E. C. R. Lorac

Murder by Matchlight

""Great to discover another lost classic of the Golden Age." "


London. 1945. The capital is shrouded in the darkness of the blackout, and mystery abounds in the parks after dusk.

During a stroll through Regents Park, Bruce Mallaig witnesses two men acting suspiciously around a footbridge. In a matter of moments, one of them has been murdered; Mallaig's view of the assailant but a brief glimpse of a ghastly face in the glow of a struck match.

The murderer's noiseless approach and escape seems to defy all logic, and even the victim's identity is quickly thrown into uncertainty. Lorac's shrewd yet personable C.I.D. man MacDonald must set to work once again to unravel this near-impossible mystery.

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Lorac has been on my radar for some years, but never got round to her, so I felt this needed to be corrected. I am currently in the throes of reading crime novels, classic and current that are based during the Second World War. Don't ask me why that particular period, maybe it has to do with the whole 'public spirit and bringing the community together' thing. However, there isn't much of that here. Maybe Lorac knew that not everyone was out to help others and more likely to help themselves! The case centres on a grubby tenement of flats at 5A Belfort Grove. Most of the tenants are theatrics of a different sort. The housekeeper, Mrs Maloney is a character and one of those 'salt of the Earth' types. As with that time, there was a habit of writing phonetically, especially with anyone from the East End of London. So be prepared to ready yourself to translate when Lorac starts dropping 'H's' (or should that be 'aitches'?), left, right and centre. Although there were times I felt Lorac was going over old ground, this was a thoroughly entertaining read and at times Lorac's writing and plotting reminded me of the wonderful Gladys Mitchell who could spring the bizarre from the mundane. Lorac does the same here, mainly through her characters and it was great to have some insight of London under siege from a writer who was alive at the time and could give a first-hand account. This British Library edition also includes the Lorac short story 'Permanent Policeman'. Great to discover another lost classic of the Golden Age.

Reviewed By:

Chris Simmons