Sunday, September 19, 2010
40. A Rocket for the Toff by John Creasey
I'm a fan of old-time radio (or OTR as it is known among aficionados) and the Radio Detective Story Hour is a pretty good podcast to get a nice sampling of OTR shows. They played a 6-part BBC series called Inspector West at Bay that was an effective and entertaining Scotland Yard procedural right in my wheelhouse. I did a bit of research and found out that Inspector West was a popular series by John Creasey, who was one of the most prolific detective fiction writers in the 50s and 60s in the UK.
I found this Toff book at a garage sale right around the corner from my house and picked it up. The Toff is an upper class lad in London who is a fulltime amateur detective. He has trophies in his library of past victories over crime and an older manservant who is an expert fighter and driver among other things. The story begins with a girl at Heathrow waiting for her fiancé who is coming back from a two-year business trip to the States. She is attacked by a dog and gets knocked unconscious. When she comes to her, fiancé is nowhere to be found, even though his plane emptied. The airport doctor takes her to the Toff for help in finding her fiancé and figuring out what happened to her.
It's an intriguing story and it moves along at a steady clip with no shortage of action. Once you start to see the pieces to the puzzle, the mystery isn't all that interesting and there is a certain distance from the antagonist. He is cool and on top of everything, with a superior air, and it renders him opaque. Interestingly, some of the way the story was structured reminded me of the BBC radio play (Inspector West at Bay). Interesting because he was famous for writing such a wide spectrum within the crime genre and that even the tone of his books was different depending on the sub-genre.
I probably wouldn't read another Toff novel, but it wouldn't hurt if an opportunity arose and I'm glad I read this one. I have another Inspector West novel in book form this time and am looking forward to that.