Two-Way Murder by ECR Lorac

The man in the street…

😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

Two-Way MurderAll the young men in the neighbourhood are on their way to the Hunt Ball at Fordings, and most of them also appear to be well on the way to falling in love with lovely young Dilys Maine. It’s a foggy, misty night and local man Nick Brent offers to drive Ian Macbane, a visitor to the district, to the Ball. But Nick makes it clear Ian will have to find another lift back, since he intends to drive Dilys home. As he and Dilys return along the low road, they see something lying in the middle of the road which on inspection turns out to be the body of a dead man. Gentlemanly Nick tells Dilys to walk the remaining short distance home so she can avoid getting involved in giving a statement to the police, since her strict father doesn’t know she’s at the ball. When the police turn up they quickly realise the dead man has been murdered, but before they can find out whodunit they will have to identify him…

In my usual way, I waited till I’d read the book before I read the introduction, so was completely unaware while reading that this book was from a “lost” manuscript, never before published. Martin Edwards had heard about it from a book-dealer friend some years ago, but it’s only now, when he has for some years been editing the British Library Crime Classics series and has done so much to return ECR Lorac to the prominence she deserves, that the BL agreed to publish it. Edwards tells us they have given it a light edit, simply to remove a few repetitions and duplications, but it is substantially as written. In my view, it is right up there with her best, which means it’s very good indeed.

It has a slightly odd structure in that the main investigative viewpoint changes as the book progresses. At first, a rather unlikeable “by-the-book” policeman, Inspector Turner, is in the lead, taking statements and jumping to conclusions and generally being annoying. Then for a bit Ian Macbane is in the limelight, as he sets out to do a bit of amateur detection, driven on by his desire to protect Dilys. Finally, for the bulk of the book, Inspector Waring of the local CID takes over. He’s a complete contrast to Turner – his method is to chat to the locals, pick up on gossip, listen to rumours, and generally feel his way through all the deceptions and half-truths the suspects and witnesses are feeding him, mostly in this unfathomable desire all the men seem to have to protect beautiful but pathetic Dilys (who in my humble opinion would have been vastly improved by having to take responsibility for her own life occasionally).

I liked Waring very much – Edwards speculates that perhaps he was a new venture for Lorac, getting away from her long-running series detective, Inspector MacDonald. Unfortunately she died not long after this book was finished so we’ll never know if she had planned to give Waring more outings. I like MacDonald too, but Waring has rather more personality and works more on instinct and knowledge of human nature, rather than the somewhat more procedural feel of the MacDonald stories.

There’s a fair amount of mild humour in the book and a smidgen of romance, just the right amount. But the important thing is the underlying mystery, and it’s excellent. Lorac shows how unreliable witnesses are when they’re trying to keep all kinds of secrets that have nothing to do with the crime itself, and Waring has a natural talent for sorting the wheat from the chaff and getting to the truth. I loved the crucial clue – very original, I thought – although obviously I can’t tell you anything about it. I had gradually come to suspect the right person, but quite late on and only after several false starts, and I still couldn’t work out how the thing had been done, or why. Waring remained a few steps ahead of me all the way through, and explained everything to my satisfaction in the end. Is it fair play? Yes, I think so – I think I had all the information that Waring had, just not the brainpower to work it out!

20 books 2019Book 2 of 20

Since a lot of it involves people driving around the district on various roads or walking along bridle paths, I longed for a map – I suspect if it had been published in Lorac’s lifetime there may have been one. But Lorac is always great at her settings so I was able to gradually develop a mental map of the area as well as a clear picture of the various types of people in this small rural community – the farmers and business owners, those with a long pedigree and the newcomers, the dissolute and the self-appointed righteous guardians of other people’s morals.

A real find for Martin Edwards, and I’m grateful to him and the British Library for giving us all the opportunity to enjoy it. Lorac continues to be the brightest shining star in the BL’s sparkling firmament. Great stuff!

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

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41 thoughts on “Two-Way Murder by ECR Lorac

  1. Another good one!
    I don’t read introductions until I’ve finished books either, too many spoilers. The background to how this book came into existence is amazing. Incredible that the story wasn’t lost forever.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. This one does look really good, FictionFan. I can’t tell you how glad I am that her work has been re-discovered and is getting some attention. She was really talented, and it makes me wonder how she got ‘forgotten’ (is that the right word?) in the first place. I like the way she depicts setting and atmosphere, and it looks as though that happens here, too. Glad you enjoyed it.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I can’t imagine how she came to be “forgotten”. In my ranking, while no one equals Christie, she’s top of the rank below. Personally I think she’s better than any of the other Queens of Crime. I’m so glad Martin Edwards and the BL have brought her back to prominence – even if she was their only find, it would make the whole BL series worthwhile.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This one sounds like it has a lot going for it! I rather like the varying investigative viewpoints. In a small way it makes me think of The Stranger Diaries. (isn’t that the one that looked at the same event from three different perspectives?)

    I might have to see if this one is a Kindle option.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I see what you mean, but somehow it feels different in this one – it kind of drifts gradually to a different viewpoint rather than having clearly divided sections. It’s odd, but it works! I do think you’ll enjoy this and if it’s not available yet over there, it should be soon… 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Interesting that this was published posthumously. It sounds like it was well on its way to being publishable before they touched it. So they touched it lightly. Unlike the one I read by Hemingway, Garden of Eden (1986), that wasn’t quite up to snuff, and was criticized as being so heavily edited as to not reflect his intentions. Although I have to admit that Hemingway doesn’t rate as highly with me, anyway, as he does with other readers.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sometimes I wish they wouldn’t publish posthumously, but actually I’ve read a couple of really good “lost” manuscripts recently. It’s when the manuscript isn’t really finished that the problem arises – I really don’t think that getting someone else to finish a book ever works out very well.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I hope it makes its way over there soon – I think you’ll enjoy it! She’s been the real star of the series for me and it’s lovely having a “new” author to explore!

      Like

    • I think she’s great! She’s not Agatha Christie, but then no one is. But I do think she’s as good as any of the other well-known mystery novelists of the time, and I don’t understand how she became “forgotten”.

      Liked by 1 person

    • She’s been the real star of the BL series for me – I always love seeing her name pop up. And given that they’ve now published quite a few of her books, I think she must be proving very popular.

      Like

  5. I like the sounds of this one, I really must read some Lorac, I think I’d love her. I’m always curious-how are manuscripts just ‘found’ from dead authors? Their papers are finally sorted through I suppose? Living relatives end up donating them?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know, especially when it was known about “in the trade”. I guess she’d just become “forgotten” so no one thought it would be worth publishing? Until Martin Edwards and the BL brought her back to prominence. Prioritise them! You’ll enjoy them, I’m sure… 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Really looking forward to this one, I think she is in a league of her own (from the few in the series I’ve read!), it’s her sense of place that stands out I think.

    Liked by 1 person

    • She really is, and I can’t understand why she’s been “forgotten”. For my money, she’s ahead of the likes of Margery Allingham and even Sayers. Only Queen Agatha tops her as far as I’m concerned!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. If I was driving with someone at night and we found a dead body, there is no way I would then get out and walk!

    Sometimes I find books published posthumously to be not up to the same calibre as books published in an author’s lifetime so it’s nice to hear that wasn’t the case for this one.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hahaha, I know, right?! But docile little Dilys just does whatever she’s told… 😉

      I’m glad I didn’t know in advance, because otherwise I’d probably have been looking for reasons why it hadn’t been published. But this way I had no preconceptions and thought it was one of her best.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I’ve just read Kaggsy’s review of this one – as glowing as yours. I’m finally prompted to check what my local library holds: this one plus two others from Lorac and 40 overall on the series! How marvellous! Now, how to create those essential extra hours in the day…? 🤔😂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha, I give you fair warning – they’re addictive! I’ve still got a few of the early ones to catch up with from before I started getting them as review copies, but I’ve read well over half of the series now and have developed favourite authors – Lorac, of course, and George Bellairs, John Dickson Carr, Mary Kelly…

      Liked by 1 person

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