British Library Publishing; 1st edition (10 April 2020)
Category: Crime, Mystery, Police Procedural, Book Review
In Bloomsbury, London, Inspector Brook of Scotland Yard looks down at a dismal scene. The victim of a ruthless murder lies burnt beyond recognition, his possessions and papers destroyed by fire. But there is one strange, yet promising, lead – a lead which suggests the involvement of a skier. Meanwhile, piercing sunshine beams down on the sparkling snow of the Austrian Alps, where a merry group of holidaymakers are heading towards Lech am Arlberg. Eight men and eight women take to the slopes, but, as the C.I.D. scrambles to crack the perplexing case in Britain, the ski party are soon to become sixteen suspects.
This exciting, and now extremely rare, mystery novel was first published in 1952, one year after the author’s own excursion to the Austrian Alps.
‘Crossed skis means danger ahead…’
Crossed Skis has two separate threads which merge as the story progresses. Initially we meet a large mixed skiing party about to set off for a week in the Austrian Alps on New Years Day 1951. It’s been a huge task to get everything organised with more than one person dropping out, and then having to find replacements, but at last they were off, on the long journey by train, boat and car.
Initially I found it hard to remember the cast of characters in the skiing party (there are eighteen of them) and being so many only a handful became well developed. Those that did develop personalities were likeable, well drawn and realistic, the others were mostly surplus to the actual plot and weren’t defined to any degree, basically mentioned only briefly or in conversations. I found it worked much better just concentrating on the main members of the skiing party without trying to remember who everyone else was.
Back in London there has been a fire at Mrs Stein’s boarding house where Inspector Brooks discovered a badly burned and unidentifiable body. It becomes clear to Chief Inspector Julian Rivers, as he and his team uncover events that at first seem unrelated, this wasn’t an accidental death. Mrs Stein’s son is the first to come under suspicion until clues point Rivers and his colleague, DS Lancing, to a member of the skiing party.
Last winter Brook had watched the Norwegians ski-jumping on Hampstead Heath…imported snow, he remembered. “That’s a funny thing,” he said. He had realised that the impression in the mud below Mrs Stein’s porch was the same size and shape as the ring and point made by a ski-stick. It was, he recollected, a very characteristic mark: once you’d seen it you remembered it. “Ski-ing,” he said slowly. “Who…and why? About the last thing you’d connect with this place.”
There’s a marked contrast between the two locations — post war London, still in the grip of rationing and a dismal winter, as opposed to the crisp white snow, plentiful food and blue skies of Austria. Both are described atmospherically, as is the ski party’s journey to Austria. The two threads are written, and brought together, well. Inevitably, given the size of the group, mistrust/doubts/secrets come into play when there’s a suspicious and strange occurrence, especially when new people take the place of original members of the party.
Crossed Skis is very readable and entertaining with a solid plot and subtle red herrings.
Book links ~ Hive Books| Amazon UK | Waterstones | Book Depository | Bookshop.org
About the Author
Edith Caroline Rivett (who wrote under the pseudonyms E.C.R. Lorac and Carol Carnac) 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.
Image by Eagleeye56 from Pixabay
4 thoughts on “Crossed Skis: An Alpine Mystery by Carol Carnac ~ A British Library Crime Classic #PoliceProcedural #Mystery #FridayReads”
I really like the sound of this book, Cathy. PS Michael really like the graphic novels about the Vikings, but he won’t write reviews for me.
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It’s an enjoyable quick read, Robbie.
Re the Vikings, perhaps you could write what Michael thought about the books. I did that with a review copy my grandson read.
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Yes, that is a good idea.
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Glad you enjoyed this one too! I also found I couldn’t remember most of the ski-ing party, and felt she’d have done better to only have eight or so of them – the ones who played a part in the story. But I thought both the settings were wonderful, and such a contrast. She’s always so good at settings…