Friday 18 January 2019

Forgotten Book - Fell Murder

Image result for fell murder lorac

In Britain, female Golden Age writers have remained in print more often than their male counterpart. Christie, Sayers, Tey, Allingham, and Mitchell in particular have enjoyed enduring popularity with the general reader, in contrast (at least, until recently) to the fate of Hull, Rolls, Postgate, Bude, and Rhode. But not so long ago, the name of E.C.R. Lorac was only known to enthusiasts, since almost all of her books had been unavailable for many years. Even when you did turn them up, they were sometimes unaffordable. And right now, one of her rarest books, a signed copy of Tryst for a Tragedy, can be bought for a mere £5,250. A snip!

I'm glad that the British Library has played a big part in reviving Lorac. And my researches into her work have led me to a quite a number of books that are definitely worth reading. An excellent example is Fell Murder, first published in 1944. This was the first of a number of books which took Macdonald of the Yard to Lunesdale, a part of the country Lorac loved, and which became her home.

The description of the countryside, and of farming life, is quite lyrical. As so often, Lorac paints the scene with great care before murder intrudes. We're introduced to a tyrannical patriarch, Robert Garth, and the family members and local residents who have motives to wish him ill. But it's typical of Lorac that the portrayal of the victim is quite nuanced. The old man behaves badly, but he also has his good points.

The plot is one of of the best that I've found in Lorac's work so far. She is not in Christie's league when it comes to plotting, perhaps because her love of character prevents her from treating her people as pawns in a game. But the storyline is nicely done. Macdonald comes into the story at the mid-point of the novel. The local superintendent has failed to get anywhere with the tactiturn villages. But he, too, is by no means a cipher, and Macdonald appreciates his strengths. But it's left to the Scotland Yard man to solve the puzzle, and he does so with his customary calm efficiency.


Jonathan O said...

I think she did some of her best work when writing about the northwest of England, particularly in those (regrettably few) books in which Giles and Kate Hoggett appear.

Do you think there is any chance that some of the books written under the Carol Carnac name might be reprinted by the British Library?

Dean James said...

I grew up on a farm in the American South, and I have enjoyed Lorac's rural-set books immensely. I have yet to read another GA writer who has the same feel for the rhythms of rural/farm life and understanding of the people who live that life. I'm so pleased that she is getting more attention now.

Martin Edwards said...

Hello, Jonathan. Yes, Lunesdale brought out the best in her. As to the Carnac books, it's not impossible, but it won't happen this year. There will, however, be more Lorac in the series.

Martin Edwards said...

Dean, that's a very good point, and I think you're right. I share your pleasure!

Nan said...

I must read this!! Thank you.