Shroud of Darkness by E. C. R. Lorac (1954)

Five strangers alight from a train compartment and disappear into a Paddington station shrouded in thick fog. Moments later one of them is found seriously injured with his head bashed in, stripped of all identification and left for dead. Chief Inspector Robert MacDonald finds that the young man’s identity is not only the key to finding his attacker, but may be the solution to an unsolved riddle with its roots in the terror the wartime blitz. 

I’m a big fan of Lorac, but even I admit that her books are sometimes hit and miss. This one though is a definite hit, and I was lucky enough to come across a physical copy at a good price—ok, it’s a Book Club edition, but I’m not complaining.

Lorac’s plot is very well crafted, and weaves in quite a few plot threads that added to the complexity of the mystery puzzle. As Inspector Reeves trawls the more disreputable pubs of Paddington for the man they know was witness to the crime, MacDonald’s search leads him from London to Reading, and on to Devon. Along the way he unearths not only the man’s identity, but new witnesses, motives, suspects, and an odd coincidence or two. But even with quite a number of characters, and so many lines of inquiry, Lorac is able to bring all the threads together very nicely. There’s also some very clever use of diversion to conceal the identity of the culprit and allow the suspense to build to a first-rate ending.

The story was made all the more interesting by Lorac’s depiction of England in the early 1950s. In addition to a backdrop of, what I assume to be the famous Great Smog of 1952, we get a picture of England with its lingering memories of war, changes in the criminal element, and the generational differences that arose.

This has got to be my favorite Lorac so far, and one that I highly recommend…if you can find it.

My Judgment – 4.5/5

Prior Rulings – Neeru @ A Hot Cup of Pleasure, Bev @ My Readers Block, The Puzzle Doctor @ In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel, José @ A Crime is Afoot

Vintage Mystery Extravaganza—2014 Bingo—Read one book written by an author with a pseudonym

7 thoughts on “Shroud of Darkness by E. C. R. Lorac (1954)

  1. Thanks for the review. You continue to point out GAD books that I might not ever have known otherwise so I always look forward to a new blog post from you.

    I have had a mixed time with Lorac so far. I really enjoyed “Rope’s End, Rogue’s End” and its locked room plot.

    “Fire in the Thatch” and “Murder by Matchlight” were okay but not nearly as strong for me. I have “Crossed Skis” on my TBR pile from Lorac’s other pseudonym, Carol Carnac.

    Shroud of Darkness sounds interesting and so I ordered a copy today on the strength of your review and look forward to reading it.

    1. Thanks for the nice comment Scott. I’m glad that my reviews are helping to bring GAD authors to a wider audience.

      Lorac’s work can be hit and miss. While I’ve enjoyed the majority of her works some have been a bit “meh”. Since you spent your money based on my review I’m hopeful that you’ll enjoy SoD 🤞!

  2. Jonathan O

    I’ll be re-reading this soon – still hoping to see the British LIbrary (or some other pblisher) reprint some of the early titles, many of which are all but unobtainable. She definitely has that elusive quality which makes an author’s work re-readable, as far as I’m concerned.

Leave a Reply to Jonathan O Cancel reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.