The Theft of the Iron Dogs is one of the more intriguing titles for a crime novel. The book was written by E.C.R. Lorac, and first published by Collins Crime Club in 1946. It's one of a number of her novels set in the north west of England - Lunesdale. This is an area to which she relocated, and where spent most of her later years. Her love of the area comes through very strongly in the narrative.
The period atmosphere is equally strong. The book opens in September, and the early paragraphs begin with a description of harvesting time in the dairy farming district, where "the war effort had not been concerned with the nervous energy required by resistance to bombs or doodles or rockets; it had been the strain of sustained physical effort."
We are introduced to a farmer called Giles Hoggett, of Wenningby, and one rainy day he decides to go fishing. He takes a look at a summer cottage, only to find that two iron dogs are missing from the fireplace, as well as a complete reel of salmon line, a strong chain and hook, a clothes-line - and a large sack. It doesn't take much of a detective's instinct to figure out that someone has set about sinking something in the river Lune. And the experienced detective fan will have no doubt about what that something might be...
Yes, it's another murder mystery case for Chief Inspector Robert Macdonald of Scotland Yard. Madonald has already developed a love of the Lunesdale landscape and lifestyle, and he sets about untangling a neatly contrived mystery. Lorac's writing is characteristically under-stated, and so is her detective. I imagine that this reflects her own personality. In her quiet way, she was a highly professional writer, and although those who crave melodrama should probably look elsewhere, this book is another example of her capable mystery-making. I'm so glad that, thanks to the British Library's Crime Classic series, she has come back into public view.