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Friday 7 June 2019

‘Fire in the Thatch’ by E. C. R. Lorac

Published by The British Library,
10 February 2019.
ISBN 978-0-7123-5260-4 (PB)

I remember this book in the early 1960s when I read my way through the offerings of E. C. R. Lorac from the local library.  It is fascinating to get the reprint from the British Library in 2019 and to see if the book is as enjoyable as I thought.  Unlike most writers of her era Lorac (who also wrote as Carol Carnac) often wrote about country life.  Many of her books concerned the North of England in a period when the world outside London and the Home Counties was rarely the setting preferred.  

The setting here is Dorset rather than the North and the evocation of a style of country life, now completely lost, is superb.  The other fascinating aspect for a modern reader is the picture of life in the closing years of WW2.  People are apprehensive about the future when the war ends - they already realise their way of life will disappear.

Nicholas Vaughan has been invalided out of the Navy and wants to renovate a cottage and smallholding in a village called Mallory Fitzjohn near Exeter.  He is succeeding in his task, despite the dubious, fashionable visitors to the nearby farm, when a fire destroys Little Thatch and Inspector Macdonald arrives from London to try to discover a motive for murder.  The investigation is meticulous and, eventually, successful.  

I enjoyed this again, but I think my reasons for enjoying it differed from those that I experienced as a teenager.  The outdated way of life, exacerbated by the War, I found fascinating whereas in the 1960s I accepted it as describing the recent past.
Reviewer: Jennifer S. Palmer
There are many books by both Lorac and Carnac for the reader to find.

E.C.R. Lorac was a pen name of Edith Caroline Rivett (1894-1958) who was a prolific writer of crime fiction from the 1930s to the 1950s, and a member of the prestigious Detection Club. She lived her last years with her elder sister, Gladys Rivett (1891-1966), in Lonsdale, Lancashire. Edith Rivett died at the Caton Green Nursing Home, Caton-with-Littledale, near Lancaster. Her books have been almost entirely neglected since her death but deserve rediscovery as fine examples of classic British crime fiction in its golden age.

An article on the life of E.C.R Lorac can be read here…

Jennifer Palmer Throughout my reading life crime fiction has been a constant interest; I really enjoyed my 15 years as an expatriate in the Far East, the Netherlands & the USA but occasionally the solace of closing my door to the outside world and sitting reading was highly therapeutic. I now lecture to adults on historical topics including Famous Historical Mysteries.

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