The 9.50 Up Express and Other Stories is an exemplary collection of golden age detective stories by the Irish writer Freeman Wills Crofts. Crofts was a working railroad engineer and while convalescing from a severe bout with influenza he requested his wife bring a pencil and notebook to the hospital. He wrote to pass the long days of his recovery and, as it turned out, he was good at devising puzzling plots. Crofts’ foray into writing produced the tightly plotted detective novel, The Cask, which was published with great success in 1920 and Crofts’ most popular character, Inspector Joseph French, was introduced in the 1925 novel, Inspector French’s Greatest Case. French, or “Soapy Joe” as he is often called, is a police inspector relying more on hard work—knocking on doors, interviewing witnesses—and criminal slip-ups than flashy intuition and brilliant deduction.
The 9.50 Up Express and Other Stories includes 11 previously uncollected Soapy Joe tales, two are radio plays, including the title story, and one, “During the Night” is an entertaining stage play. “Meet Inspector French” is a brief and humorous radio essay where the inspector speaks directly to the audience and gladly admits he isn’t nearly the detective he seems to be, because he chooses not to “mention [his] failures.” The Inspector French tales are solidly plotted, entertaining, and (almost always) surprising. Also included in the collection are two stories featuring Crofts’ juvenile detective, Robin Brand, two non-series tales, and a wonderfully detailed bibliography compiled by Tony Medawar.