Post After Post-Mortem by E. C. R. Lorac

I’ve been feeling down lately because of the ongoing war in Ukraine and the Sri Lankan economic crisis. I’ve been glued to the news and haven’t read a book for over a month now (!!!), and I couldn’t think of a better way to get myself out of this funk than curling up with a crime classic and spending some time with one of my favorite detectives.

Post After Post-Mortem, written in 1936, takes us to Oxfordshire to the Surray family home in Upwood. The Surrays are an academically accomplished bunch. The father, John Surray, is a professor, while the mother, Nell, has pursued an arts degree in her youth at a time when having a degree was considered highly undesirable for a woman. Their five children, three daughters and two sons, are equally brilliant and have forged their own paths, and the novel opens up with them getting together to celebrate Nell’s birthday and Naomi, the youngest, graduating with Honors at university.

Even though the Surrays get along quite well, from early on it is hinted that independence is of utmost value to the siblings. This is perhaps due to the family’s success – none of them wants to be seen as riding on another’s coattails. But the harmony they have strived to achieve thus far by leading separate lives may be in jeopardy when it is revealed that the two unmarried sisters, Naomi and the critically acclaimed novelist, Ruth, are both in love with the same man. A few weeks earlier, when Ruth admitted to having struggled with insomnia to her psychiatrist brother, Richard, he had assumed it was from work-related stress. But when Ruth’s body is discovered a few days after Nell’s birthday in their Upwood home, next to sleeping pills, a suicide note, and a changed will, Richard must reevaluate the circumstances behind Ruth’s death. Did Ruth take her own life because of unrequited love? If yes, does he want their parents and the world to find out that Naomi is the reason for Ruth’s broken heart? It is a precarious position to be in, and I sympathized with Richard when he persuaded others to suppress their suspicions and give evidence in a way that would wrap up the coroner’s inquest as quickly as possible.

Despite having acted with the best of intentions to achieve a suicide verdict, Richard comes to realize the error of his ways when he receives a letter from Ruth, written shortly before her passing. This letter, which has gotten lost in the mail thereby delaying its delivery, convinces Richard that Ruth had no intention of committing suicide. So he reluctantly enlists the help of Inspector Macdonald, Lorac’s series detective, to get to the bottom of this.

Post After Post-Mortem presents us with quite the head-scratcher, and Inspector Macdonald is spot on when he says “the trouble in this case is that there’s no direct way of getting at the facts. The evidence is mainly circumstantial – arguing from probabilities, and trying to guess at the truth in a maze of lies and half-truths.” Ruth has been hosting a literary soiree in Upwood during the weekend she died, so a few writer friends and her publisher had been staying with them. But no one is entirely forthcoming with what they know, not wanting to sully the memory of Ruth unwittingly. Then, there’s Richard, who wants to shield Naomi, who was also in Upwood that weekend, from any unpleasantness the investigation might bring about. This puts Inspector Macdonald in a tricky situation. He is an empathetic man who realizes what this investigation means to the Surrays – Ruth’s parents are especially devastated by their loss, and the police poking around doesn’t necessarily let them move on, although an investigation is warranted given the circumstances. On top of it, he seems to be in a race against time, with a murderer who is getting emboldened with each passing day.

I had the culprit figured out based on my gut feeling. But you don’t need to rely on your instincts if you want to play armchair detective with this story – it is fair play! This is an enjoyable addition to the Robert MacDonald Series where we get to know MacDonald and his trusty sidekick, Inspector Reeves a bit better! 🙂

Note: Many thanks to British Library Publishing for sending me a review copy of Post After Post-Mortem.

 

2 comments

  1. I can so relate. I’m tying to limit myself to no more than one hour of news a day.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m trying to do that too. But it’s hard to it with news from Sri Lanka as my parents are still there. 😬

      Liked by 1 person

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