Monday, November 15, 2010

56. Inspector West Leaves Town by John Creasey

John Creasey was an amazingly prolific British mystery writer. He had several series (including the Toff, one of which I read and reviewed here). I discovered him through the very enjoyable BBC radio plays of his Inspector West books. I was really excited to make the discovery, as I love the whole allure of Scotland Yard. I didn't love the Toff book and was expecting a bit more from this Inspector West book (great cover!), hoping that it might emphasize more the procedural side of things.

Unfortunately, it's a bit of a mess. I did a bit of reading and see that Creasey cranked his books out, going straight from his mind to typewriter and never revising. You can tell! It lacks cohesion and rhythm, so you don't really know why you are reading certain sections. A lot of time is spent on West's domestic life, which would be fine, but it doesn't seem to be in service of anything. There are moments and bits of dialogue that almost seem like you are reading a documentary of post-war British middle class life.

The real problem for me, though, was that the badguy is presented as incredibly powerful, almost invincible. Nothing wrong with that and he would have fit well into an American pulp novel. But it just seemed weird that a villain who is able to kidnap dozens of top British officials and prefaces all of his perfectly-timed exits with a specific concerto playing from nowhere is in the same book where one of the heroes has a badly injured hand for almost the entire story.

I get that he was cranking these things out and I am somewhat in favour of pushing the action forward rather than revising a zillion times to make the perfect novel, but in this case I just felt too unconvinced and mildly bored at times. I would not be surprised if there are superior books in this series. I also think they work better as radio plays, as the interplay between the characters is fairly enjoyable when delivered by BBC actors. If someone can recommend a particularly good Inspector West book, I'll definitely check it out. Otherwise, I probably won't be adding any more John Creasey books to my on-deck shelf in the near future.

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