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.