Murder in the Mill-Race by ECR Lorac – Review
By Sarah Morgan
While some may argue that women are under-represented in certain areas of the arts, the crime fiction genre is not one of them. Agatha Christie, PD James, Ruth Rendell, Dorothy L Sayers, Val McDermid… The list could go on and on. But somebody who is rarely mentioned in such line-ups is ECR Lorac.
Born Edith Caroline Rivett, she was a member of the Detection Club and wrote more than 70 mysteries under two pseudonyms – Lorac and Carol Carnac. However, since her death in 1958, she has drifted out of the consciousness of all but the most fervent of her fans.
Thanks to the British Library Crime Classics series, readers have had a chance to find out what they’ve been missing. Fire in the Thatch, Bats in the Belfry and Murder by Matchlight have already been issued; Murder in the Mill-Race is now all set to win over new enthusiasts.
Set in Devon, it focuses on the mysterious demise of Sister Monica, the formidable warden at an orphanage in a remote village. It initially appears she drowned during a night-time walk, but a sharp-witted local sergeant realises that the evidence points to a rather more sinister occurrence.
“Genuinely tense moments”
When the locals remain tight-lipped about the matter, despite it being obvious they know more than they’re letting on, Chief Inspector Macdonald and his sidekick Reeves are brought in from Scotland Yard to investigate further.
After a few head-scratching moments and run-ins with unhelpful residents, they realise exactly what happened – and that Sister Monica was far from being the saint she appeared to be. And although I worked out fairly early on whodunit, I still found the tale hugely entertaining with some genuinely tense moments.
Macdonald and Reeves were a partnership that cropped up in many of Rivett’s books, and I for one am interested in reading more of their cases.
As we’ve come to expect from the British Library’s reprints, it’s a beautifully packaged paperback, complete with a cover taken from a 1930s travel poster and an introductory essay by Martin Edwards, an expert in classic crime fiction.
If you’re a fan of Ms Christie and her peers, Lorac is a name worth seeking out, offering a viable alternative to the First Lady of Crime’s tales.
‘Murder in the Mill-Race: A Devon Mystery’ by ECR Lorac is published by The British Library, £8.99 paperback