As a founder member of Mystery Women in 1997, promoting Crime Fiction has always been my passion.
Following the closure of Mystery Women, a new group was formed on 30th January 2012 promoting crime fiction.
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Published by the British
Library, April 2020. ISBN: 978-0-7123-5331-1(PB)
story opens in London in 1951, on a foggy, snowy New Year’s Day. A group of
young people are looking forward to leaving dismal weather and post-war
rationing to go on a skiing trip in the Austrian Alps. The trip is organised by
Bridget Manners and several of the sixteen travellers know each other well, but
others have been introduced in a far more casual way, and two of the young men,
Robert O’Hara and Nigel Helston, are last minute substitutes and strangers to
all the rest of the skiing party.
The reader follows the young people as
they travel by train and ferry to their longed-for holiday. Then the action
switches to a less exclusive part of London where an honest, working class
landlady is having a distressing start to the year. Mrs Stein returns from an
overnight visit to her sister and is greeted with the news that the upper floor
of her house has been gutted by fire. Worse is to come: Mrs Stein had believed
the house was empty, all of the lodgers having gone home for the holiday, but
in one of the lodgers’ bedrooms there is a dead body, face and hands burned
beyond identification. The young man who rented that room called himself Mr
Gray and, at first, it is assumed that he was drunk and collapsed onto the gas
fire. However, the police officer that attended the fire felt suspicious and wondered
if there had been more than one person in the room. The official suspicions
grow when, in the snow in the doorway of the house, a police officer sees a
circular mark and recognises it as having been made by the end of a ski having
been rested there.
Some clever detection, based on
fingerprints, leads Detective Chief Inspector Rivers to suspect that what had
occurred was connected with a daring robbery by a man with superb climbing
skill, and as the robber escaped he murdered a witness. Further evidence causes
Rivers and his assistant, Detective Sergeant Lancing, to follow the skiing
party to Lech am Arlberg. In the meantime, in Lech, some strange games with
currency makes Kate Reid, the oldest of Bridget’s party, feel suspicious of
some of her fellow travellers. The two strands of the story converge as Rivers
and Lancing arrive at Lech and the investigation culminates in a dangerous
chase in the midst of a mountain blizzard.
Carol Carnac is one of the pseudonyms
used by Edith Caroline Rivett, who is best known by her other pseudonym,
E.C.R.Lorac. She based the skiing lore on a trip that she had taken with a
similar party (to whom she dedicated the book) and it is generally accepted
that the character of Kate was based on the author herself. I must admit that I
found the start of the book rather confusing, because the large number of
characters who make up the skiing party are all mentioned in a few pages,
however it is well worth persevering, because Crossed Skis soon picks up
pace and turns into a fascinating detective novel, with the two locations and
strands of the story skilfully described and intertwined. The plot is clever,
the descriptions of the Austrian Alps are evocative, and the characters are
engaging, especially the police team of Rivers and Lancing.
Crossed Skis was first published in 1952 and has been recently
republished by the British Library, with an interesting foreword by Martin
Edwards. It is an excellent depiction of society just after the Second World
War and a fascinating and unusual detective story. A very enjoyable read.
Reviewer: Carol Westron
is a pseudonym for E.C.R. Lorac
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.
Carol Westronis a successful short story writer and a Creative
Writing teacher.She is the moderator
for the cosy/historical crime panel, The Deadly Dames.Her crime novels are set both in contemporary
and Victorian times.The Terminal
Velocity of Cats the first in her Scene of Crimes novels, was published
July 2013. Carol recently gave an interview to Mystery People. To read the
interview click on the link below.