The Theft of the Iron Dogs by ECR Lorac – Review
By Sarah Morgan
I think I’m becoming an ECR Lorac fan – and it’s all down to the British Library’s Crime Classics series.
Although I’d heard of her before it began republishing her books, I’d never had the pleasure of reading any. But then that’s the beauty of this collection of largely long-forgotten tomes – it offers a chance to sample the work of writers who may otherwise have fallen by the wayside.
I’m pleased to say that The Theft of The Iron Dogs, originally published in 1946, is well up to the high standard Lorac (the pen name of Edith Caroline Rivett) set for herself. The only way it could have been better is if it the story had taken place in Yorkshire – sadly, the plot unfolds on the wrong side of the Pennines in Lunesdale, albeit in the shadow of the Three Peaks. It was an area Lorac knew well; she spent her final days living with her sister in Lonsdale, Lancashire, before passing away at the age of 64 in 1958.
At the centre of the tale is her regular detective, Scotland Yard’s Chief Inspector Robert Macdonald who, despite living and working in London, has the heart and soul of a countryman, so he feels right at home when he’s asked by bookseller-turned-farmer Giles Hoggett to look into the theft of two iron dogs (or andirons) and other sundry items from a cottage on his land.
The matter ties into a puzzling case involving well-known racketeer Gordon Ginner, a matter that becomes all the more serious when the villain’s body is found in a nearby river, with clues suggesting he may have been killed by someone he was attempting to blackmail.
The Theft of the Iron Dogs was Lorac’s 28th novel featuring Macdonald, and he remains as intriguing a character as ever. However, it’s Hoggett who really captured my attention – it feels as if there was more mileage to exploit from him. The landscape in which he lives is beautifully depicted too; you can tell how much affection the author had for the area, while her familiarity with it adds an authenticity you perhaps wouldn’t get with a mere occasional visitor. She also includes rural characters who don’t seem to exist these days, so the book could also be regarded as an intriguing time capsule.
As ever there’s a fact-filled introduction from series editor Martin Edwards. Here’s hoping he’s currently penning more about other Lorac novels.
‘The Theft of the Iron Dogs’ by ECR Lorac is published by The British Library