Although it was written a long time ago (even for a Golden Age novel, it is one of th ...more
This is an early police procedural, taken to the nth degree of following the evidence. Although it had its interesting points, it's so exhaustive that eventually I became an exhausted reader and skimmed the latter parts (even though they were probably the more interesting).
May 19, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: discuss-it
I thought this was a very competent detective novel. If I had put on my anorak and hunted out contemporary train timetables and street maps the chronology and geography would have been faultless. The two detectives are painstaking in their investigation, then stop when they are satisfied that they have the culprit and sufficient evidence for a conviction. The private detective also investigates to give the accused the best chance of a defence in court. Everybody does their job.
The only problem
Charmingly tedious mystery goes in for every Golden Age cliche. The sheer amount of deduction is altogether impressive, but the book is weighed down by the fact that it is mostly very uninteresting. This is my first Crofts, and apparently his trademark is the laboriously described railway timetable. No character is more than sketched. There is constant exposition, but none of it pertains to psychology in the least. A quite silly book by any measure, which could do with a hundred pages less, and ...more
Lisa Kucharski
The beginning suffers a bit from showing us every bit of movement made and thought by the investigating police, and could have used a heavier hand by an editor. However, about the last third of the book when a lawyer gets involved and then a private detective is involved the story actually comes to life and it feels like you are reading about people and not just sifting through facts.

It certainly feels like a book that was written before 1920, though the copyright is 1920. In those 1910 years th
May 13, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: did-not-finish
If Mr. Crofts other books are like this one, I don't think I want to read them. While well written, the book is sterile, reads like a diary almost. All--and I mean ALL--the actions are minutely described. Some characters who appeared at the beginning of the story, whose actions are described ad nauseam, completely vanish soon afterwards. Another annoying thing was the constant misspelling of French. For example Metropolitaine, instead of Métropolitain; Gare du Lyon instead of Gare de Lyon; Toiss ...more
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Little Nell
The Cask (another one of this author's books that I've never heard of) is a novel written by Freeman Wills Crofts (again who I never heard of before I read one or two of his other novels) was published in 1920. It was his first novel which I only realized when I was finished, so I'm obviously not going to read all his novels in the order he wrote them. I think it would be impossible anyway, if you can find all his books you deserve an award, a few books perhaps. I read this book because I enjoye ...more
Feb 24, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well deserved to be called a classic of the detective genre. Mostly a police procedural, they come to the wrong conclusion and the last third is handled by a private detective for the accused. The only weakness is the use of the “brain fever” device, removing a character from being able to give information that would have changed the way the police proceeded. There were a few clues that the police did not ask about and some missed questions they could of asked but in all a very tight and fair my ...more
Oct 12, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A slow start but a most interesting and detailed book, the ending was well written and the journey was with waiting for, it's worth remembering the age of the book and reading it with this in mind. We tell stories differently today so the style can seem odd. Don't worry about it and enjoy reading something different.
Aug 02, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It does go into excrutiating detail at times and it is probably longer than it needs to be. Yet despite it's flaws I think it does deserve it's reputation of being a minor classic of the Detective genre.

Early police procedural, with a good mystery, and more than a few interesting twists and turns
Beth (bibliobeth)
If I could give three and a half stars to this novel, I definitely would! An intriguing and entertaining golden age mystery with so many strands, twists and turns I was desparate to discover "who dunnit."
May 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is Freeman Willis Crofts' first book, published in 1920 (even though the events took place in 1912). It was therefore not part of his famous Inspector Joseph French series which starts with his fifth book. The Cask is an early European mystery, with events taking place in both England and France. In fact, both England's Scotland Yard and France's Surete were extensively featured in the book). It has a very complex timeline and plot. For readers who like to draw timelines and to break alibis ...more
More interesting as a period piece and bit of history of the mystery genre than it is as a book to read.

This is certainly a procedural, but more along the lines of Arthur Conan Doyle than, say, Dell Shannon. It operates almost entirely on an intellectual level rather than a literary or story-telling one. Mathematicians may like this, because to really get what is going on, you need to trace steps carefully, and probably take notes when you read, and it is all very precise.

I found the story to mo
What a fine puzzle this mystery presents! Actually, it was the most mysterious police procedural I’ve ever read. Every aspect of the crime must be painstakingly investigated, but first Scotland Yard’s Inspector Burnley has to find out if there was even a crime committed because all the evidence was carted away. Then after a fine show of detection and just a little luck, he still has to both identify the victim and the crime scene before the guilty can be caught. That isn’t going to be easy even ...more
i understand that crofts was considered a pioneer in the murder mystery genre and it was interesting to read this book withthat understanding. It's very primitive, however, and really makes you appreciate what Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers did by introducing compelling characters and back stories. This is really a very lunky procedural, with no real central character. It's confusing and it's hard to care who did what to whom when. Having said that, I finished it and didn't find it a chore t ...more
Dec 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Superb early police procedural. A bit plodding at times, but it was published in 1920 so the slow unfolding of the plot is largely due to the style of the time (or so I'm assuming). A crazy story where a body turn up in a cask. A suspect is found after a lengthy police investigation. Then a detective goes over much the same ground. We learn much about casks, train schedules between London, Paris and Brussels, and police procedure of the time. I suspect this isn't for everyone, but I really enjoy ...more
Tiana Hadnt
3.5 STARS!!!!!!! The very slow beginning almost made me quit reading, but I'm glad I kept on. It was not the best written or plotted Golden Age detective novel, but for it to be the author's first mystery, it wasn't too bad. The killer is fairly obvious from the time we are introduced, but watching the multiple officers and detectives figure it out was quite enjoyable. I wouldn't suggest this as your first foray in Golden Age mysteries, but it's definitely worth a read if you already have a hist ...more
Yana  Gifford (Ms.Yana Reads)
First published in 1920 a golden age mystery book, The events take place in 1912 in both England and France. This is the first book for Freeman Wills Crofts, Interesting read with lost of turn, threads and complex plot. Good book overall with a solid. 3 stars rating. Keep in mind the age of the book while reading.
Oliver Low
Apr 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Brilliantly plotted detective mystery. The author takes the reader through the meticulous investigation clue by clue, bafflement by bafflement. The detectives sit down from time to time to take stock rehearse evidence and theories, so the reader who has not been taking notes does not lose the threads. Loved it. :)
Jack Heath
Synopsis: when a cask arrives from Paris it holds gold and a body, rather than a statue! Officers Burnley and Lafarge delve into the puzzle.
Glenn T. Miller
Aug 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a good read. The plot is involved, but the clues are all there. Well worth the summer.
Ray Taylor
Jan 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Great Read

Good mystery and fun to read mmm mmm mmm mmm mmm mmm mmm mmmm mmm mmm mmm mmm mmm mmm mmmm
Michael Dunn
Strange three part structure. very much a procedural novel. Ending was anti-climatic.
Nov 13, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
Nicely plotted, old fashioned mystery.
Whistlers Mom
Sep 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book is one of my favorites, but I honestly don't know if I should recommend it or not. It's long and slow moving, but I love it for the glimpses into everyday life (for men, anyway) in England and France in the years just after WWI. It represented a departure from the typical mystery of that time - which invariably features a brilliant, charismatic private detective pulling rabbits out of hats and astonishing on-lookers with his omniscience.

Crofts was an Irish railroad engineer and was suc
Jun 21, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle
A genius book in the Golden Age, I believe.
Not like many others thrillers, which are focused on the non-official detectives, this one spent a large amount of pages in describing how the investigation went on with the official forces, which makes it distintively significant from the rest of them (thrillers) that I have the opportunity to read.
What I admire the most about this book, was the skim that the murderer used, which was the one that led the entirely The Scotland Yard and Surete into the w
Katherine Rowland
May 21, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: fic-mystery
For a book that revolves around love and revenge, this is curiously colorless, mostly leaning toward being a police procedural. I knocked off a star for the sheer tedium; some ground is covered so often that the narrative feels threadbare. The author relies for mystification mostly on complex timetables and alibis, which are rehashed multiple times. Even so, the book had possibilities and wasn't unreadable, and the pace picked up about midway through the book. I will probably read another by thi ...more
Mar 02, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I found the description of the meticulous detective work in this novel interesting. Though it must be boring to do, it's probably accurate. The plot was quite convoluted, yet somehow I knew who the culprit was all along. The characters weren't very well filled out, but I still had a sense of the author's attitude toward each of them. The action is between Paris and England early in the 20th century.

I read this book was written while the author was convalescing, as a past time, and was his first
Shay Lynn
If you can follow this plotline, then...

... congratulations, you are one ruthless sleuthhound indeed. After too many clues, too many characters appearing from nowhere and too many changes in locale this tired old brain skipped over several chapters to the end. Your younger, more nimble mind could very well enjoy the challenge.
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Born in Dublin of English stock, Freeman Wills Crofts was educated at Methodist and Campbell Colleges in Belfast and at age 17 he became a civil engineering pupil, apprenticed to his uncle, Berkeley D Wise who was the chief engineer of the Belfast and Northern Counties Railway (BNCR).

In 1899 he became a fully fledged railway engineer before becoming a district engineer and then chief assistant en
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