Viven Lestrange is the most reclusive author in England. Only his agents know that he is, in fact, she, but that fact soon becomes called into question when “Vivien” reports, as Eleanor Clarke, the real Vivien missing. Is she actually the author? If so, where is the housekeeper who definitely existed and has disappeared? And if she isn’t the author, how was it she could pretend that she was? And where is the author? And the housekeeper?
Bond and Warner of Scotland Yard investigate, but what exactly are they investigating? A disappearance? A murder? When a body appears, burned beyond identification, it does seem that someone has murdered someone? But who murdered who?
I think most readers now know that E C R Lorac was a woman (Edith Caroline Rivett) but it wasn’t well known when she was writing. I saw a blurb recently in the back of A Pall For A Painter that advertised one of her other books – Post After Post-Mortem, I think – that had a review quote mentioning “his” writing. I don’t know if this was a deliberate deception, although it seems odd that Collins would include this quote if they weren’t playing along. Or possibly not everyone at Collins was aware. Still, it’s pretty clear that there’s a little of Rivett’s own experiences in this one.
It’s not an Inspector Macdonald title – not sure how many standalones she wrote – although I’m not really sure why. Bond and Warner never strike me as significantly different. When I heard it was a standalone, I thought we’d be following Eleanor and her new friend who we meet in the first couple of chapters. And it’s a shame we don’t as they are much more interesting that Bond and Warner.
I’ll be honest, I found this one a bit of a slog to get through, which is a first for me and Lorac. The conclusion is a bit odd too, with a lucky (or unlucky depending on the point of view) incident bringing events to a close.
I do enjoy Lorac’s work, but this is the first that I struggled with. Ah well, there’s plenty more out there, thanks to the British Library.
Apart from the last few chapters I really liked this and would put it as one of my favourite Lorac’s.
We should have done it as a book club title…