Fire in The Thatch: A Devon Mystery by E.C.R. Lorac ~ British Library #CrimeClassics #PoliceProcedural #TuesdayBookBlog


Author: E.C.R. Lorac

Published: February 2018 by The British Library Publishing Division

Category: Classic Crime, Police Procedural, Historical, Book Review

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The Second World War is drawing to a close. Nicholas Vaughan, released from the army after an accident, takes refuge in Devon renting a thatched cottage in the beautiful countryside at Mallory Fitzjohn. Vaughan sets to work farming the land, rearing geese and renovating the cottage. Hard work and rural peace seem to make this a happy bachelor life. 

The first few chapters build characterisations, mostly through dialogue, giving a good indication of people’s personalities and viewpoints. This approach means the main point of the story is reached with fairly well fleshed out characters, which worked well.

Colonel St Cyres is determined that the tenancy of Little Thatch and its adjoining land should go to someone who loves the country and working the land as much as he does. Little Thatch, part of St Cyres’ estate, has been vacant for a good while and needs renovating, just as the land needs care to bring it back to full productiveness.

St Cyres’ son has been taken prisoner of war and, feeling obligated for his son’s sake, St Cyres has persuaded his daughter-in-law to stay at Manor Thatch with himself and his daughter, Anne. June is a Londoner through and through and finds the country extremely boring. After six months both she and St Cyres have come to dislike the arrangement. June wants her father-in-law to let the cottage to Mr Gressingham, a friend from London, so she could invite people down to liven things up. St Cyres refuses and instead lets the cottage to Nicholas Vaughan, who has been invalided out of the Navy and is looking to work on a small holding. 

When Colonel St Cyres first saw Nicholas Vaughan leaning patiently on the gate of Little Thatch, the older man said to himsef, “Fine big chap: he ought to be able to dig. Shoulders like a bull…”

When Vaughan turned towards him, the Colonel had a shock of surprise, for one of Vaughan’s eyes was covered by an eye-shade, and the livid unlovely line of a recently healed scar marred the left side of his face. One grey eye looked steadily at the Colonel.

A few months after he takes up the tenancy, Nicholas Vaughan’s body is found in the burned out shell of Little Thatch. His death is ruled as an accident but Vaughan’s friend, Commander Wilton, isn’t satisfied with the verdict. Chief Inspector Macdonald from Scotland Yard is tasked with an investigation to try and determine what actually happened. The more he learns about Vaughan the more doubts are raised.

I enjoyed Fire In The Thatch very much. Rural Devon is brought to life as the landscape, the farming community and the country way of life are described in atmospheric and vivid detail. Lorac shows the marked contrast between town and country people in their attitudes and values. The characters are realistic and well formed, developing as the well constructed story progresses, with surprises and disclosures along the way. Chief Inspector Macdonald is diligent in his investigation, gets on well with the locals, and with several potential suspects he has his work cut out. I enjoyed the way he formed his opinions of Vaughan, they are both likeable characters and I was quite sorry Vaughan’s part was so small.

Although there are a good number of books featuring Chief Inspector Macdonald, I don’t get the feeling they need to be read in order. This is the first I’ve read but I still had a good sense of Macdonald’s character—considerate of others, principled and good natured. I’ll be reading more.

Book links ~ Amazon UK | Amazon US | Hive 

About the Author

Edith Caroline Rivett (who wrote under the pseudonyms E.C.R. Lorac and Carol Carnac, Carol Rivett, Mary le Bourne.) was a British crime writer. She was born in Hendon, Middlesex (now London). She attended the South Hampstead High School, and the Central School of Arts and Crafts in London. She was a member of the Detection Club. She was a very prolific writer, having written forty-eight mysteries under her first pen name, and twenty-three under her second. She was an important author of the Golden Age of Detective Fiction.

4 thoughts on “Fire in The Thatch: A Devon Mystery by E.C.R. Lorac ~ British Library #CrimeClassics #PoliceProcedural #TuesdayBookBlog

  1. I love that she uses different settings for her books and I thought this one gave a really convincing picture of rural life during the war. But I was very sorry that Vaughan turned out to be the victim – I had already decided he was to be the hero so it came as something of a shock when he died. Yes, they definitely don’t need to be read in order – another reason I enjoy vintage crime so much!

    Liked by 1 person

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