Even in 1954, trains didn’t run on time. As fog shrouds London, the Exeter train crawls into the station. Sarah Dillon had been enjoying the company of a handsome young man who was sharing her carriage, but he seemed to be getting more and more agitated as the train approached Paddington. As it pulled to a halt, he raced off the train at the first opportunity – but never made it out of the station on his own two feet.
His attacker both appeared and disappeared into the London fog and Inspector MacDonald had his hands full finding a motive for the attack. Well, that is rather hard to do when you don’t know the identity of the victim. While the London police turn their attention to the local public houses, on the lookout for local gangaters, Macdonald heads to Devon to try and find the victim’s roots. Bu it transpires that Devon might not be far enough…
You know what? I’m getting more and more impressed by Lorac’s work. Was she never considered a Queen of Crime due to the fact that the populace weren’t aware of her gender? It’s a shame that my favourite title of hers, Rope’s End, Rogue’s End, hasn’t made it to the British Library range, and it’s a shame that this one hasn’t shown up either, as it’s rather good.
There are a lot of plot threads swirling around in the London fog, one or two of which, such as the undercover police officer attacked after following someone from a pub, don’t really go anywhere – it adds to the sense of the police initially being at a loss as to the motivation for the attack, but it is odd in a Golden Age style novel for everything not to be intertwined.
The story builds nicely with an excellent finale on a cross-channel ferry, with the reader never quite knowing if Lorac is aiming for a clever misdirection or hiding the killer in plain site. At the end of the day, there’s a complex but satisfying story behind everything and it makes a very satisfying read.
There’s a great sense of the time – the descriptions of the Plymouth Blitz in 1941, the increase in gang crime in London since the war, inspired apparently by the US gangs of the previous decades, and, rather oddly, plugging some Green Penguins, notably [sic] Franchise Affair by Josephine Tay. Why oddly? Well, Lorac, as far as I know, never had a Green Penguin release, instead being part of the Collins Crime Club White Circle range.
I’ll be honest, Lorac has taken a little while to grow on me – it was probably the choice of book as The Sixteenth Stair is a bit on the weak side – but I’ve really enjoyed the last two titles I read and am looking forward to more.