cover image Murder by Matchlight

Murder by Matchlight

E.C.R. Lorac. Poisoned Pen, $12.95 trade paper (256p) ISBN 978-1-4642-1093-8

Lorac (1894–1958) offers a nicely deceptive whodunit with a WWII setting, first published in 1945, in this entry in the British Library Crime Classics series. In London’s Regent’s Park, a man conceals himself under a small wooden bridge. A second man appears on the bridge, asks if anyone else is around, lights a cigarette with a match, and is then bludgeoned to death. Right before the fatal blow is struck, Bruce Mallaig, an analytical chemist for the British Ministry of Supplies who’s walking nearby, has an impression of seeing a face, but not a body, behind the victim, despite not hearing the sound of a third man approaching the bridge. Bruce instantly calls for the police, who find an identity card in the name of John Ward on the body. Scotland Yard Chief Insp. Robert Macdonald soon learns that the dead man may have actually been Timothy O’Farrel, whose own identity disk was found in the ruins of a bombed-out shelter and who may have stolen Ward’s identity for some unknown reason. This fair-play puzzle will be a welcome treat for golden age fans. (Mar.)