Two-Way Murder by E. C. R. Lorac

Publication of Two-Way Murder marks a momentous moment in the British Library Crime Classics series, as it is the first time the book is getting published after being “lost” for over six decades! This last novel by E. C. R. Lorac, written shortly before her death, had slipped through the cracks upon her passing in 1958 (Martin Edwards, the BLCC series consultant, suspects Lorac might have not submitted the manuscript to her usual publisher, or might have been looking for a new one). I always enjoy Martin’s Introductions to the books in the BLCC series – he usually gives a background of the author and a sense of time and the setting, which comes in handy. But this particular Introduction is memorable for the story of how Two-Way Murder came to be published. James Pickard, a rare book dealer and collector, had bought Lorac’s manuscripts at a country auction many years ago before her works were rediscovered by vintage crime fans in the twenty-first century. Pickard’s generosity has allowed Martin and the British Library to read the manuscript and bring it out to the wider audience with minor modifications (as the manuscript had not been professionally edited).

Two-Way Murder, which is set on the south coast of England, begins on the night of Hollydown Hunt Ball in Fordings. This annual dance is the highlight of the town’s social calendar, and Nick Brent has agreed to give Ian Macbane a ride to the ball as it’s a misty night. Nick and Ian are both bachelors. Nick, one time Navy Commando, owns the Mermaid, an inn in Fordings, while Ian is a barrister from London, who is in town, visiting relatives. Both of them are looking to settle down, and they both have their eyes set on Dilys Maine, the prettiest girl in town, although they are among many other suitors. Also competing for Dilys’ hand, is Michael Reeve, whose family previously owned the Hollydown estate.

Because Dilys has sneaked into the ball without the knowledge of her father who is out of town, Nick has promised to drive her back before her absence gets noticed by her housekeeper. But on the way to Dilys’ home, a corpse on the road brings their journey to a screeching halt. As Dilys’ father is a cantankerous control freak who would grow furious if he learns she has been to the ball, Nick decides to spare her and pretend he was alone. So Dilys dashes back home while Nick walks to Michael Reeve’s home, which is the nearest house, to summon the police. Since there’s no one at Reeve’s, Nick breaks in, but as soon as he is done calling the police, he is attacked and struck on the head, leaving the police with a double mystery to solve…

As always with the case of Lorac’s novels, Two-Way Murder is well-written and captivating. The suspects are known to us from the beginning, but since none of the witnesses is entirely forthcoming due to various reasons, it is difficult to figure out the culprit. Inspector Thorn, the County C.I.D, who is assigned to the case, is frustrated by their uncooperativeness since he is more of a facts and methods guy. But his partner, Inspector Waring is in his element! Waring relies on his understanding of human nature to lead the investigation, and his intuitions pay off, letting him suss out the real motives of those involved. Waring’s line of questioning clued me into the culprit before the final reveal. But it still kept me on the edge of my seat because there’s a bit of action when the confrontation happens!

All the characters in Two-Way Murder are well developed. Dilys is the female lead in the story, yet, to me, it is the two secondary female characters – Jennifer, Dilys’ best friend and Alice, Dilys’ housekeeper – who stood out above all except Waring! Dilys and Jennifer shared similar traits to Jane and Elizabeth from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. 😁 Dilys is a sweet darling, but she is obedient and submissive, whereas Jennifer is a practical woman who knows her mind and what/ who she wants. Similarly, Alice is loyal and a woman of action who would have made a fine detective! The fact that all three women get happy endings makes Two-Way Murder even more delightful.

4 stars.

Note: Many thanks to British Library Publishing for sending me a review copy of Two-Way Murder.

5 comments

  1. This sounds a good addition to the BL collection. Some of them have been stronger than others but its great to see them in print once more. And yes, Martin Edwards’ intros are always tremendously insightful and knowledgeable

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes, I agree. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This sounds like a fun, cozy murder mystery, Nirmala. Thank you for bringing it to our attention. The mystery surrounding the book’s provenance only adds to its appeal.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, Tanja. I like most of the British Library Crime Classics. They are much better than most modern Crime/ Thrillers in my opinion. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I think the British are masters of crime not only with regard to books, but also to film. I can’t recount the profusion of excellent BBC crime series on television.

        Liked by 2 people

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