Thursday, June 20, 2013
12. Accident by Design by E. C. R. Lorac
Found this one at a used record store near my house that I have walked by a thousand times but never gone into. It's the kind of place that I haunted in my high school and college years but have long since grown bored with. However, something drew me in on that day and it turned out that they had a big, messy pile of old pulp books in the back corner. They were in terrible condition and overpriced ($5 each), but I spent some time going through them (and organizing them) and picked out this one. Despite having two other books half-read (since March!), I jumped into it and found it engaging enough that I made it to the end.
In fact, Accident by Design was honestly a really well done classic British mystery. I was quite surprised, expecting something subpar and generic. It was well-written, with interesting characters and some great descriptions of the British countryside and the work done on a tenant farm. The story is about a family estate in the early '50s. The patriarch lies in bed near death, but still quite aware. His eldest son is a feckless alchoholic with a middle-class (bad), Australian (worse) wife who hates pretty much everyone his father employed and has threatened to make a clean sweep when he takes over. When they both die in a car accident, too many people benefit and this alerts the local constabulary (who are very well depicted in the best British tradition of the no-nonsense, practical, reasonable police force). When their surviving son dies a few days later, by seemingly eating some poisonous berries, the game is truly afoot. It's a solid, enjoyable read that spoke particularly to me because of the British countryside angle. There are some great walks and agricultural discussions. The police as well are just awesome in the way their supervisor listens to their hunches and lets them follow their instincts, within reason. Very satisfying.
I learned later that E. C. R. Lorac is the pseudonym for Edith Caroline Rivett whose works are very well-respected (she is considered a prime representative of the golden age of British mysteries) and whose books are even collectible! (Though I doubt this paperback is worth anything, given its state.) I will definitely be keeping an eye open for her in the future. And let's hope this kickstarts my reading for 2013, because I gots some catching up to do!