Saturday, April 11, 2020

George Gideon #14 - Gideon's River

John Creasey (1908-1973) authored hundreds of crime novels over a literary career that deployed nearly 30 pseudonyms. One of the British author's earliest works was The Baron series (as Anthony Morton, 1937-1979) of novels starring an ex-jewel thief named John Mannering. Perhaps his most popular series is The Toff (1938-1978), an aristocratic sleuth with a literary resemblance to The Saint. I discovered a 1968 paperback titled Gideon's River on my bookshelf. The author was listed as J.J. Marric, but after brief research I learned that this was part of another series of novels authored by Creasey. The series stars Commander George Gideon of the Scotland Yard's Criminal Investigation Department. Gideon's River is the 14th installment and was published in 1968 by Popular Library.

The novel features Gideon working with various law enforcement agencies along the Thames River to solve a diamond heist. But, in what appears to be a series consistency, the author presents a number of crimes for Gideon's team to investigate. This is unlike other crime-fiction novels where one crime or mystery is the narrative's focus. In Creasey's series, Gideon must solve two to three mysteries per book. Along with the diamond heist, this installment features Gideon searching for a missing girl while also preparing his department for a planned robbery aboard a large pleasure boat called River Belle.

In the book's opening pages, the Thames Division of the Metropolitan Police locate a satchel underwater containing a number of industrial diamonds. Gideon assigns Detective Micklewright onto the case which eventually leads to a group of smugglers led by a brutal and sadistic criminal named Screw Smith. With agency resources, the diamond smuggling is traced back to Denmark but leaves Gideon and his department in a heated political exchange with the Dutch Police.

Gideon's own investigation surfaces when a 13-yr old girl goes missing after school. Creasey's narrative focuses on the procedural investigation but also allows readers the girl's perspective as prisoner of a strange man living in a rock quarry. It was this portion of the narrative that produced the best results as Gideon, a father of six surviving children, maintains a close, more emotional bond with the case.

Rounding out the trio of investigations is more of a preparation for a high-profile jewelry and fur show aboard a large riverboat. Gideon's defensive measures are in advance of a planned robbery. This theft circles around to the diamond heist in Denmark, but I won't provide any spoilers on that. Gideon's team collaborates with a number of law enforcement agencies that work the lengthy, fast-churning river.

This series began in 1955 and consisted of 21 novels through 1976. After Creasey's death, four more novels were authored by William Vivian Butler as J.J. Marric. One of the more interesting aspects of the series is that the characters age as the series continues. For example, the series debut, Gideon's Day, features Gideon as a Detective Superintendent. As the series continues, Gideon is promoted to Commander. Further, his six children age through the series and eventually become married and move out. Gideon's second-in-command, Lemaitre, serves for many years but eventually he's transferred out of the department and a character named Hobbs takes the role. In this novel, an event is mentioned from an earlier installment where Hobbs' wife dies. Gideon's River also features more emphasis on Detective Micklewright and his troubles with alcohol and a failing marriage. I could sense that this story also began in earlier novels.

Creasey's prose is like watching a good television episode of your favorite cop series. It's mostly surface level interactions, witness reports and the endless struggles between the media and the law enforcement agencies. It is similar to Ed McBain's (real name: Evan Hunter) 87th Precinct series but not as well written. Considering Creasey's massive production schedule (supposedly over 600 novels), his quality probably varies depending on series and installment. Overall, I was very pleased with Gideon's River and will certainly pursue more of the author's work.

Buy a copy of this book HERE

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