Murder in the Mill-Race (Lorac)

  • By E.C.R. Lorac
  • First published: UK: Collins, 1952; US: Doubleday, 1953, as Speak Justly of the Dead

A solid, Christie-like village mystery, with a clever, well-constructed plot and a murderer I didn’t suspect.  Well-written—artist’s eye for colour.  Characterisation surprisingly good—interest in psychology: Hannah, Sister Monica (another frigid female).


When Dr. Raymond Ferens took a practice at Milham in the Moor in North Devon, he and his wife were enchanted with the little hill-top village lying so close to moor and sky.  At first they saw only its charm, but they soon discovered that whenever you get a group of people living together, whether in town or village, you find the same mixed characteristics of humanity—envy, hatred and malice as well as neighbourliness and honest-to-God goodness.  Everyone said Sister Monica, warden of a children’s charity home, was wonderful, a ‘saint’.  But was she?  A few months after the Ferens’ arrival her body is found drowned in the mill-race and the investigation of Scotland Yard uncovers some surprising facts.  Chief Inspector Macdonald has one of his most difficult cases because of the village’s determination not to help a stranger.

Contemporary reviews

Observer (Maurice Richardson, 5th September 1952): Snug, interesting little Dartmoor case with plenty of surprises.  Sister Monica, the saintly warden of a children’s charity home, found drowned and alcoholised.  E.C.R. Lorac keeps on keeping it up steadily as ever.

Francis Iles: On classic lines.