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Publisher's Summary

From the Collins Crime Club archive, the seminal first novel by Freeman Wills Crofts, once dubbed ‘The King of Detective Story Writers’ and recognised as one of the ‘big four’ Golden Age crime authors.

The unloading of a consignment of French wine from the steamship Bullfinch is interrupted by a gruesome discovery in a broken cask leaking sawdust and gold sovereigns. But when the shipping clerk returns with the police, the cask and its macabre contents have gone. Following the clues to Paris, Inspector Burnley of Scotland Yard enlists the help of the genial French detective M. Lefarge to check motives and alibis in their hunt for evidence of a particularly fiendish murder. 

This Detective Story Club classic is introduced by Freeman Wills Crofts himself in a unique preface from 1946 about The Cask’s origins.

©2019 Freeman Wills Crofts (P)2019 HarperCollins Publishers Limited

Critic Reviews

"The soundest builder of them all." (Raymond Chandler)

"Deservedly a first favourite with all who want a real puzzle." (Times Literary Supplement)

What listeners say about The Cask

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

The Cask

Wonderfully well crafted mystery ! For readers who appreciate the "How it was done " type of mystery.....this will be a detailed delight .....and the reader does a masterful job.

4 people found this helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars

couldn't finish

way too long and repetitive. while the narrator does a good job in general with the narrative sections, all his male characters, even the youngish ones, sound elderly.

2 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • alan hunt
  • 06-19-19

Refreshing!

It's so refreshing not to have to contend with endless character delving to the nth degree of the protagonists, usually to the detriment of the plot, and which seems to be the modern tendency. Just straightforward crime sleuthing with this story, even if the plot is a tad unbelievable.

2 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for wpm
  • wpm
  • 02-23-21

Worth persevering with

I decided to listen to this as I intend to work my way through as many of the British Crime Library’s ‘Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books’ as I can.

After a gripping opening scene, I must admit my interest flagged as many dull pieces of evidence were painstakingly gathered. However, it wasn’t long before the story became a lot more exciting and I found myself quite intrigued by various aspects of the mystery.

I especially enjoyed the meticulous way in which the various ‘detectives’ (not all of them actual detectives) sought and organised the many pieces of circumstantial evidence. After a slow start the action moves at a good pace and the characters, although slightly two-dimensional, are interesting enough to be enjoyable.

The narration is good, although there were a few phrases with strange emphasis and a couple of silly mistakes (eg ‘congenital’ instead of ‘congenial’), but this didn’t spoil my understanding or enjoyment of the story.


1 person found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Kl Love
  • Kl Love
  • 06-22-20

A really intricate puzzle

This harks back to the time when the detective novel was less formulaic. The reader follows the developing thoughts of the various sleuths involved (and having more than one allows a diversity of 'voices') and sees the plot unfolding. The dénouement follows from the information that is slowly unfolded, but more information is revealed as the story goes on so that it is not a matter of 'guessing whodunit' but more an unravelling of a puzzle. Seeing the detectives struggling to piece together what happened, is absorbing in itself.
It is also full of wonderful period detail from the time just before World War I: all kinds of small things that were current when the books was written, and give it colour now. For instance, when a long distance call is received, the operation will announce it to the recipient with the words 'Calais [or wherever the call is being made from] wants you.' Modes of transport, social behaviour, industrial practices, all are reflected in this book.
The narrator is on the whole sound---he reads with good pace and interprets the text clearly, My only slight cavil is that almost all spoken words are narrated with a kind of 'upspeak' that I found a bit grating as a steady diet. But the voice is pleasant, and he gives just the right emphasis to the words.
Overall a most enjoyable book, both longer and more absorbing than most, more predictable, modern crime novels. I shall look out for more Freeman Will Crofts, whose reputation is deservedly reviving.

1 person found this helpful