Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Thursday, November 30, 2023


Inspector West at Home by John Creasey (1944; revised, 1973)

Inspector (later Superintendent) Roger "Handsome" West was one of Creasey's most popular characters, featured in 43 novles from 1942 to 1978, as well as a hanful of short stories published in the 1950s.  Over the years West has grown from his Bulldog Drummond-ish character to a more mature police detective, relying more on the forces of Scotland Yard at his command.  Inspector West at Home was the third book in the series; Creasey revised it shortly before his death to place the book early in the post-War years; I suspect any other revisions Creasey made were slight.

It's his wife Janet's birthday and West had been allowed to leave the Yard early to celebrate.  Shortly before going out for the evening, his superior, Supentendent Abbott, arrives with a search warrant for Roger's home.  Roger has been accused of taking bribes and the evidence against him is damning.  Suddenly Roger finds himself an outcast, under suspicion by his fellow policemen and suspended from duty.  The bribes allegedly had begun about four months before with cash being funneled into a rarely used bank account, the deposits supposedly being made by Janet.

Now on his own, with no idea why he had been targeted, Roger fights to clear his name and to get to the bottom of a well-planned plot.  Helping Roger is his best friend and unofficial assistant in a number of Roger's case, Mark Lester.  (Lester was a regular character in the early West books; he was dropped as the series began to find its feet.)  The trail leads to a beatutiful society figure and her charity for war refugees abd its manager, the woman's wealthy dilittante husband, a vicious gangster on the rise, the murder of a police informant, a secretary caught in a blackmail trap, an international plot that included Nazi loot, the kidnapping of a cabbie, threats against Roger and his wife, corruption in Scotland Yard itself, a kickass army martial arts instructor, and Roger being physically beaten.  That's a lot to squeeze into a 202-page novel, and the pace of the book seldom lets up.  

All ends well, of course, and all loose ends are tied up.  The early West books are as much adventures as mysteries, and its interesting to see the characters in their nascent stages.  West has been married for just five years.  Janet, who discovers she is pregant in this book, takes a far more active role than in later books.  (In ;later novels, West would end up with two sons, called Scoop and Fish -- both based on Creasey's own children.)  Mark Lessing is a capable man of action -- the perfect assistant for this type of book, only to written out later.  As the series matured, West always ready to place himself in danger rather than have his men take risks; here, he acts more like a renegade, with little thought to danger to others.  From the beginning of his career, Roger West has always been incorruptable, and caring, devoted to duty and family, a white knight against the forces of evil; these characteristics never changed.

A fast, enjoyable action thriller-puzzler.  Nothing heavy, just something pleasant to pass a cold evening aay.

1 comment:

  1. I've read a number of Inspector West mysteries, but not this one. I'll have to track down a copy! Over the years I've read nearly a 100 John Creasey novels and enjoyed them all (some more than others). Creasey was a phenomenal writer!