My Book Notes: Gallows Court, 2018 by Martin Edwards

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Head of Zeus, 2018. Format: Kindle Edition. File Size: 1094 KB. Print Length: 368 pages. ASIN: B079GXJPC8 eISBN: 978-1-78854-606-5. First published in the United Kingdom in 2018.

9781788546072Plot Summary: London, 1930. Sooty, sulphurous, and malign: no woman should be out on a night like this. A spate of violent deaths – the details too foul to print – has horrified the capital and the smog-bound streets are deserted. But Rachel Savernake is no ordinary woman. To Scotland Yard’s embarrassment, she solved the Chorus Girl Murder, and now she’s on the trail of another killer. Jacob Flint, manning The Clarion‘s crime desk, is looking for the scoop that will make his name. He’s certain there is more to the Miss Savernake’s amateur sleuthing than meets the eye. Flint’s pursuit of his story will mire him ever-deeper into a labyrinth of deception and corruption. Murder-by-murder, he is swept ever-closer to that ancient place of execution, where it all began and where it will finally end: Gallows Court.

My Take: Martin Edwards, in his last published novel, makes an unusual incursion in a different genre to which he has accustomed us to, coming out successfully of this challenge. Gallows Court is is fact more a thriller than a detective story. The action unfolds in London 1930, although throughout the story some fragments of a diary written back in 1919 are inserted, whose full meaning will not be known until the end. The story plot turns out difficult to summarised  for fear of revealing too much. Suffice is to say that Rachel Savernake, after the death of her father Judge Savernake, has inherited his immense wealth and has relocated herself to living in London. When the story opens, a young reporter by the name of Jacob Flint attempts to address her to ask her whether it’s unsafe for a lady to be out while a brutal killer prowls the London streets. But to his surprise, he finds out that Miss Savernake is very well informed about him. Before arriving in London last autumn, Flint learned his trade as a reporter in Yorkshire. He lodges in Amwell Street and worries that his landlady’s daughter seeks to trade her body for marriage. His ambition drove him to join The Clarion rather than a respectable newspaper. Though his editor admires his persistence, he worries about his rashness. Apparently he has a morbid taste in crime and regards Thomas Betts’ recent accident as both a misfortune and an opportunity. With The Clarion’s chief crime reporter on his death bed, he seeks a chance of making himself a name. And she ends saying: ‘Be careful what you wish for. If Wall Street can crumble, so can anything. How unfortunate if you promising career were cut short, like his.’

During the course of their encounter, Flint realises that Miss Savernake does not deny her participation in solving the Chorus Girl case and openly asks her what does she make of the latest sensation, the butchering of poor Mary-Jane Hayes in Convent Garden? The arrival of Miss Savernake car interrupts their conversation and once she settles herself in the back of her Rolls-Royce Phantom, she asks herself whether Flint might prove to be of some use to her. It might be risky, but she’d never been afraid to gamble. It was in her blood.

I’ve much enjoyed reading Gallows Court. The story is perfectly crafted, the plot is absorbing and the mystery is sufficiently complex as to capture the reader’s attention from the first pages. Intrigue and suspense continually increases as the story unfolds, and Martin Edwards seems to exercise as an illusionist showing, in front of his audience, that things are not always what they appear to be. At one point, when everything begins to make sense, the story takes a new turn leading the reader back again to an uncharted ground until it finally all fits into place. Knowing the author, it can’t came as a surprise to us to find references and winks to several authors of the Golden Age of Detection, which will undoubtedly increase our enjoyment.  If we add to all these that the main characters are well-defined, the end result is that we are in the presence of a superb novel that I highly recommended.

My Rating: A+ (Don’t delay, get your hands on a copy of this book)

Gallows Court has been reviewed, among others, at Bedford Bookshelf, Books Please, Kittling: Books, Crossexamining Crime, In Search Of the Classic Mystery Novel, Shots Magazine, My Reader’s Block, Crimepieces, Crime Squad, Clothes in Books, and Cleopatra Loves Books.

About the Author: Martin Edwards’ latest novel, Gallows Court, was published in September 2018. He is consultant to the British Library’s Crime Classics series, and has written sixteen contemporary whodunits, including The Coffin Trail, which was shortlisted for the Theakston’s Prize for best crime novel of the year. His genre study The Golden Age of Murder won the Edgar, Agatha, H.R.F. Keating and Macavity awards, while The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books has been nominated for two awards in the UK and three in the US. Editor of 38 anthologies, he has also won the CWA Short Story Dagger and the CWA Margery Allingham Prize, and been nominated for an Anthony, the CWA Dagger in the Library, the CWA John Creasey Memorial Dagger, and a CWA Gold Dagger. He is President of the Detection Club and Chair of the Crime Writers’ Association, and Archivist of both organisations. He has received the Red Herring award for services to the CWA, and the Poirot award for his outstanding contribution to the crime genre. Upon finishing reading this book, I heard the news that Martin Edwards has been awarded with the 2020 CWA Diamond Dagger for “sustained excellence making significant contributions to crime writing”. Edwards joins authors recognised with the Crime Writers’ Association (CWA) accolade, including Ruth Rendell, Lee Child, Ann Cleeves, Ian Rankin, P D James, Colin Dexter, Reginald Hill, Lindsey Davis, Peter Lovesey, and John Le Carré.

Head of Zeus publicity page

Poisoned Pen Press publicity page

Martin Edwards Website


Book Launch for Gallows Court by Martin Edwards 

Gallows Court: Martin Edwards talks to Crime Time

Gallows Court, de Martin Edwards

Resumen: Londres, 1930. Grisáceo, sulfuroso y maligno: ninguna mujer debería salir en una noche como esta. Una oleada de muertes violentas (cuyos detalles son demasiado horribles para publicarse) ha horrorizado a la capital y las calles llenas de smog se encuentran desiertas. Pero Rachel Savernake no es una mujer común. Para vergüenza de Scotland Yard, resolvió el asesinato de Chorus Girl, y ahora está siguiendo la pista de otro asesino. Jacob Flint, que se encarga de la mesa de homicidios de The Clarion, está buscando la primicia que le de nombre. Está seguro de que hay algo más de lo que parece en la afición investigadora de la señorita Savernake. La búsqueda de su historia por parte de Flint lo hundirá cada vez más en un laberinto de engaño y corrupción. Asesinato tras asesinato, se verá arrastrado cada vez más cerca de ese antiguo lugar de ejecución, donde todo comenzó y donde finalmente terminará: Gallows Court.

Mi opinión: Martin Edwards, en su última novela publicada, hace una incursión inusual en un género diferente al que nos ha acostumbrado, saliendo con éxito de este desafío. Gallows Court es, de hecho, más un thriller que una historia de detectives. La acción se desarrolla en Londres 1930, aunque a lo largo de la historia se insertan algunos fragmentos de un diario escrito en 1919, cuyo significado completo no se conocerá hasta el final. La trama de la historia resulta difícil de resumir por miedo a revelar demasiado. Basta decir que Rachel Savernake, después de la muerte de su padre, el juez Savernake, ha heredado su inmensa fortuna y se ha trasladado a vivir en Londres. Cuando comienza la historia, un joven periodista llamado Jacob Flint intenta dirigirse a ella para preguntarle si no es seguro que una mujer salga mientras un asesino brutal merodea por las calles de Londres. Pero para su sorpresa, descubre que la señorita Savernake está muy bien informada sobre él. Antes de llegar a Londres el otoño pasado, Flint aprendió su oficio como reportero en Yorkshire. Se aloja en la calle Amwell y le preocupa que la hija de su casera busque cambiar su cuerpo por un matrimonio. Su ambición lo llevó a unirse a The Clarion en lugar de a un periódico respetable. Aunque su editor admira su persistencia, le preocupa su imprudencia. Aparentemente tiene un gusto mórbido por el crimen y considera el reciente accidente de Thomas Betts como una desgracia y una oportunidad. Con el principal reportero de homicidios de The Clarion en su lecho de muerte, busca la oportunidad de hacerse un nombre. Y ella termina diciendo: “Ten cuidado con lo que deseas. Si Wall Street puede derrumbarse, también puede derrumbarse cualquier cosa. Qué desafortunado serías si tu prometedora carrera se viera interrumpida, como la suya“.

Durante el transcurso de su encuentro, Flint se da cuenta de que la señorita Savernake no niega su participación en la resolución del caso de Chorus Girl y abiertamente le pregunta qué piensa de la última sensación, la carnicería de la pobre Mary-Jane Hayes en Convent Garden. La llegada del auto de Miss Savernake interrumpe su conversación y una vez que se acomoda en la parte trasera de su Rolls-Royce Phantom, se pregunta si Flint podría serle a ella de alguna utilidad. Podría ser arriesgado, pero nunca había tenido miedo de jugar. Estaba en su sangre.

Me ha encantado leer Gallows Court. La historia está perfectamente elaborada, la trama es absorbente y el misterio es lo suficientemente complejo como para captar la atención del lector desde las primeras páginas. La intriga y el suspenso aumentan continuamente a medida que se desarrolla la historia, y Martin Edwards parece ejercer como un ilusionista que muestra, frente a su audiencia, que las cosas no siempre son lo que parecen ser. En un momento, cuando todo comienza a tener sentido, la historia toma un nuevo giro que lleva al lector nuevamente a un terreno desconocido hasta que finalmente todo encaja en su lugar. Conociendo al autor, no puede sorprendernos encontrar referencias y guiños a varios autores de la Edad de Oro de la novela policiaca, lo que sin duda aumentará nuestro disfrute. Si agregamos a todo esto que los personajes principales están bien definidos, el resultado final es que estamos en presencia de una excelente novela que recomiendo encarecidamente.

Mi valoración
: A+ (No se demore, consiga un ejemplar de este libro)

Sobre el autor: La última novela de Martin Edwards, Gallows Court, se publicó en septiembre 2018. Es consultor de la serie Crime Classics de la Biblioteca Británica, y ha escrito dieciséis whodunits contemporáneos, incluido The Coffin Trail, que fue preseleccionado para el Premio Theakston’s a la mejor novela policial del año. Su estudio del  género The Golden Age of Murder ganó los premios Edgar, Agatha, H.R.F. Keating y Macavity, mientras que The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books ha sido nominada para dos premios en el Reino Unido y tres en los Estados Unidos. Editor de 38 antologías, también ganó el CWA Short Story Dagger y el CWA Margery Allingham Prize, y ha sido nominado al Anthony, CWA Dagger in the Library, CWA John Creasey Memorial Dagger, y al CWA Gold Dagger. Es Presidente del Detection Club y preside la Crime Writers’ Association, ejerciendo de archivero en ambas organizaciones. Ha recibido el premio Red Herring por los servicios prestados a la CWA y el premio Poirot por su destacada contribución al género. Al terminar de leer este libro, escuché la noticia de que Martin Edwards ha sido galardonado con la Daga de Diamante 2020 de la CWA por la “sostenida excelencia de su significativa contribución a la novela policial”.  Edwards se une así a otros autores reconocidos con el galardón de la Asociación de Escritores de Crímenes (CWA), entre los que se incluyen Ruth Rendell, Lee Child, Ann Cleeves, Ian Rankin, P D James, Colin Dexter, Reginald Hill, Lindsey Davis, Peter Lovesey y John Le Carré.

Cecil John Charles Street, MC, OBE, (1884 – 1964)

c-j-c-streetJohn Rhode was one pseudonym used by the prolific English author Cecil John Charles Street (1884-1964) who also wrote as Miles Burton and Cecil Waye. Street’s two main series are the Dr Lancelot Priestley books under the Rhode name, and the Desmond Merrion/Inspector Henry Arnold books under the Burton name. The Priestley books are classics of scientific detection, with the elderly Dr Priestley demonstrating how apparently impossible crimes have been carried out. Priestley ages through the series and by the last books must be well into his eighties, but his faculties are unimpaired. The Burton series are more traditional detective fiction with the addition of chases and the occasional romance; in fact the hero, amateur investigator Desmond Merrion, meets his wife in the first, The Secret of High Eldersham (1930). (Source: gadetection)

John Rhode, born as Cecil John Charles Street and also known as John Street, was extremely reticent about his private life. He refused to be listed in Who’s Who, and many reference works do not give the exact date of his birth or death (several are in error about the year of his death). An indication of how secretive a person Street was and how carefully he separated his various personalities is the fact that he used the title Up the Garden Path for both a Burton book published in 1941 and a Rhode book published in 1949. He even invented a fictitious year of birth for Burton, whose books he never admitted were his. He is said to have been a career officer, a major, in the British army and a field officer in both World War I and World War II. Awarded the Order of the British Empire, he also received a Military Cross, a fairly high distinction. Street’s firsthand experience of war may perhaps even be credited with directing him to literary pursuits because his first few books were studies of gunnery and a war novel (The Worldly Hope, 1917) published under the pseudonym F.O.O. (for Forward Observation Officer) while World War I was still being fought. Curiously, no trace of Street appears in Quarterly Army List of this period or of later periods. Immediately after the war, he tried his hand at thrillers before launching his two highly successful series. Between the wars, Street was stationed in Ireland and Central Europe, and while maintaining a steady production of two novels a year in each of his series, he also published a number of political works that grew out of his firsthand experience. His intelligence experience during World War II was put to use in such Desmond Merrion novels of the war years as Up the Garden Path and Situation Vacant (1946). He continued to write at a steady pace into his seventies and died at a hospital near his Seaford home in Sussex. (Source: “Cecil John Charles Street – Biography” Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition Ed. Carl Rollyson., Inc. 2008 29 Feb, 2020

After the publication in 1925 of The Paddington Mystery, over the next thirty-five years, John Street would produce, primarily under two pseudonyms, John Rhode and Miles Barton, 143 mystery novels (mostly classical tales of detection), an average rate of four a year. In 1930 Street became one of the founding members od England’s Detection Club, and he remained active in the group for two decades. His greatest friend in the Club, John Dickson Carr and Lucy Beatrice Malleson (who wrote as Anthony Gilbert) remembered him warmly.

Selected Bibliography: (Source: Masters of the “Humdrum” Mystery by Curtis Evans)

As John Rhode: The Paddington Mystery (1925); Dr Priestley’s Quest (1926); The Ellerby Case (1927); The Murders in Praed Street (1928); The House on Tollard Ridge (1929); The Davidson Case aka Murder at Bratton Grange (1929); Pinehurst (1930) aka Dr. Priestley Investigates; The Hanging Woman (1931); Dead Men at the Folly (1932); The Motor Rally Mystery (1933) aka Dr. Priestley Lays a Trap; The Claverton Mystery (1933) aka The Claverton Affair; The Venner Crime (1933); The Robthorne Mystery (1934); Poison for One (1934); Shot at Dawn (1934); The Corpse in the Car (1935); Hendon’s First Case (1935); Mystery at Olympia (1935) aka Murder at the Motor Show; Death in the Hopfields (1937) aka The Harvest Murder; Death on the Board (1937) aka Death Sits on the Board; Proceed with Caution (1937) aka Body Unidentified; Invisible Weapons (1938); The Bloody Tower (1938) aka The Tower of Evil; Death Pays a Dividend (1939); Death on Sunday (1939) aka The Elm Tree Murder; Death on the Boat Train (1940); Death at the Helm (1941); They Watched by Night (1941) aka Signal For Death; Dead on the Track (1943); Men Die at Cyprus Lodge (1943); Vegetable Duck (1944) aka Too Many Suspects; The Lake House (1946) aka The Secret of the Lake House; Death in Harley Street (1946); The Paper Bag (1948) aka The Links in the Chain; The Telephone Call (1948) aka Shadow of an Alibi; Blackthorn House (1949); The Two Graphs (1950) aka Double Identities; Family Affairs (1950) aka The Last Suspect; The Secret Meeting (1951); Death at the Dance (1952); Death at the Inn (1953) aka The Case of Forty Thieves; The Dovebury Murders (1954); and Licenced for Murder (1958). (In bold letters the novels on my TBR shelves)

As Miles Burton: The Secret of High Eldersham (1930) aka The Mystery of High Eldersham; Death of Mr Gantley (1931); To Catch a Thief (1934); The Devereux Court Mystery (1935); Death in the Tunnel (1936) aka Dark is the Tunnel; Murder of a Chemist (1936); Where is Barbara Prentice? (1936) aka The Clue of the Silver Cellar; Death at the Club (1937) aka The Clue of the Fourteen Keys; The Platinum Cat (1938); Death Leaves No Card (1939); Mr Babbacombe Dies (1939); Mr Westerby Missing (1940); Up the Garden Path (1941) aka Death Visits Downspring; Murder, MD (1943) aka Who Killed The Doctor; The Three Corpse Trick (1944); Not a Leg to Stand On (1945); The Cat Jumps (1946); Situation Vacant (1946); Death Takes the Living (1949) aka The Disappearing Parson; Ground for Suspicion (1950); Murder in Absence (1954); and Bones in the Brickfield (1958) (In bold letters the novels on my TBR shelves)

As Cecil Waye: This was a very short-lived Street pseudonym. There are four in number and very hard to find. Curtis Evans has read two and he found neither work memorable.


(Facsimile Dust Jacket, The Paddington Mystery by John Rhode, Geoffrey Bles Ltd. (UK), 1925)

A special release of the very first crime novel by John Rhode, introducing Dr Priestley, the genius detective who would go on to appear in more than 70 bestselling crime novels during the Golden Age.

When Harold Merefield returned home in the early hours of a winter morning from a festive little party at that popular nightclub, the ‘Naxos’, he was startled by a gruesome discovery. On his bed was a corpse.

There was nothing to show the identity of the dead man or the cause of his death. At the inquest, the jury found a verdict of ‘Death from Natural Causes’ – perhaps they were right, but yet . . . ?

Harold determined to investigate the matter for himself and sought the help of Professor Priestley, who, by the simple but unusual method of logical reasoning, succeeded in throwing light upon what proved to be a very curious affair indeed.

This Detective Club classic is introduced by crime writing historian and expert Tony Medawar, who looks at how John Rhode, who also wrote as Miles Burton and as Cecil Waye, became one of the best-selling and most popular British authors of the Golden Age.


(Facsimile Dust Jacket, The Secret of High Eldersham, by Miles Burton, Collins The Crime Club (UK), 1930)

Samuel Whitehead, the new landlord of the Rose and Crown, is a stranger in the lonely East Anglian village of High Eldersham. When the newcomer is stabbed to death in his pub, and Scotland Yard are called to the scene, it seems that the veil dividing High Eldersham from the outside world is about to be lifted.
Detective-Inspector Young forms a theory about the case so utterly impossible that merely entertaining the suspicion makes him doubt his own sanity. Surrounded by sinister forces beyond his understanding, and feeling the need of rational assistance, he calls on a brilliant amateur and ‘living encyclopedia’, Desmond Merrion. Soon Merrion falls for the charms of a young woman in the village, Mavis Owerton. But does Mavis know more about the secrets of the village than she is willing to admit?

Richard Henry Sampson FCA (1896 – 1973) aka Richard Hull

87191_1Born Richard Henry Sampson in London in 1896, Richard Hull was the son of Nina Hull and S. A. Sampson. He attended Rugby College; though awarded a scholarship in mathematics on completing his studies there, he failed to enter Trinity College at Cambridge University because of the outbreak of World War I. He entered the army on his eighteenth birthday and received a commission. He served with an infantry battalion and the machine gun corps and spent three years in France. After the war, he remained on the active list of his original army battalion until 1929, when he formally retired. During that time, however, he joined a firm of chartered accountants, with whom he worked for several years. Although he passed his qualifying examinations in accounting, he was unsuccessful in establishing a private practice and turned to writing instead. He wrote his first and most famous novel, The Murder of My Aunt, in 1934, and thereafter published a book a year until 1941, when he began to release his work at a slower pace. He published fifteen novels in all, with the last appearing in 1953. When Hull wrote of himself, he relied on the third person, as in his letters to mystery critic and historian Howard Haycraft.

On September 1, 1939, Hull was recalled to service but was released as a major in July, 1940, because of his age. He next worked in the Admiralty as a chartered accountant, investigating costs of government contracts, until the mid-1950’s. A lifelong bachelor, he lived in his London club until his death in 1973. (Source: “Richard Henry Sampson – Biography” Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition Ed. Carl Rollyson., Inc. 2008 28 Feb, 2020

While he ceased to write detective fiction after 1953, he did continue to take a close interest in the affairs of the Detection Club, assisting Agatha Christie with her duties as President. He was a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW). (Source: Wikipedia)

Bibliography: The Murder of My Aunt (1934); Keep It Quiet (1935); Murder Isn’t Easy (1936); The Ghost It Was (1936); The Murderers of Monty (1937); Excellent Intentions (1938) also published as Beyond Reasonable Doubt; And Death Came Too (1939); My Own Murderer (1941); The Unfortunate Murderer (1942); Left Handed Death (1946); Last First (1947); Until She Was Dead (1949); A Matter of Nerves (1950); Invitation to an Inquest (1950); and The Martineau Murders (1953). (In bold letters the novels I’m looking forward to reading).


(Facsimile Dust Jacket, The Murder of My Aunt, by Richard Hull Faber & Faber Limited (UK), 1934)

Book Description: Edward Powell lives with his Aunt Mildred in the Welsh town of Llwll.
His aunt thinks Llwll an idyllic place to live, but Edward loathes the countryside – and thinks the company even worse. In fact, Edward has decided to murder his aunt.
A darkly humorous depiction of fraught family ties, The Murder of My Aunt was first published in 1934. (British Library Publishing, 2018)

Martin Edwards considers My Own Murderer (published in 1940, but probably written just before the outbreak of war) one of Hull’s best books. (‘Do You Write Under Your Own Name’) My Own Murderer is included in his book The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books. Unfortunately this book is not readily available.

Ethel Lina White (1876 – 1944)

OIPEthel Lina White was born in Abergavenny, Monmouthshire, Wales, in 1876, the daughter of a successful builder, she was one of a family of twelve, raised by Welsh nursemaids. She worked in London for the Ministry of Pensions, but left the job ‘on the strength of a ten-pound offer for a short story’, and ‘scratched a living on short stuff for quite a time before my first novel was published’. Her favourite form of relaxation was watching films, which perhaps account for her knack of writing vivid and suspenseful scenes. Her first three works, published between 1927 and 1930, were mainstream novels. Her first crime novel, published in 1931, was Put Out the Light. Although she has now faded into obscurity, in her day she was as well known as writers like Dorothy L. Sayers and Agatha Christie. Her works have enjoyed a revival in recent years with a stage adaptation of The Lady Vanishes touring the UK in 2001 and the BBC broadcast of an abridged version on BBC Radio 4 as well as a TV adaptation by the BBC in 2013. Also, many of her works previously unavailable have recently been published for Amazon Kindle. She died in London in 1944 aged 68.

The first adaptation of White’s work was The Wheel Spins. Whilst The Lady Vanishes is primarily seen as one of the highlights of Alfred Hitchcock’s career, he almost didn’t make the film, as he did so to fulfil a studio contract. Following the success of The Lady Vanishes there was interest in making more movies from her books and in 1945 her novel Midnight House became The Unseen, directed by Lewis Allen. Shortly after that came an adaptation of Some Must Watch, one of White’s earlier novels. Again the name of the novel was changed and became The Spiral Staircase gaining a Best Supporting Actress Oscar Nomination for Ethel Barrymore. (Source: Martin Edwards and Wikipedia)

Bibliography: Put Out the Light (1931); Fear Stalks the Village (1932); Some Must Watch (1933; filmed in 1946 as The Spiral Staircase; remade under the same title in 1975, and again for TV in 2000); Wax (1935); The First Time He Died (1935); The Wheel Spins (1936) (filmed in 1938 by Alfred Hitchcock as The Lady Vanishes; remade in 1979 and again for TV in 2013); The Third Eye (1937); The Elephant Never Forgets (1937); Step in the Dark (1938); While She Sleeps (1940); She Faded into Air (1941); Midnight House (U.S. title Her Heart in Her Throat, 1942, filmed in 1945 as The Unseen); The Man Who Loved Lions (U.S. title The Man Who Was Not There, 1943); and They See in Darkness (1944). (In bold letters the books I’m looking forward to reading)

Curtis Evans at The Passing Tramp has said: ‘Personally, I prefer Ethel Lina White to the much lauded Francis Iles (Anthony Berkeley Cox) and would love to see more of her books back in print.  It surprises me that feminist mystery genre criticism, which has done so much for the cause of the Crime Queens, has done so little for Ethel Lina White.?’

Kate Jackson, who blogs at Cross-Examining Crime, has to date read 9 of them and has ranked them as follows here. I hope it will help you, as much as it will help me.


(Facsimile Dust Jacket, Fear Stalks the Village by Ethel Lina White, Ward, Lock and Co., Ltd. (UK), 1932)

Edith Caroline Rivett (1894–1958) (who wrote under the pseudonyms E. C. R. Lorac and Carol Carnac)

Edith Caroline Rivett (1894–1958) (who wrote under the pseudonyms E C R Lorac  –Lorac is Carol spelt backwards– and Carol Carnac) was a British crime writer. The youngest daughter of Harry and Beatrice Rivett, née Foot, (1868–1943), she was born in Hendon, Middlesex, (now London) on 6 May 1894. She attended the South Hampstead High School, and the Central School of Arts and Crafts in London.

Rivett was a very prolific author, writing forty-eight mysteries under her first pen name, and twenty-three under her second. A native Londoner, she was an accomplished author whose work deserves to be better known. Early Lorac titles include Murder in St John’s Wood and Murder in Chelsea, both published in 1934. Dorothy L. Sayers lauded The Organ Speaks (1935), as ‘entirely original, highly ingenious, and remarkable for atmospheric writing and convincing development of character’. In 1937 Lorac was elected a member of the Detection Club, and served as the Club’s Secretary. Her novels written as E C R Lorac feature Scottish Chief Inspector Robert MacDonald. In 28 of these books, he has the help of his assistant, Detective Inspector Reeves. The books written as Carol Carnac feature Inspector Julian Rivers.

A teacher by profession, she developed a passion for the Lune Valley and the surrounding area in the north-west of England, which provides the backdrop to several of her later books. Remaining unmarried, she lived her last years with her elder sister, Gladys Rivett (1891–1966), in Lonsdale, Lancashire. Rivett died at the Caton Green Nursing Home, Caton-with-Littledale, near Lancaster. At the time of her death, she was working on a non-series mystery novel, while another late stand-alone novel, Two-Way Murder, has not yet been published.

In 2018, the British Library included three novels by E.C.R. Lorac in its “British Library Crime Classics” series of re-issued works, including Fire in the Thatch, Bats in the Belfry, and Murder by Matchlight. The back cover of the re-issued, Fire in the Thatch: A Devon Mystery (originally published in 1946), declares that, “Her books have been almost entirely neglected since her death, but deserve rediscovery as fine examples of classic British crime fiction in its golden age.”


Robert Macdonald Series:  The Murder on the Burrows (1931); The Affair on Thor’s Head (1932); The Greenwell Mystery (1932); Death on the Oxford Road (1933); The Case of Colonel Marchand (1933); Murder in St. John’s Wood (1934); Murder in Chelsea (1934); The Organ Speaks (1935); Death of an Author (1935); Crime Counter Crime (1936); Post After Post-Mortem (1936); A Pall for a Painter (1936); Bats in the Belfry (1937); These Names Make Clues (1937); The Devil and the C.I.D. (1938); Slippery Staircase (1938); John Brown’s Body (1939); Black Beadle (1939); Death at Dyke’s Corner (1940); Tryst for a Tragedy (1940); Case in the Clinic (1941); Rope’s End Rogue’s End (1942); The Sixteenth Stair (1942); Death Came Softly (1943); Checkmate to Murder (1944); Fell Murder (1944); Murder by Matchlight (1945); Fire in the Thatch (1946); The Theft of the Iron Dogs (1946) aka Murderer’s Mistake; Relative to Poison (1947); Death Before Dinner (1948) aka A Screen for Murder; Part for a Poisoner (1948) aka Place for a Poisoner; Still Waters (1949); Policeman in the Precinct (1949) aka And Then Put Out the Light; Accident By Design (1950); Murder of a Martinet (1951) aka I Could Murder Her; The Dog It Was That Died (1952); Murder in the Mill-Race (1952) aka Speak Justly of the Dead; Crook O’Lune (1953) aka Shepherd’s Crook; Shroud of Darkness (1954); Let Well Alone (1954); Ask a Policeman (1955); Murder in Vienna (1956); Picture of Death (1957); Dangerous Domicile (1957); Death in Triplicate (1958) aka People Will Talk; Murder on a Monument (1958); Dishonour Among Thieves (1959) aka The Last Escape. (In bold letters the books I’ve read or are currently on my TBR shelves).

According to Curtis Evans in his blog The Passing Tramp ‘(his) choices would be, among the postwar Lorac titles, Policemen in the Precinct (previously reprinted in the 1980s by Collins with a nice introduction by HRF Keating), Murder in the Mill Race and Murder of a Martinet. Among the prewar titles which I have read it would be Murder in Chelsea, Murder in St. John’s Wood, A Pall for a Painter, and Death of an Author. I also would love to see The Organ Speaks reprinted, as it is an extremely rare title that I have not read and one that Dorothy L. Sayers, then on her own church musical kick with The Nine Tailors, praised rather highly, though Martin [Edwards] does not like that one as much as Bats in the Belfry.’

I’m planning to read next Rope’s End Rogue’s End, 1942 (Robert MacDonald #21)


(Facsimile Dust Jacket, Rope’s End, Rogue’s End by E. C. R. Lorac, Collins The Crime Club (UK), 1942)

From the dust jacket: Wulfstane Manor, a rambling old country house with many unused rooms, winding staircases and a maze of cellars, had been bequeathed to Veronica Mallowood and her brother Martin. the last time the large family of Mallowoods had all foregathered under the ancestral roof was on the occasion of their father’s funeral, and there had been one of those unholy rows which not infrequently follow the reading of a will. That was some years ago, and as Veronica found it increasingly difficult to go on paying for the upkeep of Wulfstane, she summoned another family conference –a conference in which Death took a hand– Rope’s End, Rogue’s End is, of course, an Inspector MacDonald case, in which that popular detective plays a brilliant part.

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