Two-Way Murder (Lorac)

  • By E.C.R. Lorac
  • First published: UK: British Library Crime Classics, 2021

Two-Way Murder is the “new” E.C.R. Lorac, published earlier this year, half a century after Rivett wrote it. Series editor Martin Edwards suggests it was her last book, written shortly before she died in 1958. It’s certainly better than what used to be her final novel, the dismal Dishonour Among Thieves (1959).

Returning from the Hunt Ball, Nicholas Brent finds the body of a man in the road, apparently the victim of a hit-and-run accident. Telephoning for the police from farmer Michael Reeve’s cottage, Brent is attacked and knocked unconscious. Locals identify the body as Reeve’s brother, who left England ten years before – but Reeve denies it is his brother. There is something strange about the Reeves; Michael’s sister, the beautiful Rosemary, disappeared, a presumed suicide. Could the victim be a bastard relative? And what does the beautiful Dilys Maine and her puritan father have to do with the affair?

In many ways, this is typical Lorac. Murder disguised as motor accident (see Death on the Oxford Road, 1933; Death at Dyke’s Corner, 1940; Accident by Design, 1950; Impact of Evidence, 1954; The Burning Question, 1957). A deeply rural mystery, depicting farmers and countryfolk with knowledge and affection, and without condescension (e.g., the maid Alice Ridley, who quietly solves the mystery). And, like Agatha Christie, a nice balance between the Humdrum (plot / investigation) and Crime Queen (character) approaches to the detective story. But a book that relies so much on geography does need a map!

The central idea is clear, clever, and simple – a conjuring trick whose explanation can be told in a single line. But it’s also quite transparent; you should solve it a few chapters before the end. Whodunnit is also straightforward; I was onto X quite early, although at first I suspected (wrongly) that Lorac had lifted an idea from a Christie novel.

An enjoyable, welcome first publication. Lorac is rapidly becoming one of the authors I would most like to see reprinted in toto.

See also crossexaminingcrime, In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel, Clothes in Books


BLURB

A lost novel from the golden age of crime, published for the very first time.

It happened on a dark and misty night; the night of the ball at The Prince’s Hall, Fordings. Abuzz with rumours surrounding the disappearance of Rosemary Reeve on the eve of last year’s ball, the date proves ill-fated again when two homebound partygoers, Nick and Dilys, come to a swerving halt before a corpse on the road.

Arriving at the scene to the news that Nick has been attacked after telephoning for the police, Inspector Turner suspects there may be more to the case than deadly accident.

It’s not long before Waring of the local C.I.D. is drawn into the investigation, faced with the task of unravelling an increasingly tangled knot of misleading alibis and deep-rooted local grievances.

Written in the last years of the author’s life, this previously unpublished novel is a tribute to Lorac’s enduring skill for constructing an ingenious puzzle, replete with memorable characters and gripping detective work.

This edition also includes an introduction by the CWA Diamond Dagger Award-winning author Martin Edwards.

One thought on “Two-Way Murder (Lorac)

  1. Although I would at one time have agreed with your assessment of “Dishonour Among Thieves”, I found that when I recently re-read it, I enjoyed it more than I expected, even if the mystery element isn’t high – I think I’d rate it above the equally late “Murder on a Monument”. I generally agree about the merits of “Two-way Murder”, although I didn’t spot the main plot twist until it was revealed! Let’s hope for more reprints in the near future.

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