Fell Murder by E.C.R. Lorac

A few years ago The British Library started reprinting mysteries from what’s called The Golden Age of Detective Fiction. This is largely assumed to be the 1920’s and 1930’s, mostly in England but there are titles elsewhere. I’ve enjoyed reading these and meeting new and wonderful writers in a genre and a time I greatly appreciate.

I just finished Fell Murder by E.C.R. Lorac, the pen name of Edith Caroline Rivett, who also wrote as Carol Carnac. (Note that “E.C.R.” are the initials of her real name, and “Lorac” is “Carol” spelled backwards.) It’s a novel written at the height of her career and is set in Lunesdale, Lancashire, where she had moved from London in 1950’s. The story is in the waning years of World War II (it was published in 1944) and reflects some of the still active parts of the home requirements: total blackouts at night, and the main farm, Garthmere, has a land girl (Elizabeth, called Lisa) working. Lorac weaves an interesting, complicated, and inevitable tale. The detective from London, Inspector MacDonald, Lorac’s usual, is a calm, even, experienced policeman. Learning to follow his pathway is part of the fun of this book.

The real joy in this one is Lorac’s splendid writing about the landscape. She deftly portrays the beauty of Lancashire, and it is clear she deeply loved her adopted home. I learned a lot of new words like “stirk” and “shillon,” and the descriptions of daily farm work are wonderful. One of the fun parts of it all is the interest MacDonald takes in the farming, often musing how he’d like to leave London and become a farmer in Lancashire. I don’t think she farmed, but I’m sure MacDonald’s longings match those of his creator.

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