Checkmate to Murder

It was a late start this morning because I couldn’t get up until I had finished this brilliant murder mystery!

On one of those wet, pitch-black, pea-soup foggy nights in London the artist Bruce Manaton is in his studio painting the actor André Delaunier in brilliant scarlet Cardinal’s robes while their friends Robert Cavenish and Ian Mackellon play chess and Bruce’s sister Rosanne Manaton makes supper in the kitchen. Into this bohemian den bursts the local Special Constable Lewis Varraby – Albert Folliner, the old miser at number 25 has been found dead, shot in the head, in his bed, a pistol lying next to him and his nephew Neil, (of the Canadian Army), standing over him.

Detective Chief Inspector Macdonald, is called in to arrest the young soldier but with Inspectors Jenkins and Reeves he can see that all is not how it seems

that’s all nice and plain, but I reckon this is a frame-up. It wasn’t just chance I walked in on the old man’s corpse and got copped before I’d time to think. I’m the cat that burns its paws on someone else’s chestnuts, and I don’t like it. You see, I didn’t do it.’

First published in 1944, the war time setting is absolutely integral, after all who would pay any attention to a bang on a dark night when they had lived through explosions. But rather than talking about the war it’s the spirit of it that’s captured, as a minor character says ‘bombs I can disregard – we’re all in it together – but crime and corruption and disreputability – it’s too much.’

Detective Chief Inspector Macdonald is always fair and steadfast and perfect in a crisis but I thought in solving this crime he was more personable than usual.. I think that’s partly because he had two inspectors working with him, instead of one, so we got to see him as more of a team player and partly because of the studio characters; often dismissed as bohemian and lazy, they show him in a light that was both egalitarian and knowledgable.

So, as I’ve come to expect from Lorac, an atmospheric setting with a good cast of characters and a plot that eeked out the whodunnit until the very, very end. Excellent all round and it was my first read for this years TBR Challenge.

12 thoughts on “Checkmate to Murder

  1. Sounds great! I love classic mysteries, and intend to start this series, #1 has been on my TBR.
    I see you are reading Simenon. We’ve read the first 13 books in French with one of my French students, in fact we are reading #14 this week.
    The first in the series are not the best, though you’ve great ambiance, like old misty white and black movies. They get better and better.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I thought I should try Simenon after reading such great reviews and what better place to start than with number 1! ‘old misty white and black movies’ is a very good way of describing it, it was almost crackling with atmosphere!


  2. So glad you enjoyed this one, Jane. It’s very atmospheric, isn’t it? Lorac is always so skilled at conveying a sense of place, and the solution makes good use of the location. A great addition to the BLCC list!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think this might be my favourite so far and I’ve loved them all – it’s a close call between this and Murder by Matchlight. Wet, grey London is the perfect place for murder most foul!


  3. Glad you enjoyed this one – I loved it! I always enjoy her wartime books because she’s uses it so effectively as a backdrop for her mysteries, even when they’re not related to the war at all. In this one, I loved the picture she gave of life during the blackout. She really has been one of the major finds for me of all these vintage authors who are being brought back to prominence. The BL’s latest of hers, Post After Post-Mortem, dropped through my letterbox yesterday… 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ooh lucky you! I’ve got quite a few to go and then her writing as Carol Carnac so that’s lucky for me, she has been a real discovery. I thought this one was brilliant, I really didn’t guess any of it and the image of the old miser counting money in his bed is as real as Silas Marner!

      Liked by 1 person

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