Fell Murder by E.C.R. Lorac

 Fell Murder cover

Fell Murder by E.C.R. Lorac was first published in 1944 but I borrowed a British Library Crime Classics reprint from the library. This is the first book by Lorac that I’ve read and I really enjoyed it. Lorac was the pseudonym of Edith Caroline Rivett who also wrote under the name of Carol Carnac.

The setting is during World War 2 and the north of England Lake Country, an area that the author obviously loved. Garthmere Hall is an ancient pile which is far too big for the Garth family to be able to maintain. Over the generations they must have become progressively poorer and they’re now just a hard working farming family. But they’re all ruled by their elderly father who is miserably mean and doesn’t even pay wages to his off-spring.

My favourite kind of crime fiction is the sort where a body is found almost immediately, so the fact that murder isn’t committed until page 66 should have been a problem for me, but I enjoyed the scene setting. The local police in the shape of Superintendent Layng manage to rub all of the locals up the wrong way but when Macdonald of Scotland Yard is called in his attitude to them and his obvious appreciation of the surroundings gets better results. I’m really looking forward to reading more by the author.

Although the setting is wartime there’s no rationing of food! Those in rural communities who were actually growing food did have ways and means of dodging such things. Something that Macdonald appreciated.

The cover of this book was taken from an LMS travel poster of Shap Fell and it does look a bit dull compared with some of the covers in this series, but the contents are better than many of those ones.

Malice in Wonderland by Nicholas Blake

Malice in Wonderland cover

Malice in Wonderland by Nicholas Blake (Cecil Day-Lewis) was first published in 1940 but my copy is a 1947 reprint. Apparently this is titled The Summer Camp Mystery in the US. It has also been titled Malice with Murder and Murder with Malice. This is the sixth book in Blake’s Nigel Strangeways series.

The setting is Wonderland – a holiday camp in England. Hitler gets a brief mention but the book was obviously written just before war was declared.

The holidaymakers at Wonderland are a mixed bunch ranging from Cockneys to some rather well-heeled people, but when a prankster calling himself The Mad Hatter starts to cause trouble they’re all equally perturbed. As the pranks get progressively nastier Captain Wise the manager of the camp calls in Nigel Strangeways, a private detective. Suspicion falls on several people, and some even suspect themselves, but this one kept me guessing almost right to the end. I really enjoyed it.

Until I read this book I had been under the impression that holiday camps hadn’t been in existence in the UK until after World War 2 as I had read that somewhere. This book describes the wonderful London chefs who provided the meals, a ball room, a concert hall with professional entertainers and bars. All very luxurious compared with what most people would have had at home. The camp is set on a clifftop overlooking the sea and it occurred to me that cruises have now taken over from holiday camps which sound like they were just static cruises, and as some people never even get off a cruise ship when they reach their destinations – they might as well be in a holiday camp such as Wonderland.