As I mentioned in my previous post Norway has an excellent tradition of reading crime novels during Easter and, as I have read little but cosy crime lately, I thought I should do my part to support the tradition by highlighting my favourite recent reads. All from the excellent British Library Crime Classics series.
Murder by Matchlight by E.C.R. Lorac was the first crime novel I read this year, thanks to a recommendation by Kaggsy. The mystery itself is good but fairly standard, the real treat is instead the atmosphere of war time London. First published in 1945 it must have been written during or directly after WW2 and it really shows.
Having read this one I immediately got the two other novels by E.C.R. Lorac currently in print, Bats in the Belfry (1937) and Fire in the Thatch (1946). They were both good mysteries, especially Fire in the Thatch, but they lacked that special setting that made Murder by Matchlight stand out.
The Division Bell Mystery, first published in 1932, is set in the British parliament. It was written by the Labour politician Ellen Wilkinson, who give us an inside view on the life in parliament, together with a neat locked-room mystery. Although the mystery was rather standard the inside-view of the political life in the 1930s was not, and I really enjoyed it. This one was also recommended by Kaggsy, who clearly have great taste in crime novels.
My third new BLCC favourite, Death in Captivity by Michael Gilbert, is set in a prisoner-of-war camp in Italy during late WW2, a setting the author knew from personal experience. Many of the characters are rather flat and easy to mix-up and the mystery is fine but nothing special, however the setting is unique and claustrophobic. Although I may not have cared too much about who the murderer was, I really wanted to know who would escape and how. All in all it was probably the most thrilling BLCC I have read, and offered an interesting glimpse of life in a POW camp. Really recommended!
What all three books had in common was that they offered something more than just a decent mystery. They showed me glimpses of interesting worlds I can never visit, war time London, the British parliament during the 1930s, a POW-camp in Italy, all places that the authors knew well (I guess, I haven’t confirmed whether or not Lorac was in London during WW2). Only books can bring me to those places.