My Book Notes: Murder by Matchlight, 1945 (Robert MacDonald #26) by E. C. R. Lorac

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British Library Publishing, 2018. Book Format: Kindle Edition. File Size: 3266 KB. Print Length: 264pages. ASIN: B07HY1SNT9. eISBN: 978-0-7123-6464-5. Originally published in 1945 by Collins, London. With and Introduction by Martin Edwards, 2018.

51jovyqG4NLBook Description: On a damp November evening in wartime London, a young chemist sits on a bench in Regent’s Park and watches as an approaching stranger suddenly disappears beneath a footbridge. Seconds later another figure appears on the same overpass, stops to smoke and discard a cigarette, and strikes a match that briefly illuminates a face beyond his own. Through the succeeding darkness come the sounds of a thud and a falling body — then silence. Thus begins this chilling mystery from the Golden Age of Detective Fiction by Edith Caroline Rivett, author of more than seventy books written under the pseudonyms of E. C. R. Lorac and Carol Carnac. Murder by Matchlight features Scotland Yard’s imperturbable Chief Inspector Robert Macdonald, who is tasked with finding the killer of the man on the bridge. His only evidence: a set of bicycle tracks that come to an abrupt end. His suspects: a colorful cast that includes the shy, soft-spoken witness, a respected London physician, a screenwriter, an unemployed laborer, and a vaudevillian specializing in illusions — a lively group whose questionable activities will keep readers guessing until the final twist and turn of this deftly plotted whodunit. (Source: Goodreads)

My Take: Murder by Matchlight is set in wartime London. During a blackout, two men witness a murder at Regent’s Park. Bruce Mallaig, one of the witnesses, saw the victim lighting a cigarette while standing near a footbridge. During the moment when the matchlight illuminated the face of the victim, he was able to see briefly the face of the murderer. When the light got off, he heard a thud followed by the sound of a body falling. Initially the police were quite sceptical about the versions of the witnesses, but they are accepted at face value, since they do not contradict each other. The victim, according to his identity card, was identified as John Ward and the case was immediately handed over to Chief Inspector Macdonald for investigation. The most surprising thing about this whole affair is that it is soon discovered that John Ward is a false identity, which will undoubtedly make the investigation of the case very much difficult.

There are many good things to say about this more than interesting novel that has a magnificent start. A murder committed in front of two witnesses that can be considered an impossible crime, since none of them heard the footsteps that would have betrayed the presence of the murderer. Moreover, the story fits perfectly well in the setting and age in which it unfolds, and it couldn’t have happened outside similar circumstances. The plot is nicely structured and captures the reader’s attention. There is no shortage of suspects, though the reasons for the crime  not always turn out being evident and I also enjoyed the excellent description of the characters, with the only exception of Chief Inspector Macdonald whose characterisation is a very poor one in my view. Though startling, I did not find very convincing the denouement and, maybe, there’s an excessive taste for the detail all along the story that can turn out a bit boring occasionally. Anyhow, it was a highly entertaining read. 

Murder by Matchlight has been reviewed, among others, at Past Offences, ‘Do Yoy Write Under Your Own Name?’, FictionFan’s Book Reviews, Cross-Examining Crime, Northern Reader, Classic Mysteries, The Invisible Event, Bedford Bookshelf, and Books Please.

About the Author: Edith Caroline Rivett (1894 – 1958) (who wrote under the pseudonyms E.C.R. Lorac, and Carol Carnac) was a British crime writer. 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 member of the Detection Club. A very prolific author, she wrote forty-eight mysteries under her first pen name, and twenty-three under her second. An important author of the Golden Age of Detective Fiction, she remained unmarried and lived her last years with her elder sister, Gladys Rivett (1891–1966), in Lonsdale, Lancashire. In her latter years, she wrote several mysteries feature Chief Inspector Macdonald with the Lune Valley, Lancashire, as its setting. Rivett died at the Caton Green Nursing Home, Caton-with-Littledale, near Lancaster on 2 July 1958. 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.”

There are twenty-three Carol Carnac books and forty-eight E. C. R. Lorac books, the first being The Murder on the Burrows, under the Lorac (Lorac is Carol spelled backwards) pseudonym, which was published by Sampson Law in 1931. It features her main series character, Chief Inspector  Robert Macdonald, ‘a London Scott’ and bachelor with a love for walking the English countryside. Macdonald had an assistant, Detective Inspector Reeves who appeared in twenty-eight of the forty-six Macdonald’s books. They were a formidable team, whilst diverse characters, as all good detective fiction partnerships have to be, they complemented each other well. All of the Lorac books were first published in London but, incredibly, twenty-four titles were not published in the USA. The first Carol Carnac book, Triple Death, was published by Thornton Butterworth in 1936 and featured Inspector Ryvet, the first of three series character under the Carnac name. Carnac’s other two main characters were Chief Inspector Julian Rivers of Scotland Yard, who appeared in fifteen books, and his assistant Inspector Lancing, who appeared in eighteen cases (four with Ryvet). The novels are all generally well plotted and set against attractive period backgrounds. The only real criticism, the perennial one with detective fiction, is lack of descriptive depth and colour to the main series character. (Source: Classic Crime Fiction)

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(Source: Facsimile Dust Jackets LLC. Collins The Crime Club (UK), 1945)

Bibliography as E. C. R. Lorac: The Murder on the Burrows (1931); The Affair on Thor’s Head (1932); The Greenwell Mystery (1932); The Case of Colonel Marchand (1933); Death on the Oxford Road (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) vt Murderer’s Mistake (1947 US); Relative to Poison (1947); Death before Dinner (1948); Part for a Poisoner (1948); Still Waters (1949); Policemen in the Precinct (1949); Accident by Design (1950); Murder of a Martinet (U.S. title: I Could Murder Her) (1951); The Dog It Was That Died (1952); Murder in the Mill-Race (1952) (US title: “Speak Justly of the Dead” 1953); Crook O’Lune (1953) [US title: 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); Murder on a Monument (1958); Dishonour among Thieves (U.S. title: The Last Escape) (1959); and Two-Way Murder (2021) previously unpublished probably written in 1957-58. (Most of them featuring her main series character, Chief Inspector Robert Macdonald).

As Carol Carnac: Triple Death (1936); Murder at Mornington (1937); The Missing Rope (1937); When the Devil Was Sick (1939); The Case of the First Class Carriage (1939); Death in the Diving Pool (1940); A Double for Detection (1945); The Striped Suitcase (1946); Clue Sinister (1947); Over the Garden Wall (1948); Upstairs Downstairs (1950); Copy for Crime (1950); It’s Her Own Funeral (1951); Crossed Skis (1952); Murder as a Fine Art (1953); A Policeman at the Door (1953); Impact of Evidence (1954); Murder among Members (1955); Rigging the Evidence (1955); The Double Turn (1956); The Burning Question (1957); Long Shadows (1958) (U.S. title: Affair at Helen’s Court); and Death of a Lady Killer (1959).

British Library publicity page

Poisoned Pen Press publicity page

Audible

Edith Caroline Rivett (1894-1958), aka ECR Lorac and Carol Carnac

Murder by matchlight de E. C. R. Lorac

Descripción del libro: Una húmeda noche de noviembre en el Londres de la época de la guerra, un joven químico se sienta en un banco en Regent’s Park y observa cómo un extraño que se acerca desaparece repentinamente debajo de la pasarela de un puente peatonal. Segundos después aparece otro persoanje en la misma pasarela, se detiene a fumar, tira de un cigarrillo y enciende una cerilla que ilumina brevemente un rostro más allá del suyo. A través de la oscuridad subsiguiente llegan los sonidos de un ruido sordo y un cuerpo que cae, luego se hace el silencio. Así comienza este escalofriante misterio de la Edad de Oro de la ficción policíaca de Edith Caroline Rivett, autora de más de setenta libros escritos bajo los seudónimos de ECR Lorac y Carol Carnac. Murder by Matchlight protagonizada por el imperturbable inspector jefe de Scotland Yard, Robert Macdonald, quien tiene la tarea de encontrar al asesino del hombre del puente. Sus únicas pruebas: el conjunto de huellas de bicicleta que acaban abruptamente. Sus sospechosos: un reparto pintoresco que incluye a un testigo tímido y de voz suave, un médico respetado de Londres, un guionista, un trabajador desempleado y un artista de variedades especializado en ilusiones, un grupo animado cuyas actividades discutibles van a mantener al lector intentando adivinar hasta el último giro de esta bien tramada novela policíaca. (Fuente: Goodreads)

Mi opinión: Murder by Matchlight está ambientada en el Londres de la guerra. Durante un apagón, dos hombres son testigos de un asesinato en Regent’s Park. Bruce Mallaig, uno de los testigos, vio a la víctima encendiendo un cigarrillo mientras estaba de pie cerca de una pasarela. Durante el momento en que la luz de la cerilla iluminó el rostro de la víctima, éste pudo ver brevemente el rostro del asesino. Cuando se apagó la luz, escuchó un ruido sordo seguido del sonido de un cuerpo cayendo. Inicialmente la policía se mostró bastante escéptica sobre las versiones de los testigos, pero se aceptan al pie de la letra, ya que no se contradicen entre sí. La víctima, según su cédula de identidad, fue identificada como John Ward y el caso fue entregado inmediatamente al inspector jefe Macdonald para que lo investigara. Lo más sorprendente de todo este asunto es que pronto se descubre que John Ward es una identidad falsa, lo que sin duda dificultará mucho la investigación del caso.

Hay muchas cosas buenas que decir sobre esta novela más que interesante que tiene un comienzo magnífico. Un asesinato cometido frente a dos testigos que puede considerarse un crimen imposible, ya que ninguno de ellos escuchó los pasos que habrían delatado la presencia del asesino. Además, la historia encaja perfectamente en el escenario y la época en la que se desarrolla, y no podría haber sucedido fuera de circunstancias similares. La trama está muy bien estructurada y capta la atención del lector. No faltan los sospechosos, aunque los motivos del crimen no siempre resultan evidentes y también disfruté de la excelente descripción de los personajes, con la única excepción del inspector jefe Macdonald, cuya caracterización es muy pobre en mi opinión. Aunque sorprendente, no encontré muy convincente el desenlace y, tal vez, hay un gusto excesivo por los detalles a lo largo de la historia que puede resultar un poco aburrido ocasionalmente. De todos modos, fue una lectura muy entretenida.

Acerca del autor: Edith Caroline Rivett (1894-1958) (que escribió bajo los seudónimos de E.C.R. Lorac y Carol Carnac) fue una escritora policíaca británica. Nacida en Hendon, Middlesex (ahora Londres) el 6 de mayo de 1894, asistió a la South Hampstead High School y a la Central School of Arts and Crafts en Londres. Rivett fue miembro del Detection Club. Autora muy prolífica, escribió cuarenta y ocho misterios con su primer seudónimo y veintitrés con el segundo. Autora importante de la Edad de Oro de la ficción policíaca, permaneció soltera y vivió sus últimos años con su hermana mayor, Gladys Rivett (1891-1966), en Lonsdale, Lancashire. En sus últimos años, escribió varios misterios protagonizados por el inspector jefe Macdonald en el marco de Lune Valley, Lancashire. Rivett murió en el Caton Green Nursing Home, Caton-with-Littledale, cerca de Lancaster el 2 de julio de 1958. En el 2018, la Biblioteca Británica incluyó tres novelas de E.C.R. Lorac en su serie de obras reeditadas “British Library Crime Classics”, que incluyen Fire in the Thatch, Bats in the Belfry y Murder by Matchlight. La contraportada del reeditado, Fire in the Thatch: A Devon Mystery (publicado originalmente en 1946), dice: “sus libros han sido casi completamente olvidados a partir de su muerte, pero merecen ser redescubiertos como buenos ejemplos de la ficción policíaca británica clásica en su edad de oro”.

Hay veintitrés libros de Carol Carnac y cuarenta y ocho libros de ECR Lorac, el primero es The Murder on the Burrows, bajo el seudónimo de Lorac (Lorac es Carol escrito al revés), que fue publicado por Sampson Law en 1931. Presenta su principal personaje de la serie, el inspector jefe Robert Macdonald, ‘un London Scott’ y soltero al que le encanta caminar por la campiña inglesa. Macdonald tenía un ayudante, el inspector detective Reeves, que aparece en veintiocho de los cuarenta y seis libros de Macdonald. Eran un equipo formidable, aunque con distinta personalidad, como deben ser todas las buenas asociaciones de detectives literarios, se complementaban bien entre sí. Todos los libros de Lorac se publicaron por primera vez en Londres pero, increíblemente, veinticuatro títulos no se publicaron en Estados Unidos. El primer libro de Carol Carnac, Triple Death, fue publicado por Thornton Butterworth en 1936 y contó con el inspector Ryvet, el primero de tres personajes de la serie bajo el nombre de Carnac. Los otros dos personajes principales de Carnac fueron el inspector jefe Julian Rivers de Scotland Yard, que apareció en quince libros, y su ayudante, el inspector Lancing, que apareció en dieciocho casos (cuatro con Ryvet). En general, las novelas están bien tramadas y en el marco de un período de tiempo interesante. La única crítica real, la perenne en la literatura policíaca, es la falta de profundidad cromática y descriptiva del personaje principal de la serie. (Fuente: Classic Crime Fiction)

My Book Notes: I Could Murder Her apa Murder of a Martinet, 1951 (Robert MacDonald #34) by E.C.R. Lorac

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Popular Library New York. Format: ebook. Print length: 191 pages. Published by arrangement with Doubleday & Company Inc. Originally published in the UK by Collins Crime Cub, 1951, as Murder of a Martinet and in the US by Doubleday Crime Club, 1951, as I Could Murder Her.

13563689Synopsis: For a long time Muriel Farrington had ruled the lives of her children, gathering them all together, married or single, under the same roof in the old family mansion. She made a fetish of getting her own way, and like to do it gracefully if possible, but if there was any resistance she could always relay on the subtle effects of the time-honoured heart attack. Self-satisfied, and selfish beyond belief, she did not sense the bitter resentment that burned in the breast of her family, and was far realising the point of desperation which was leading inexorably to her own destruction. For Chief Inspector Macdonald this was not one of the easy cases, but it is one of E. C. R. Lorac’s best. (Source: Collins Crime Club)

My Take: Muriel Farrington was a selfish and domineering woman who liked to exercise a tight control over all members of her family. With the sole exception of her husband and her eldest son, from a previous marriage, they all despised her. But nobody never ever dared to face her and leaving was not an option. They all lived at her expense and almost none was determined to lead an independent life, without her financial support. Besides her mansion, Windermere House, she had a small fortune of her own. Within this context, one day Mrs. Farrington was found dead in her bed. Since she was believed to have a weak heart, everyone thinks she had had a heart attack and had died in her sleep. Her death did not appear to have been a surprise to anyone. However, their old family doctor, Dr Baring, had had a car crash the night before and, after being hospitalized, he passed away. In his place, Dr Scott, a young doctor who had previously expressed doubts about Mrs. Farrington’s possible heart condition, refuses to sign her death certificate. He had noticed something strange: a clear mark of a hypodermic injection in her left forearm. The autopsy reveals she had received a dose of insulin and, as she was not diabetic, her death was an inevitable result. Chief Inspector Macdonald and his assistant, Detective Inspector Reeves, must investigate the circumstances that surrounded her death.

I Could Murder Her, originally published in the UK as Murder of a Martinet, is hard to find, but can be accessed through the Open Library. My interest in this novel arose after reading Curtis Evans’ article in The Passing Tramp on Edith Caroline Rivett. I have found the story quite compelling, but not well developed, or at least quite uneven. In my opinion, it would have worked better as a novella or short story. In particular, I felt that several of its central chapters are too repetitive and could have been shortened without hurting the end result. Overall, I found it an interesting read that describes well the era in which it was written and in which the psychology of the characters plays a prominent role.

My rating: B (I liked it)

Murder of a Martinet apa I Could Murder Her has been reviewed, among others, at Mystery File, My Reader’s Block, and A Guide to Classic Mystery and Detection.

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(Source: Facsimile Dust Jackets LLC. Collins The Crime Club (UK), 1951)

About the Author: Edith Caroline Rivett wrote under the pseudonyms E.C.R. Lorac, Carol Carnac, Carol Rivett and Mary le Bourne. She was born in Hendon, Middlesex (now London), and she attended the South Hampstead High School, and the Central School of Arts and Crafts in London. A very prolific writer, Rivett wrote forty-eight mysteries under her first pen name (most of these books features her main series character, Chief Inspector Robert Macdonald, a “London Scot” and an avowed bachelor with a love for walking in the English countryside. In 28 of these books, he has the help of his assistant, Detective Inspector Reeves), and twenty-three under her second (they feature three different series characters. The first one is Inspector Ryvet. The other two are Chief Inspector Julian Rivers (who appears in 15 books), and his assistant, Inspector Lansing, who appears in 18 cases (four of them with Ryvet). She was a member of the Detection Club. 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.

The forty-eight mysteries she wrote as E. C. R. Lorac are The Murder on the Burrows, 1931; The Affair at 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, 1938; Black Beadle, 1939 (Spanish title: La sombra del sacristán) ; 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 (Spanish title: Jaque mate al asesino) ; Fell Murder, 1944; Murder by Matchlight, 1945; Fire in the Thatch, 1946; The Theft of the Iron Dogs, 1946 (US Title: Murderer’s Mistake, 1947); Relative to Poison, 1947; Death before Dinner, 1948 (US Title: A Screen for Murder, 1948) (Spanish title: La muerte antes de comer); Part for a Poisoner, 1948 (US Title: Place for a Poisoner, 1949); Still Waters, 1949; Policemen on the Precinct, 1949 (US Title: And Then Put Out the Light, 1950); Accident by Design, 1950; Murder of a Martinet, 1951 (US Title: I Could Murder Her, 1951); The Dog It Was That Died, 1952 (Spanish title: Y el perro fue el que murió); Murder in the Mill-Race , 1952 (US Title: Speak Justly of the Dead, 1953); Crook O’Lune , 1953 (US Title: Shepherd’s Crook, 1953); 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 (US Title: People Will Talk, 1958) (Spanish title: Muerte por triplicado); Murder on a Monument, 1958; and Dishonour among Thieves, 1959 (US Title: The Last Escape, 1959).

Availability: To the best of my knowledge The British Library Crime Classics have published by now Bats in the Belfry: A London Mystery, 2018; Fire in the Thatch: A Devon Mystery, 2018; Murder in the Mill-Race: A Devon Mystery, 2019; Fell Murder: A Lancashire Mystery, 2019; Murder by Matchlight, 2019; and Checkmate to Murder: A Second World War Mystery, 2020. In addition to one Carol Carnac, Crossed Skis: An Alpine Mystery, 2020. Besides, the following titles are available in e-book format by Reading Essentials: Rope’s End Rogue’s End (1942), Death Came Softly (1943), Murderer’s Mistake (1946), Accident by Design (1950) and Murder in Vienna (1956). A few other titles are available to borrow from Open Library.

Edith Caroline Rivett (1894-1958), aka ECR Lorac and Carol Carnac

E.C.R. Lorac (1894-1958) by Carol Westron

I Could Murder Her aka Murder of a Martinet, de E. C. R. Lorac

Sinopsis: Durante mucho tiempo Muriel Farrington había dominado la vida de sus hijos, agrupándolos a todos, casados ​​o solteros, bajo el mismo techo en la vieja mansión familiar. Convirtiendo el salirse con la suya en un fetiche, y le gusta hacerlo sin problemas si es posible, pero si existía alguna resistencia, siempre podía confiar en los sutiles efectos del viejo recurso del infarto. Satisfecha consigo misma y egoísta hasta extremos inconcebibles, no se daba cuenta del amargo resentimiento que bullía en el pecho de su familia, y estaba lejos de darse cuenta del punto de desesperación que conducía inexorablemente a su propia destrucción. Para el inspector jefe Macdonald, este no fue uno de sus casos más fáciles, pero es uno de los mejores de E. C. R. Lorac. (Fuente: Collins Crime Club)

Mi opinión: Muriel Farrington era una mujer egoísta y dominante a la que le gustaba ejercer un control estricto sobre todos los miembros de su familia. Con la única excepción de su marido y de su hijo mayor, de un matrimonio anterior, todos la despreciaban. Pero nadie jamás se atrevió a enfrentarse a ella y marcharse no era una opción. Todos vivían a expensas de ella y casi ninguno estaba decidido a llevar una vida independiente, sin su apoyo económico. Además de su mansión, Windermere House, tenía una pequeña fortuna propia. En este contexto, un día la Sra. Farrington fue encontrada muerta en su cama. Como se creía que tenía un corazón débil, todos piensan que había tenido un infarto y había muerto mientras dormía. Su muerte no pareció sorprender a nadie. Sin embargo, su antiguo médico de cabecera, el Dr. Baring, había sufrido un accidente automovilístico la noche anterior y, tras ser hospitalizado, falleció. En su lugar, el Dr. Scott, un joven médico que previamente había expresado dudas sobre la posible afección cardíaca de la Sra. Farrington, se niega a firmar su certificado de defunción. Había notado algo extraño: una marca clara de una inyección hipodérmica en su antebrazo izquierdo. La autopsia revela que había recibido una dosis de insulina y, como no era diabética, su muerte fue un resultado inevitable. El inspector jefe Macdonald y su asistente, el inspector Reeves, deben investigar las circunstancias que rodearon su muerte.

I Could Murder Her, publicado originalmente en el Reino Unido como Murder of a Martinet, es difícil de encontrar, pero se puede acceder a esta novela a través de Open Library. Mi interés en ella surgió después de leer el artículo de Curtis Evans en The Passing Tramp sobre Edith Caroline Rivett. He encontrado la historia bastante convincente, pero no bien desarrollada, o al menos bastante desigual. En mi opinión, hubiera funcionado mejor como novela corta o relato breve. En particular, sentí que varios de sus capítulos centrales son demasiado repetitivos y podrían haber sido abreviados sin dañar el resultado final. En general, me pareció una lectura interesante que describe bien la época en la que se escribió y en la que la psicología de los personajes juega un papel destacado.

Mi valoración: B (Me gustó)

Acerca del autor: Edith Caroline Rivett escribió bajo los seudónimos E.C.R. Lorac, Carol Carnac, Carol Rivett y Mary le Bourne. Nació en Hendon, Middlesex (ahora Londres), y asistió a la South Hampstead High School y a la Central School of Arts and Crafts en Londres. Rivett, una escritora muy prolífica, escribió cuarenta y ocho misterios con su primer seudónimo (la mayoría de estos libros protagonizados por el personaje principal de su serie, el inspector jefe Robert Macdonald, un “escocés de Londres” y un soltero confeso a quien le gusta caminar por la campiña inglesa . En 28 de estos libros, cuenta con la ayuda de su asistente, el detective inspector Reeves), y veintitrés bajo del segundo (que cuentan con tres personajes principales diferentes. El primero es el inspector Ryvet. Los otros dos son el inspector jefe Julian Rivers. (que aparece en 15 libros), y su asistente, el inspector Lansing, que aparece en 18 casos (cuatro de ellos con Ryvet). Fue miembro del Detection Club. Sus libros fueron casi completamente olvidados a partir de su muerte, pero merecen su redescubrimiento como buenos ejemplos de la clásica novela policíaca británica en su edad de oro.

Los cuarenta y ocho misterios que escribió como E. C. R. Lorac son The Murder on the Burrows, 1931; The Affair at 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, 1938; Black Beadle, 1939 (Spanish title: La sombra del sacristán) ; 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 (Spanish title: Jaque mate al asesino) ; Fell Murder, 1944; Murder by Matchlight, 1945; Fire in the Thatch, 1946; The Theft of the Iron Dogs, 1946 (US Title: Murderer’s Mistake, 1947); Relative to Poison, 1947; Death before Dinner, 1948 (US Title: A Screen for Murder, 1948) (Spanish title: La muerte antes de comer); Part for a Poisoner, 1948 (US Title: Place for a Poisoner, 1949); Still Waters, 1949; Policemen on the Precinct, 1949 (US Title: And Then Put Out the Light, 1950); Accident by Design, 1950; Murder of a Martinet, 1951 (US Title: I Could Murder Her, 1951); The Dog It Was That Died, 1952 (Spanish title: Y el perro fue el que murió); Murder in the Mill-Race , 1952 (US Title: Speak Justly of the Dead, 1953); Crook O’Lune , 1953 (US Title: Shepherd’s Crook, 1953); 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 (US Title: People Will Talk, 1958) (Spanish title: Muerte por triplicado); Murder on a Monument, 1958; and Dishonour among Thieves, 1959 (US Title: The Last Escape, 1959).

My Book Notes: Accident by Design, 1950 (Robert MacDonald #34) by E. C. R. Lorac

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Sold by Amazon Media EU S.à r.l. Published 14 June 2020- Format: Kindle Edition. File Size: 957 KB. Print Length: 199 pages. ASIN: B08B6GPG3T. ISBN: N.A. First published in the UK for the Crime Club by Collins in London, 1950; and in the US for the Crime Club by Doubleday Doran & Co. in 1951.

515iED7NVvL._SX260_Synopsis: No one could call the Vansteads a happy family. Templedean Place has become a house divided among itself. The gracious, well-bred serenity of a fast vanishing mode of life typified by its master, the invalid Sir Charles, and his daughter Judith, clashed violently with the harsher and more realistic outlook of life which Judith’s brother Gerald and his Australian wife brought from the prison camp of Malaya. It was not a question of who was right and who was wrong: it was just a question of fundamental incompatibility, aggravated by the knowledge that on  Sir Charles’ death Templedean and its rich farms will go to Gerald, and Judith will be tolerated where she had reigned, or banished entirely. It was an atmosphere to breed tragedy, and when Gerald and his wife are killed in a car accident, Chief Inspector Macdonald has the uneasy feeling that it could have been accident by design. (Source: Classic Crime Fiction)

My Take: The story unfolds at Templedean Place, an aristocratic estate near the Cotswold Hills, where old ways and traditions are still preserved. For several generations it has belonged to the Vanstead family. When the story begins, the head of the family, Sir Charles Vanstead, is almost eighty, and both his daughter Judith and his surgeon have advised him to undergo another operation that, at best, could allow him to live one or two more years. The only one opposed to this idea is his son Gerald whom, at the request of his sister Judith, arrived from Australia a year ago along with his wife Meriel and their son Alan. Gerald, as the only living male child of Sir Charles, will inherit Templedean Place along with all its rich farmlands upon the death of his father but, in the meantime, Gerald hardly has any money of his own and depends entirely on the generosity of the rest of his family.

Sir Charles lost his two oldest sons during the war. They were both brilliant, extremely capable and hard-working people, just like their sister Judith. Gerald, however, was the opposite, useless in studies, inept in sports, and unable to socially relate. No one had thought that most of Gerald’s problems were due to fear of his own family. The fact was that Sir Charles let his youngest son go to Malaya where he was able to demonstrate his skills, learned the rubber business and bought his own plantation. He married Meriel and, for the first time in his life, he felt loved and admired. Life seemed perfect when his son was born in 1939 but upon the Japanese occupation of Malaya in 1943, Gerald and his family were sent to a concentration camp were they remained until the end of the war. It goes without saying Gerald lost the self-esteem he had regained and he is not yet fully recovered from this hard blow.

Now back in England in 1950, his position at Templedean Place doesn’t seem to help him. Everyone considers him a  stranger, no one shows him any kind of sympathy and Gerald himself does nothing to obtain their confidence and affection either. To compound matters, everyone is afraid of losing their job when he will become owner and lord of Templedean Place. But meanwhile, everyone mocks the accent and manners of his Australian wife, and the behaviour of his son Alan, an ill-mannered child, to put it mildly, doesn’t help at all. Besides, Gerald and his wife drink heavily and one day the inevitable happens, they lose their lives in a car accident. Shortly after, a family picnic ends in tragedy. Alan Vanstead is poisoned and dies after eating some poisonous berries. These accidents, at least in appearance, raises suspicions of foul play, given the number of people that will benefit. Chief Inspector Macdonald shows up to investigate what lies behind these tragic incidents.

Accident by Design is the fourth book featuring Chief Inspector Macdonald that I’ve read. In this outing, Inspector Macdonald seems to play a relative minor role in the story. In fact he makes his first appearance in the second half of the book. The story can be easily read and it turns out being interesting. At least it has not ceased to surprise me. It is both strange and curious to observe that although Rivett was a prolific author whose novels range for almost three decades, her books lost the publishers’ favour after her death, though she was a member of the prestigious Detection Club. It is true that most of her books were not entirely lost and became a cult item for collectors although at pretty high prices, partly due to its well-cared  editions. But fortunately, as of 2018 The British Library Crime Classics began to publish again several of her books, the most recent one, Checkmate to Murder: A Second World War Mystery (British Library Crime Classics Book 82), will go on sale on 10 August 2020 in both electronic and paper form. 

It was almost by chance when I came across the availability of this book. Someone, I can’t remember who, had mentioned in the Facebook group page Golden Age Detection that this one was one of her favourite Lorac’s books and it happened that it was available, only in Kindle Format, together with several others [Murderer’s Mistake; Murder in Vienna; Rope’s End, Rogue’s End; and Death Came Softly] at very attractive prices.  And I rushed to download all of them on my Kindle.  

The truth is that I feel very fortunate. I’ve very much enjoyed reading the Lorac’s books I have chosen so far, and this one has not been the exception. Nicely written and with a highly interesting plot, the psychological portrait of the characters is superb, and its pace is very much accomplished. The story provides us an overall vision, not exempt from criticism, to a form of life and of values, on the verge of disappearing. In a certain sense, the situation in which Sir Charles finds himself can be understand as a premonition of things to come.  All in all, the characterization is excellent and the atmosphere created outstanding. 

My rating: A (I loved it)

About the Author: Edith Caroline Rivett (1894 – 1958) (who wrote under the pseudonyms E. C. R. Lorac and Carol Carnac) was a British crime writer. 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 member of the Detection Club. A very prolific author, she wrote forty-eight mysteries under her first pen name, and twenty-three under her second. An important author of the Golden Age of Detective Fiction, she remained unmarried and lived her last years with her elder sister, Gladys Rivett (1891–1966), in Lonsdale, Lancashire. In her latter years, she wrote several mysteries feature Chief Inspector Macdonald with the Lune Valley, Lancashire, as its setting. Rivett died at the Caton Green Nursing Home, Caton-with-Littledale, near Lancaster. 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.” (Source: Wikipedia)

There are twenty-three Carol Carnac books and forty-eight E. C. R. Lorac books, the first being The Murder on the Burrows, under the Lorac (Lorac is Carol spelled backwards) pseudonym, which was published by Sampson Law in 1931. It features her main series character, Chief Inspector  Robert Macdonald, ‘a London Scott’ and bachelor with a love for walking the English countryside. Macdonald had an assistant, Detective Inspector Reeves who appeared in twenty-eight of the forty-six Macdonald’s books. They were a formidable team, whilst diverse characters, as all good detective fiction partnerships have to be, they complemented each other well. All of the Lorac books were first published in London but, incredibly, twenty-four titles were not published in the USA. The first Carol Carnac book, Triple Death, was published by Thornton Butterworth in 1936 and featured Inspector Ryvet, the first of three series character under the Carnac name. Carnac’s other two main characters were Chief Inspector Julian Rivers of Scotland Yard, who appeared in fifteen books, and his assistant Inspector Lancing, who appeared in eighteen cases (four with Ryvet). The novels are all generally well plotted and set against attractive period backgrounds. The only real criticism, the perennial one with detective fiction, is lack of descriptive depth and colour to the main series character. (Source: Classic Crime Fiction)

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(Source: Facsimile Dust Jackets LLC. Collins The Crime Club (UK), 1950)

Bibliography as E. C. R. Lorac: The Murder on the Burrows (1931); The Affair on Thor’s Head (1932); The Greenwell Mystery (1932); The Case of Colonel Marchand (1933); Death on the Oxford Road (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) vt Murderer’s Mistake (1947 US); Relative to Poison (1947); Death before Dinner (1948); Part for a Poisoner (1948); Still Waters (1949); Policemen in the Precinct (1949); Accident by Design (1950); Murder of a Martinet (1951); The Dog It Was That Died (1952); Murder in the Mill-Race (1952) (US title: “Speak Justly of the Dead” 1953); Crook O’Lune (1953) [US title: 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); Murder on a Monument (1958); and Dishonour among Thieves (U.S. title: The Last Escape) (1959). (Most of them featuring her main series character, Chief Inspector Robert Macdonald).

As Carol Carnac: Triple Death (1936); Murder at Mornington (1937); The Missing Rope (1937); When the Devil Was Sick (1939); The Case of the First Class Carriage (1939); Death in the Diving Pool (1940); A Double for Detection (1945); The Striped Suitcase (1946); Clue Sinister (1947); Over the Garden Wall (1948); Upstairs Downstairs (1950); Copy for Crime (1950); It’s Her Own Funeral (1951); Crossed Skis (1952); Murder as a Fine Art (1953); A Policeman at the Door (1953); Impact of Evidence (1954); Murder among Members (1955); Rigging the Evidence (1955); The Double Turn (1956); The Burning Question (1957); Long Shadows (1958) (U.S. title: Affair at Helen’s Court); and Death of a Lady Killer (1959).

Edith Caroline Rivett (1894-1958), aka ECR Lorac and Carol Carnac

Accident by Design, de E. C. R. Lorac

Sinopsis: Nadie podía considerar a los Vansteads una familia feliz. Templedean Place se ha convertido en una casa dividida. La amable y bien educada serenidad de un modo de vida que está desapareciendo, caracterizado por su dueño, el inválido Sir Charles y por su hija Judith, chocó violentamente con la actitud más dura y más realista ante la vida que el hermano de Judith, Gerald y su esposa australiana trajeron del campo de prisioneros de Malasia. No se trataba de quién tuviera razón y de quién estubiera equivocado: era solo una cuestión de incompatibilidad fundamental, agravada por el conocimiento de que, cuando Sir Charles muriera, Templedean y sus ricas granjas irán a Gerald, y Judith sería tolerada donde antes había reinado, o sería completamente desterrada. Era una atmósfera que engendra tragedia, y cuando Gerald y su mujer mueren en un accidente de automovil, el Inspector Jefe Macdonald tiene la incómoda sensación de que podría haber sido un accidente a propósito. (Fuente: Classic Crime Fiction)

Mi opinión: La historia se desarrolla en Templedean Place, una finca aristocrática cerca de las colinas de Cotswold, donde aún se conservan las viejas costumbres y tradiciones. Durante varias generaciones ha pertenecido a la familia Vanstead. Cuando comienza la historia, el jefe de la familia, Sir Charles Vanstead, tiene casi ochenta años, y tanto su hija Judith como su cirujano le han aconsejado que se someta a otra operación que, en el mejor de los casos, podría permitirle vivir uno o dos años más. El único opuesto a esta idea es su hijo Gerald, quien, a petición de su hermana, llegó de Australia hace un año junto con su esposa Meriel y su hijo Alan. Gerald, como  único hijo varón vivo de Sir Charles, heredará Templedean Place junto con todas sus ricas tierras agrícolas tras la muerte de su padre, pero, mientras tanto, Gerald apenas tiene dinero propio y depende por completo de la generosidad de su familia.

Sir Charles perdió a sus dos hijos mayores durante la guerra. Ambos eran personas brillantes, extremadamente capaces y trabajadoras, al igual que su hermana Judith. Gerald, por su parte, era todo lo contrario, inútil en los estudios, inepto en los deportes e incapaz de relacionarse socialmente. Nadie había pensado que la mayoría de los problemas de Gerald se debían al miedo a su propia familia. El hecho fue que Sir Charles dejó que su hijo menor fuera a Malasia, donde pudo demostrar sus habilidades, aprendió el negocio del caucho y compró su propia plantación. Se casó con Meriel y, por primera vez en su vida, se sintió amado y admirado. La vida parecía perfecta cuando su hijo nació en 1939, pero tras la ocupación japonesa de Malasia en 1943, Gerald y su familia fueron enviados a un campo de concentración donde permanecieron hasta el final de la guerra. No hace falta decir que Gerald perdió la autoestima que había recuperado y aún no está completamente recuperado de este duro golpe.

Ahora de regreso en Inglaterra en 1950, su posición en Templedean Place no parece ayudarlo. Todos lo consideran un extraño, nadie le muestra ningún tipo de simpatía y el propio Gerald tampoco hace nada para ganar su confianza y afecto. Para complicar las cosas, todos temen perder su trabajo cuando se convierta en dueño y señor de Templedean Place. Pero mientras tanto, todos se burlan del acento y los modales de su esposa australiana, y el comportamiento de su hijo Alan, un niño mal educado, por decirlo suavemente, no ayuda en absoluto. Además, Gerald y su esposa beben mucho y un día sucede lo inevitable, pierden la vida en un accidente automovilístico. Poco después, un picnic familiar termina en tragedia. Alan Vanstead es envenenado y muere después de comer algunas bayas venenosas. Estos accidentes, al menos en apariencia, levantan sospechas de juego sucio, dada la cantidad de personas que se beneficiarán. El inspector jefe Macdonald aparece para investigar qué hay detrás de estos trágicos incidentes.

Accident by Desing (que podría significar tanto accidente a medida como accidente intencionado) es el cuarto libro protagonizado por el inspector jefe Macdonald que he leído. En esta nueva entrega, el inspector Macdonald parece desempeñar un papel relativamente menor en la historia. De hecho, hace su primera aparición en la segunda mitad del libro. La historia se puede leer fácilmente y resulta interesante. Al menos no ha dejado de sorprenderme. Es extraño y curioso observar que, aunque Rivett fue una autora prolífica cuyas novelas abarcaron casi tres décadas, sus libros perdieron el favor de los editores después de su muerte, aunque era miembro del prestigioso Detection Club. Es cierto que la mayoría de sus libros no se perdieron por completo y se convirtieron en objeto de culto para los coleccionistas, aunque a precios bastante altos, en parte debido a sus muy cuidadas ediciones. Pero afortunadamente, a partir de 2018, The British Library Crime Classics comenzó a publicar nuevamente varios de sus libros, el más reciente, Checkmate to Murder: A Second World War Mystery (British Library Crime Classics Book 82), saldrá a la venta el 10 de agosto 2020 en formato electrónico y en papel.

Fue casi por casualidad cuando me encontré con la disponibilidad de este libro. Alguien, no recuerdo quién, había mencionado en la página del grupo de Facebook Golden Age Detection que este era uno de sus libros favoritos de Lorac y sucedió que estaba disponible, solo en formato Kindle, junto con varios otros [Murderer’s Mistake; Murder in Vienna; Rope’s End, Rogue’s End; y Death Came Softly] a precios muy atractivos. Y me apresuré a descargarlos todos en mi Kindle.

La verdad es que me siento muy afortunado. Me ha encantado leer los libros de Lorac que he elegido hasta ahora, y este no ha sido la excepción. Bien escrito y con una trama muy interesante, el retrato psicológico de los personajes es excelente, y su ritmo está muy logrado. La historia nos proporciona una visión general, no exenta de críticas, a una forma de vida y de valores, a punto de desaparecer. En cierto sentido, la situación en la que Sir Charles se encuentra puede entenderse como una premonición de lo que vendrá. En general, la caracterización es excelente y el ambiente creado excepcional.

Mi valoración: A (Me encantó)

Sobre el autor: Edith Caroline Rivett (1894 – 1958), que escribió con los seudónimos de E. C. R. Lorac y Carol Carnac, fue una escritora británica de misterio. Nació en Hendon, Middlesex, (actualmente parte de Londres) el 6 de mayo de 1894, se educó en la South Hampstead High School y en la Central School of Arts and Crafts de Londres. Rivett fue miembro del Detection Club. Una escritora muy prolífica, con un total de cuarenta y ocho obras de misterio bajo su primer seudónimo, y otras veintitrés con el segundo. Fue uno de los autores más importantes de la edad dorada del género. Permaneció soltera y vivió sus últimos años con su hermana mayor, Gladys Rivett (1891-1966), en Lonsdale, Lancashire. En sus últimos años, escribió varios misterios protagonizados por el inspector jefe Macdonald ambientadas en el Lune Valley, Lancashire. Rivett murió en Caton Green Nursing Home, Caton-with-Littledale, cerca de Lancaster. En el 2018, la British Library incluyó tres novelas de E.C.R. Lorac en su serie “British Library Crime Classics” de obras reeditadas, incluidas Fire in the Thatch, Bats in the Belfry y Murder by Matchlight. La contraportada de la reeditada Fire in the Thatch: A Devon Mystery (publicada originalmente en 1946), afirma que “tras su muerte, sus libros fueron descuidados casi por completo, pero merecen ser redescubiertos como buenos ejemplos de la clásica novela policiaca británica en su edad dorada. (Fuente: Wikipedia)

Escribió veintitrés libros como Carol Carnac y cuarenta y ocho libros como ECR Lorac, The Murder on the Burrows, el primero bajo el seudónimo Lorac (Lorac is Carol deletreado al revés), fue publicado por Sampson Law en 1931. En el nos presenta al principal personaje de su serie, el Inspector Jefe Robert Macdonald, ‘un escocés de Londres’ soltero y aficionado a pasear por el campo inglés. Macdonald tiene un ayudante, el Inspector Detective Reeves, que aparece en veintiocho de los cuarenta y seis libros protagonizados por Macdonald. Forman un equipo formidable, aunque de características opuestas, como deben ser todas las buenas parejas de ficción, se complementan bien. Todos los libros de Lorac se publicaron por primera vez en Londres, pero, increíblemente, veinticuatro títulos no se publicaron en los Estados Unidos. El primer libro de Carol Carnac, Triple Death, fue publicado por Thornton Butterworth en 1936 y contó con el inspector Ryvet, el primero de los tres personajes principales que aparecen en los libros publicados con el seudónimo de Carnac. Los otros dos son el Inspector Jefe Julian Rivers, de Scotland Yard, que aparece en quince libros, y su asistente, el inspector Lancing, que aparece en dieciocho casos (cuatro de ellos con Ryvet). Las novelas generalmente están bien estructuradas y se insertan en un atractivo marco histórico. El único auténtico reproche que se le puede  hacer, perenne en todas las novelas policiacas, es la ausencia de color y profundidad descriptiva del protagonista de la serie. (Fuente: Classic Crime Fiction)

Bibliografía como E. C. R. Lorac: The Murder on the Burrows (1931); The Affair on Thor’s Head (1932); The Greenwell Mystery (1932); The Case of Colonel Marchand (1933); Death on the Oxford Road (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 [La sombra del sacristán] (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 [Jaque mate al asesino] (1944); Fell Murder (1944); Murder by Matchlight (1945); Fire in the Thatch (1946); The Theft of the Iron Dogs (1946) vt Murderer’s Mistake (1947 US); Relative to Poison (1947); Death before Dinner [La muerte antes de comer]  (1948); Part for a Poisoner (1948); Still Waters (1949); Policemen in the Precinct (1949); Accident by Design (1950); Murder of a Martinet (1951); The Dog It Was That Died [Y el perro fue el que murió] (1952); Murder in the Mill-Race (1952) (US title: “Speak Justly of the Dead” 1953); Crook O’Lune (1953) [US title: 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 [Muerte por triplicado] (1958); Murder on a Monument (1958); and Dishonour among Thieves (U.S. title: The Last Escape) (1959). (La mayoría de ellas prtotagonizadas por el inspector jefe Robert Macdonald, el personaje principal de la serie).

Como Carol Carnac: Triple Death (1936); Murder at Mornington (1937); The Missing Rope (1937); When the Devil Was Sick (1939); The Case of the First Class Carriage (1939); Death in the Diving Pool (1940); A Double for Detection (1945); The Striped Suitcase (1946); Clue Sinister (1947); Over the Garden Wall (1948); Upstairs Downstairs (1950); Copy for Crime (1950); It’s Her Own Funeral (1951); Crossed Skis (1952); Murder as a Fine Art (1953); A Policeman at the Door (1953); Impact of Evidence (1954); Murder among Members (1955); Rigging the Evidence (1955); The Double Turn (1956); The Burning Question (1957); Long Shadows (1958) (U.S. title: Affair at Helen’s Court); and Death of a Lady Killer (1959).

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.”

Bibliography:

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)

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(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.

ECR Lorac Spanish Book Covers

I’m finishing reading E.C.R. Lorac’s Murder in the Millrace (1952) aka Speak Justly of the Dead, and I’ve been searching in the Internet if there are any books by E.C.R. Lorac translated into Spanish, and this is what I found:

To my knowledge at least three Lorac novels were published in the collection El Séptimo Círculo, overseen by the Argentinian writers Adolfo Bioy Casares and Jorge Luis Borges, Black Beadle (1939) under the Spanish title: La sombra del sacristán (nº 22); Checkmate to Murder (1944) Spanish title: Jaque mate al asesino (nº 36) [also published by Editorial Bruguera Club de Misterio nº 96]; and Death in Triplicate (1958) under the Spanish title: Muerte por triplicado (nº162).

Apparently there were at least four other titles translated into Spanish Murder in the Millrace (1952) Spanish title: Asesinato en el molino; Death Before Dinner (1948) Spanish title: La muerte antes de comer; Relative to Poison (1947) Spanish title: Relativo al veneno; and Murder as a Fine Art (1953) written as Carol Carnac, Spanish title: El asesinato como arte. All them published in Chile or Mexico, but hard to find.

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ECR Lorac was the pseudonym of Edith Caroline Rivett (1894-1958) who also wrote as Carol Carnac. (‘Lorac’ is ‘Carol’ backwards). Rivett was born in London and educated at South Hampstead High School and the Central School of Arts and Crafts. She wrote The Murder on the Burrows (1931) followed by almost two novels a year, usually featuring Scottish Chief Inspector Robert MacDonald. The novels written as Carol Carnac feature Inspector Julian Rivers. (Source: gadetection)