Crook o’Lune (Inspector Macdonald 38) by ECR Lorac

Old Macdonald wants a farm…

😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

Inspector Macdonald of Scotland Yard is looking ahead to retiring from the police and is searching for a small farm to buy, farming having been his family background. He’s staying with friends in the Lune Valley in Lancashire while he looks around, and they recommend a farm that is likely to come on the market soon, Aikengill in High Gimmerdale. The old owner is recently deceased and his heir, his nephew Gilbert Woolfall, is a businessman in Yorkshire, so the locals expect he’ll want to sell up. At the moment, he’s spending time going through his uncle’s papers – a lengthy task since his uncle was a bit of an amateur local historian. But then there’s a fire at Aikengill, in which the housekeeper dies. The local police know Macdonald of old so ask him to help them investigate and Macdonald soon determines that the fire was deliberate…

In her own short foreword to the book, Lorac tells us that the places in the book are real although she may have occasionally changed the names, and in fact the house called Aikengill in the book is her own home in the Lune Valley. Her sense of place is always one of her major strengths and never more so than when she’s writing about this rural farming area, which she clearly knows intimately and loves. The book is full of wonderful descriptions of the landscape as Macdonald tramps o’er hill and down dale in pursuit of evidence, and we get an authentic inside look at the working lives of the sheep farmers and smallholders who farm the land.

The plot is also interesting, and rests in part on the long histories of families who live in an area for generations – a real contrast to her London-set mysteries, especially the ones set in the war years, when she often uses the mobility and impermanence of urban living to build her plots around. She has to be one of the most versatile writers from that period, handling rural and urban with equal knowledge and insight, and her skill in this gives her novels an authenticity of atmosphere whatever their setting.

First published in 1953, this one also gives a picture of a Britain still struggling to recover from the war, with the remnants of rationing still lingering and the nature of farming having changed with the drive to increase food production and food security. We also hear about the young men being called up for National Service, and how not all of them were happy to go. She’s excellent at setting her novels in their own time and showing a gradually or sometimes suddenly changing world, and like a lot of vintage fiction her books give a real picture of a period, more authentically than all but the best historical fiction.

We learn more about Macdonald as a person in this one too, because of the element of him looking to move to the area. We already knew from previous books about his love for this hilly country and his background in farming, but Lorac takes us deeper into his thoughts this time. He also interacts with friends – I only remember him with colleagues and suspects before, so this aspect makes him seem more human, as having a life beyond work.

Another one that I thoroughly enjoyed, so I’ll say it again – how can it be that Lorac became “forgotten” when other writers of equal or less talent have remained in print all these years? An injustice that the British Library deserves thanks for putting right. Highly recommended, as always!

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

Amazon UK Link

38 thoughts on “Crook o’Lune (Inspector Macdonald 38) by ECR Lorac

    • The British Library have released quite a lot of her books now and that seems to have encouraged other publishers to bring some out too. I don’t think I’ve read a single one that I didn’t rate as at least four stars. She’s definitely become one of my favourite mystery writers of all time. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hahaha, I might make up a little spreadsheet of books that you must read and send you a monthly reminder! 😉 Lorac is well worth trying – she’s become one of my favourite mystery authors of all time. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

    • It constantly baffles me why she had slipped into relative obscurity, and if the BL had done nothing else with their series but bring her back to prominence, it would have been worthwhile for that alone!

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  1. I’m another one who is baffled by the fact that ECR Lorac fell out of print and into obscurity. Every book I’ve read by her is well worth picking up, some I’ve liked better than others, but she’s always good. She needed something like the Christie estate to keep pushing her work!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think I’ve given every book either four or five stars which is an extremely high standard that very few authors achieve from grumpy old me! What I really like about her is that she can do urban and rural settings and make each of them just as interesting. Yes, I’ve often wondered if it’s the fact that she didn’t appear to leave any living relatives that meant she fell into obscurity, but if so it’s a real failure on the part of whoever her publishers were at the time.

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    • I love her London-set books, especially the ones set during the war. But she’s really excellent at these rural, farming country settings too, presumably because she actually lived the life and knew it so well. Hope you enjoy this one when you get to it! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh this sounds like another great read, and I must say how impressive it is when a writer can authentically depict both rural and urban living – I’m assuming in this case, she describes both accurately, without prejudice? We all have our preferences, so it’s easy to stray from the ‘realities’ of living in either, but it sounds like Lorac doesn’t fall into that trap so easily…

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    • Yes, she always gives me the impression of being affectionate towards both her urban and rural settings. I know she lived in the Lune Valley, the setting of this book, but I’m pretty sure she must have lived in London too for long enough to acquire a good knowledge of it. She really is a rediscovered treasure!

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