Author: E. C. R. Lorac –
Publisher: Soundings –
Genre: Crime, Mystery –
Overall rating: 5/5 –
Writing: 5/5 –
Duration: 6:59 (medium) –
Narrator: David Thorpe –
Narrator/performance: 4/5 –
Impressions: 4/5 –
Performance errors: 1/5 –
Complexity/reading level: 4/5 –
This novel is a part of the British Library Crime Classics series. The entire series is worth a closer look. However, this novel has particular appeal. I will try to list all reasons for which I love it.
E. C. R. Lorac is the pseudonym of Edith Caroline Rivett. Checkmate to Murder was published in 1944, 13 years after author’s debut novel titled The Murder on the Burrows (1931). The war-time crime novel is written in a style reminding of Ngaio Marsh, as if the author was describing a play being performed in front of her, with all of the appreciation of space, time and personality she could muster. The characters are vivid, the props are important, the stage is delimited, detailed and imaginative but not overly complicated. It feels like a diorama, slightly reminding of the technique applied by Dostoevsky. The blackout, necessary during the war-time effort in Britain, was not only mentioned but cleverly woven into the web of causes and effects creating the actual storyline. The narrative is also highly surprising which shows a story-telling mastery reached by the author in the crime genre full of pit-falls and clichés.
It is also one of the stories where you may begin to like the characters before the story ends. It is not that easy to achieve in shorter novels, especially if the author is not concentrating on “happy families”, blossoming romance or unending friendship. The novel is primarily about sleuthing. It may also say something about the writing that I rank this audiobook production so high despite the narration style which is not very clear, rather brisk and uneven (not unprofessional, just in a style which I do not enjoy where parts of the performance are whispered so low and quickly that they are actually hard to hear).
I may happily admit that this great novel and great audiobook has also a great cover. It is perfectly adequate, has beautiful warm coloring, a perfect subject (a high, nondescript though derelict old-town building) and a fitting vibe. I enjoy the entire set with perfect satisfaction.