Death of an Author wasn’t my favorite book by E. C. R. Lorac, but it certainly is a clever one. And Lorac airs that recurring question, Can a women’s writing be differentiated from a man’s? in her book set in the publishing world.
Andrew Marriott, the managing editor of a publishing company, is asked by one of his best-selling authors, Michael Ashe, to invite another of his authors, Vivian Lestrange, to dinner along with himself. Since Lestrange is a recluse, this subterfuge is necessary if Ashe is to meet him. Lestrange accepts, and Ashe is astonished to meet a self-possessed young woman.
A few months later, the same young woman goes to a police station. There she explains that she is Eleanor Clarke, the secretary for the author Vivian Lestrange, and she fears something has happened to her employer, as when she tried to go to work, no one answered her knock.
The police find the house impossible to enter except through a walled door and have to climb a ladder to get in. They find a perfectly cleaned house with no one inside but open French doors with a bullet hole through one. Miss Clarke says that not only is her employer missing but his housekeeper, Mrs. Fife, is not even known at the address she gave Clarke.
Inspector Bond is suspicious of Miss Clarke, and after some investigation shows no proof that Lestrange even existed, he theorizes that she was the author of the Lestrange books and is for some reason spoofing the police. However, Chief Inspector Warner is inclined to believe her, and his belief seems justified when a body with Lestrange’s notebook in his pocket is found burned up in a remote cottage.
After learning about Michael Ashe’s interest in Lestrange, the police look for him, but he appears to be out of the country. However, the timing of his departure makes it feasible for him to be the killer.
The detectives find a possible connection to two brothers, one of whom embezzled funds from a trust both were responsible for and escaped, while the other served in prison for it claiming he was innocent. Could one of the authors be one of these brothers? or both?
Although I had a feeling that the police made a mistake about the brothers, I did not figure out exactly what happened. I’m not quite sure why I didn’t enjoy this one as much as some others by Lorac, though.
I received this book from the publisher in exchange for a free and fair review.
4 thoughts on “Review 2143: Death of an Author”
I thought the plot was maybe a bit too convoluted and unlikely, but I enjoyed all the stuff about the gender of the writing and the suspects and so on so much that any other weaknesses didn’t really bother me. One of the things I like about her is that she really doesn’t write to a formula – you never quite know what you’re going to get.
That’s certainly true.
Okay… you’ve piqued my curiosity about this author. Thanks.
Happy to oblige!