Every so often it’s a pleasure to step back in time to when things were simpler, life seemed less complicated. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to live there…I enjoy my creature comforts. So, what’s a person to do? How about a good book that takes place in the past. In my case, the not too distant past. I enjoy books that take place in the early 1900’s and through the WWII era. Especially those that take place in Europe.
I’ve always had a fascination with the small English villages of fiction. Who knows if they actually exist anywhere other than in the imagination? It doesn’t matter to me. Whenever I read a book that has a small English village as it’s location, particularly one that happens in those early to mid 1900’s, I get to spend time in a village conjured up by the author and embellished by my own mind.
That is somewhat the case in the latest book I read, which is part of the British Crime Classic books that are being re-released. This one was by an author new to me, E.C.R. Lorac, which is the pen name for Carol Rivett. While Lorac is a new to me writer, there are several articles on her to be found on the internet. Apparently she was a well-loved author by some people who were major enthusiast of detective novels during what is known as the Golden Age of Detective Fiction.
After reading this book, I can understand why people were fans. She does an excellent job of creating that famous English village and then filling it with interesting characters, both kind and some not so, that seem to represent a cross-section of the people you would find in most small towns or villages. Put that together with the classic murder mystery and you’ve got an excellent example of popular fiction of that age. For more on this particular book, here’s my review:
MURDER IN THE MILL-RACE by E.C.R. Lorac is part of the British Library Classic Crime fiction and as such represents an excellent example of books written during the Golden Age of Detective Fiction. In this novel, Lorac introduces the reader to an English Village by having Dr. Raymond Ferens accept a position there. Dr. Ferens and his wife move to the village, he being glad of a post that allows for a less stressful caseload.
As the Ferens settle in, the reader learns through them that the village, while idyllic when viewed from the outside, has grown somewhat insular. There is a sense that all is not as it should be, although the villagers seem blind to the fact that there is something or perhaps someone rotten among them.
Enter Sister Monica, an honorary title as she is neither particularly religious nor even kind. She does rule the local children’s home with an iron fist, and everyone in the village seems focused on proclaiming what a wonderful person she is. When asked about anything negative, the village answer seems to be that no one “knows anything”. It’s no surprise when Sister Monica is discovered dead, drowned in the mill-race. The villagers are focused on making her death appear an accident, however, the police constable is unsure and reports it to his superiors.
Enter DCI MacDonald and his Sergeant Reeves, to investigate. Detective MacDonald is Lorac’s recurring detective, however this books has no relation to any other book she has written. The entire cast of characters as well as the location are new to MacDonald and Reeves in this book. The result is that the book stands alone and there is no need to have read any other novels by Lorac to become fully acquainted with the pair of detectives.
Through diligent investigation, MacDonald and Reeves unmask the murderer. They explain the case and their investigations to the Ferens and learn that it is much as the doctor had surmised. He, however, told them throughout their investigation that he would gladly tell them the facts as he knew them, however he would not engage in speculation.
Once the murderer is unmasked, the reader is left to imagine how the village will change now that the inhabitants have been forced to see things without the convenience of claiming ignorance. It also remains to be seen if the fresh eyes and attitude of the Ferens will change the village for the better, which are all questions left to the reader to answer.
My thanks to Poisoned Pen Press and NetGalley for this Advanced Reader Digital Copy of the book which they provided in exchange for an unbiased review.
So, there you have my latest review. This book is due to be published on August 6, 2019, so you have just enough time to get to your local independent bookseller or, if you prefer, to you local library to reserve a copy. However you get a copy, if you enjoy books that take place in an earlier, perhaps less complicated time, this is one for you to check out.