I've discussed my interest in the detective novels of E.C.R. Lorac often enough on this blog, but I've not had much to say about the work of her alter ego, Carol Carnac, which features a Scotland Yard cop called Julian Rivers. This is simply because I've not read many Carnacs. However, a while ago I was offered the chance to acquire an inscribed copy of the Carnac novel Crossed Skis, and I jumped at it.
The book was published in 1952, and is dedicated to Lorac's fifteen fellow members of a ski-ing party that travelled from England to Lech in Austria: "with thanks for their help and advice and happy memories of their charming company". My copy was inscribed to a member of the party, and I wonder what he made of it. I'm pretty sure he'd have been fascinated, since the story is all about - guess what? - a party of sixteen English people who go ski-ing to Lech...
This is an interesting and fairly unusual detective story, and I'm delighted that the British Library has decided to publish it in the Crime Classics series. There are two narrative strands. The ski-ing party set off for the continent, with some of its members unknown to each other. I did worry that Lorac had made a mistake by introducing too many characters, and personally I think a party of four men and four women would have been viable in this story, but I can see why she thought her plot called for more people.
The second strand of the story begins with a fire in a London house. Is it an insurance scam, is it an accident, or is something more sinister happening? Rivers takes charge of the investigation, and soon finds himself on the trail of a ruthless killer. As the two strands come together, the tension mounts. This is an enjoyable book, even for someone like me, who would rather do almost anything than ski!