This pastoral mystery is a little bit less dramatic than some of the other entries in the Crime Classics series, but it’s a very atmospheric rural read!
Book: Crook o’Lune by ECR Lorac
Publication date: 10th July 2022 (originally published 1953)
Ownership: Review copy sent free of charge by British Library Publishing. All opinions my own.
Content warnings: violence, injury, death and murder; arson.
It all began with sheep-stealing. A hateful act among the shepherds of the fells, and yet not a matter of life and death. Then came arson and with the leaping of the flames, death and disorder reached the peaceful moors. Holidaying with his friends the Hoggetts in High Gimmerdale while on a trip to find some farmland for his retirement, Robert Macdonald agrees to help in investigating the identity of the sheep-stealers, before being dragged into a case requiring his full experience as Chief Inspector of Scotland Yard.
I was really excited to get my hands on another of ECR Lorac’s Inspector Macdonald mysteries, as I’ve really enjoyed all the others I’ve read! While this one perhaps didn’t grip me quite as much as some others, this tale of property disputes, sheep-rustling and arson is an interesting diversion from a genre that can often be very London- and society-focused. Macdonald is a likeable lead, as always, and there’s a sense of something cosy in Lorac’s writing even when tackling the darkest subjects that makes her one of my favourite classic crime authors.
As ever, it’s really difficult to talk about the plot of a mystery novel, and particularly with one like this where information is very slowly stacked up and even the tiniest of moments can give many clues – so I can only really assure you that the plot is entertaining and the mystery very satisfyingly solved. What I will say is that the real strength of this book is in the glimpses it gives of early 1950s rural life. The landscape and the people within it are wonderfully and vividly described – this is almost like a holiday in a book, you can see the setting so clearly. It’s no surprise to find out that Lorac based the house and the other locations on her own home! At times, this description can feel as though it’s slowing down the plot, and even drawing focus away from the mystery, but I think it’s just intended as a more slowly-paced read.
This definitely isn’t my favourite of Lorac’s books – that would still have to be Post After Post-Mortem, which I reviewed here – but it’s still a very engaging, gentle read, perfect if you like your classic crime to be as Sunday afternoon-y as possible. Four out of five cats!