Death of an Author by E.C.R Lorac – Review
By Sarah Morgan
As every crime fiction-loving reader knows, many authors have their own detective, a familiar presence, usually with the odd quirk or two who, no matter how tricky the case is, always gets their man (or woman).
ECR Lorac (the pen name of Carol Rivett) was no exception. She wrote many books featuring her own sleuthing creation, Inspector Macdonald. Having read several of her books before, I was somewhat surprised to find that he didn’t pop up in Death of an Author. Perhaps Lorac fancied a change or a different challenge.
Whatever the reason, the tale, originally published in 1935 but largely forgotten until resurrected by the British Library’s excellent Crime Classics series, works perfectly well without him; his place is taken by fellow police officers Bond and Warner of Scotland Yard.
Lestrange’s past is shrouded in mystery; nobody knows anything about him, although there are possible clues hidden in his manuscripts. Plus, outside his household, no one has ever seen or spoken to him. He even persuaded Miss Clarke to pose as him at a literary dinner, which produces a moment that will probably raise a few eyebrows when one of the fellow guests claims that Lestrange’s books could never have been written by a woman (perhaps an in-joke from Lorac, or a sideswipe at disparaging sexist critics).
So, with no corpse (yet), no way of identifying the missing chap and little evidence to help them, Bond and Warner set out on what initially appears to be a wild goose chase. However, thanks to some ingenuity, it seems that if a crime has been committed, they’ll have to search away from Hampstead, where Lestrange lived, in the process uncovering a story stranger than any fiction the missing author ever committed to the page.
Lorac’s work never fails to delight, and she deserves to be better known today. Thanks to the British Library, she’s being introduced to a new generation of readers. As is always the case with books in the series, Martin Edwards provides an informative introduction that may inspire further reading.
‘Death of an Author’ by ECR Lorac is published by the British Library, £9.99 paperback