An Old Review – Murder In The Mill-Race by E C R Lorac

I think I could probably write a whole blog-post on one aspect of this re-issue. “A Devon Mystery”? Really? Was that a sub-category of Lorac’s work, as Fire In The Thatch is also “A Devon Mystery”? Well, if there is a big contingent of mystery lovers out there desperate for murders in Devon, can I direct you towards Kate Ellis and Michael Jecks while you wait for the next Lorac one – if there are more Devon ones to come, that is.

Anyway, I reviewed this one, one of the better books by Lorac that I’ve come across, a while ago and thought I’d repost the review. Here it is.

The village of Millham Prior is an isolated spot in Devon, and the destination for Doctor Raymond Ferens and his wife, Anne, for the beginning of their new life. Needing a more peaceful location following his traumatic war, Millham Prior seems just the place to take over a country practice. The locals seem friendly and welcoming, both the gentry and the normal village folk. But then there’s Sister Monica…

Sister Monica runs the local children’s home with an iron fist, and a number of the locals seem to have concerns about her. It seems that a year ago, one of her charges died, falling into the water below the mill – the mill race. And then Sister Monica is found dead, apparently suffering the same fate. The villagers seem willing to believe that it was an accident, but the local police are less sure. Enter Inspector Macdonald…

This one was recommended to me by… I think it was Curtis Evans over at The Passing Tramp, as one of the stand-outs of Lorac’s output, also known as Speak Justly Of The Dead in the US. There are 48 Lorac novels featuring Inspector Robert Macdonald and this is one of the later ones – book 38 in fact.

You may recall that I wrote about the first “Bodies” conference at the British Library when I queried Ngaio Marsh’s membership of the Crime Queens. I suggested Gladys Mitchell as a replacement – yeah, I know – but maybe Lorac was a better suggestion. There’s a lot of similarity in the structure of Lorac and Marsh, where they both take time to develop the setting and then wheel in the police once the murder has been committed. The difference is that Lorac is a lot better at the detection element.

Having said that, there’s a sense of disappointment here when the Ferens get sidelined once Macdonald shows up, as they are interesting characters in the build-up, but there is here a plot-related reason for it, as there is a running thread concerning the village’s reaction to the crime while the police investigate. It also does fall into the trap, not uncommon in the Golden Age, of trying to convince the reader too early as to who the killer is, when we’re not going to be fooled due to the page count.

Regardless, this is a solidly entertaining murder mystery, but still not the outstanding work by Lorac that I was hoping for. I wouldn’t shell out the £100+ that it’s going for on Abebooks,  but the alternate title is much, much cheaper… Worth A Look.

Well, obviously it’s out now from the British Library, so thankfully you can all take a look. While I’m still waiting for that outstanding Lorac title, this is one of the better ones.



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