Crossed Skis by Carol Carnac

An Alpine holiday…

😀 😀 😀 😀

Book cover and link to Amazon product pageA group of young people are off on a trip to the Austrian Alps for a skiing holiday. With sixteen places in the group, it’s been a mammoth job to get everyone organised and some last minute cancellations mean that a few places have been filled by friends of friends, not directly known by other people in the group. So when some money goes missing from one of the hotel rooms, suddenly suspicion begins to threaten what had been up till then a most enjoyable jaunt. Meantime, back in London, a body has been found burned beyond recognition in a house fire. The police soon have reason to suspect this was no accident however, and the print of a ski-stick in the ground outside the house has Inspector Rivers intrigued…

Carol Carnac is a pseudonym used by Edith Caroline Rivett, who also wrote the Inspector MacDonald series of police procedurals under another pseudonym, ECR Lorac. Lorac has become one of my favourites of the authors the BL has been republishing so I was intrigued to see if I liked her as much in this incarnation, with Inspector Rivers as the lead.

The skiing party is a lot of fun, with the main characters being on the whole an extremely likeable bunch of privileged but not horribly snobbish English people, delighted to escape from the post-war rationing and dismal January days at home for pristine snow and sunshine, skiing by day and dancing the nights away. As Lorac, I’ve commented many times on how great she is at creating the settings she chooses, and that’s apparent in this one too. The freezing weather in both the beautiful Alps and in dank and dreary London is brilliantly described and contrasted, and adds much to the enjoyment.

The one real weakness of the book is the size of the skiing party. Sixteen characters are far too many in a short book – most of them never become more than names, and many have no part in the story at all. Very few of them have space to develop distinct personalities and I was still having to think hard to remember who was who even as the book neared the end. The introduction tells us Carnac based it on a real skiing party of which she’d been a member, but it would have worked much better in the book if she’d cut the cast list down to a more manageable size.

However, I still enjoyed the picture she gave of these young people participating in what was still a rather unusual sport at that time. While it was still mostly the preserve of the elite, Carnac shows how foreign travel was gradually becoming more accessible to ordinary working people in the years after the war. She also reminded me of the days, which I only just remember, when people were restricted in the amount of currency they were allowed to take out of the country, and how problematic this could make foreign travel.

The London end is equally well done, and Rivers and his sidekick Lancing make an excellent team. The plot is a little convoluted, but works, and shows the gradual change in detection methods towards forensic evidence, with much nifty stuff around fingerprints. Both men are coincidentally skiers themselves, so when the trail leads to the Alps they can’t wait to get over there. And it all leads up as you’d expect to a thrillerish ending on a mountain slope in the middle of a snow-storm.

Thoroughly enjoyable despite the overabundance of characters – I’ll be looking out for more of her books in her Carnac persona now too.

20 Books of Summer logoBook 1

NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, the British Library.

Amazon UK Link
Amazon US Link

32 thoughts on “Crossed Skis by Carol Carnac

  1. Yay, we read it in tandem. I just wrote up my review of it today! Yes, it was good fun, but I would agree with you that I never quite got my ahead around all of the different people in the skiing party. Their personalities were rather indistinguishable too. I suppose if there had been just a few of them, it would have been more obvious who the criminal was…

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    • I started out trying to memorise their names at least, but ever time she mentioned anyone I had to kind of sort through them all to see who she was talking about! But it was still a lot of fun – both the London end and the skiing. She does settings so well!

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  2. You make me feel very old, I remember being restricted in the amount of money I could take abroad when I travelled only too well. However, it was never a problem for me because I couldn’t have afforded a holiday where I could have spent more than the allowance anyway!

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    • Ha, I think that’s why I barely remember it too – foreign holidays were way too expensive when I was a young’un so the problem never arose. By the time I could afford to go abroad at all I think they’d lifted the restrictions.

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  3. That’s a lot of characters, and I’m hopeless with remembering names, so I would probably just become slightly befuddled trying to remember them all. It sounds like a good story apart from that though, and I’m still tempted to try this author under one of her sudonyms.

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    • I’m really enjoying her stuff. It’s her settings that make them for me. Whether she’s doing London, or rural, or in this case, abroad, they always feel just right and there’s a real sense of the time too. And somehow her characters feel a bit more modern than most of the writers of the time, although I think she came from the same kind of era as Christie.

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  4. I still think reflexively of skiing as something done only by genuinely posh people (I had one very unsuccessful outing on a dry ski slope in Wales at the height of summer), and every time one of my friends goes on a skiing trip I am freshly surprised that I know such rich people! This sounds like a lovely escapist read (murder aside) – one for the TBR, I think!

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    • Ha, me too! I remember when my sister went skiing way back in the 70s and we all felt as if somehow she’d moved up a class – or was putting on airs… 😉 It’s never really appealed to me, but I must say the party in this book seemed like a fun bunch to go on holiday with. Apart from the murderer, of course… 😉

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  5. With both you and Marina Sofia saying you enjoyed the book, I have no choice but to put it on the wish list, FictionFan. I’m very glad to hear you liked it. As I said to Marina Sofia, I do like the setting. It’s a great setup, too, for the mysteries at hand. Even with all the characters, it does sound like a fun read. Of course, my TBR is not going to be pleased about this! 😉

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    • Haha, well, just don’t let your TBR know about all her different pseudonyms or it might go on strike! She really is excellent though, as either Lorac or Carnac, and all the fun of the skiing party aspect made this a lighter read than some of her others. Sneak it on – I won’t tell anyone… 😉

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  6. I haven’t read this one, but I must agree that 16 is far too many characters for a mystery like this. Even eight would have probably been too much for the author to fully flesh-out. Still, it sounds like an enjoyable read.

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    • Yes, I’ve often wondered what’s the optimum number of characters for a mystery. Too few, and it’s usually too easy to guess the murderer – but too many and they just all become confusing. Somehow Christie always manages to get it right, and I think she usually has about seven or eight suspects – I must count the next time I read one!.

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  7. I have one of her ECR Lorac books waiting in my Kindle, so I’ve yet to know what I think of her work. I’m glad this one lived up to her other writing for you! Add me to those who would struggle trying to keep track of that many folks. If they’re not important, delete them! (not that I advise that in real life 😉)

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    • Hahahaha, I’m glad you’re not in charge of the pandemic response team with that attitude! 😉 She’s really very good, especially her settings. Whether she’s doing London or rural or the Alps, they always feel just right. And the skiing party was fun even if I couldn’t remember who half of them were!

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  8. I’ve yet to read any of these BL crime capers but I recognised the name Lorac from previous reviews so I’ll add this one too, it does sound great I love the dreariness of London and the sparkle of the Alps!

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    • I thought the way she contrasted London and the Alps was great – the same cold and snow but what a difference the setting makes! I’m loving the BL series – they’re variable, of course, but I’ve had far more winners than losers and have found some new favourite authors through them. I hope they keep them coming… 😀

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    • I often wonder how much editing these golden age authors got. They seemed to churn their books out at a much faster rate than writers today which makes me wonder if publishers just accepted them without too much checking once the author was a known name…

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  9. I love the sound of a ski holiday. I ski myself, but am always still in awe of the mountains-a perfect setting for murder! muahaha

    I agree that 16 characters for a ski party is way too many, I cringe just thinking of trying to keep that many names straight, it takes away from the enjoyment if you’re constantly having to remind yourself who is who…

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  10. Out of curiosity, where do they ski in Austria? I inquire because earlier this year (before COVID, which seems like another lifetime entirely) I took a ski trip to Austria with some of my London friends. It sounds like a good recommendation for them, even though the most exciting thing that happened on our trip was a missed flight 😀

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    • It was set in a place called Lech am Arlberg – my geography is non-existent so I can’t even be sure it’s a real place! 😉 Haha, I feel going on holiday with any of these Golden Age authors would have been a risky business – it’s never long before a corpse or two shows up… 😉

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