Still Waters (1949) by E. C. R. Lorac

Lorac was one of the many new authors, (to me), I tried in the first year of my blog, but who I have not returned to since. This is not because I disliked her work, but that it is not all that easy to get a hold of cheaply. Today’s story is one of a few which Lorac wrote set in Lunesdale.

The novel begins with Caroline Bourne buying a working farm and coppice near to her cousin Kate Hoggett and her husband Giles. Whilst she plans to hire out the farming side of her property, her attention is focused on the coppice in which there is a derelict cottage she wants to restore. The cottage is also nearby to a quarry pool. Yet within her idyllic change of scene peculiar events begin to occur. Her friend an architect is assaulted one night by the quarry. The police dismiss the incident but her friend was sure that his assailant had been carrying something heavy. Equally despite having bought her property at auction, unsuccessful bidders linger, with various ploys to get her to leave and sell up. There is also a case of an abandoned wife in the local area when her husband disappears after a quarrel about another man. With the various things that happen amateur sleuth Giles begins to get a hunch, which he sets out to investigate. Into this Chief Inspector Macdonald appears, who is a friend of the Hoggetts, and it seems he has come into the area to track down fugitive. Of course Giles gets more than he bargains for when it enters the realms of amateur detective work and the ending of the story closes with a dramatic police stake out.

Overall Thoughts

This is not your conventional mystery novel. It is not a whodunit or a howdunit or even a why-dunit. There is no straight forward murder investigation to follow and it is more a case of characters unearthing pieces of information, to figure out what criminal activity is going on. In that sense it is perhaps more akin to Christie’s Nemesis. However, I think Lorac keeps her readers guessing quite a lot as to what is going on and there are numerous surprises along the way. Given the nature of the plot this is a naturally slower paced novel in the main, but I think Lorac’s depiction of characters and setting make it an enjoyable journey. Kate in particular was my favourite character and not just because I share my name with her. Lorac was familiar with the area she set her story in, which comes across in the topographical details mentioned and in terms of social/historical setting she presents an interesting picture of an insular rural community and post war living. There are also strains of gentle comedy in the work, which are well done and they come across in particular with the character Inspector Bord, who comes into the story with a disliking of amateur detectives. I think this is a plot which might not appeal to all readers, but for me personally I found it a gently entertaining novel, which gave me something a bit different than the usual dead body in the library/country house/ship/school etc.

Rating: 4.25/5

Vintage Mystery Scavenger Hunt Item (Silver Card): Flashlight


  1. I’ve read a couple of Loracs that I quite liked (Murder by Matchlight, I could murder her) and a couple I didn’t (Death on the Oxford road, Policemen in the Precinct) so a little cautious about her, but I do love the sound of a non-conventional mystery and an interesting background. Tradition has its joys but it’s good to vary it up with something a little different.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Lorac strikes me as someone who approaches what should be standard mystery plots from an uncommon perspective, and I quite like that. Even if it turns out not to be the case (should I ever get the chance to read more…!) I at least get that impression from the couple I’ve read, and it makes me want to track down some more..starting with those Ramble House reprints that I can’t get in paperback for anything like sensible money! Ah, well, there’s always someone I want to read and can’t track down, that’s what keeps me going. That, and coffee.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for the review. 🙂 Hmmmmmmmm. Looks like Lorac wrote better stories than she did puzzles, as it seems to me from online reviews and my reading of ‘Murder by Matchlight’ that she never quite knocked the ball out of the park when it came to the actual puzzle for her story… A shame, as I’m looking forward to the upcoming reprints of her novels.


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