Murder By Matchlight by E.C.R. Lorac was first published in 1945 but was reprinted by British Library in 2018.
It’s London 1945 and this story begins in a very dark Regent’s Park where 30 year old Bruce Mallaig is pleased to be, pre-war he wouldn’t have been able to visit the park after hours, but now there are no railings and locked gates to keep anyone out, the metal railings have been removed to be melted down to make aeroplanes (supposedly a morale/doing your bit thing but in reality they weren’t used for the war effort) but it seems that the park might be the venue for clandestine meetings. A sudden flare of light from a match shows Bruce that there are two men near him and in no time one of them has been murdered, knocked on the head. But Bruce hadn’t heard anything at all.
Chief Inspector MacDonald is heading the investigation and it turns out to be a difficult one as even the murder victim’s identity is a puzzle.
These British Library reprints can be a wee bit hit and miss but I really enjoyed this one with its very atmospheric wartime setting and unusual characters.
One night a couple of weeks ago I got quite despondent about the approaching winter which will surely be a long and rather depressing one. So I decided to cheer myself up by spending some time reserving books from the library. Not that I need books from the library as I have so many unread books of my own (and Jack’s) there’s no danger of running out of reading matter, but I hate the thought that the libraries might close down completely again over winter. Some of the books have arrived and a couple of others will be along time in turning up as there are over 40 people in front of me waiting for them! At the moment my library books are:
A Book of Book Lists by Alex Johnson
An Impossible Marriage by Pamela Hansford Johnson
The Holiday Friend by Pamela Hansford Johnson
Murder by Matchlight by E.C.R. Lorac
Wild Harbour by Ian MacPherson
Gerald and Elizabeth by D.E. Stevenson
Baby Knits by Susie Johns
A few of these books have been published by The British Library. which I just typed into the search box in the library catalogue and lots of interesting publications that I didn’t know about appeared, but I reined myself in – for now.
Have you been using your local library recently?
Checkmate to Murder by E.C.R. Lorac was first published in 1944 but has been reprinted by British Library Crime Classics who kindly sent me a copy to review. It’s just the second book by the author that I’ve read but I’ll definitely read more as I enjoyed it. I read her book Fell Murder last year.
The setting is London during World War 2 and Lorac makes a great job of evoking the foggy and dank atmosphere of the city. In Hampstead an artist Bruce Manaton and his sister Rosanne are renting a large studio, they also live there and their ancient and miserly landlord lives next door. Rosanne is a bit of a doormat, supporting her brother and putting up with his moods and as the mystery begins she’s cooking supper for her brother and two friends who are playing a game of chess while Bruce paints a portrait of an actor who is dressed as a cardinal.
Rosanne is constantly worried about money and is afraid that if their windows aren’t screened properly and show a chink of light then the special constable will fine them £5, they’ve had trouble in the past with him. But when there’s a commotion at the front door it’s the special constable who has a young soldier in custody, he claims that the soldier has just committed a murder.
Inspector Macdonald of Scotland Yard is called in to sort things out, but it’s not an easy task as everyone has an alibi.
E.C.R. Lorac lived in London throughout the war which no doubt went a long way to making the setting seem so authentic, you can just about smell the fog. Lorac also wrote under the name Carol Carnac, Lorac is obviously Carol backwards, but she was born Edith Caroline Rivett and wrote a lot of Golden Age mysteries.
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.