Author Topic: BATS IN THE BELFRY, A London Mystery by E.C.R. Lorac  (Read 99 times)

Becke Davis

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BATS IN THE BELFRY, A London Mystery by E.C.R. Lorac
« on: January 14, 2021, 01:54:16 am »
E.C.R. Lorac was a pseudonym used by Edith Caroline Rivett. She also wrote as Carol Carnac.

I had high hopes for this book. It's a British Library Crime Classic, originally published in 1937. I like a lot of books written in mystery's "Golden Age," but I must admit this one was not a favorite. It took me forever to read, and it was only 231 pages long. It should have been intriguing, but it felt as if the author was trying too hard. Many characters vied for attention, with little to distinguish them but their beards or, in the case of the lead detective, his country of origin - Scotland.

I like a good twist, but this book had so many contrived puzzles and twists, almost every page contained a wordy explanation that didn't really clarify anything. Quoting one character, "The whole thing is so demented that its ingenuity staggers me!" I found it tedious rather than ingenious.

I was also put off by the number of racist and anti-Semitic comments.  I realize this is not uncommon in books of this period, but examples like this annoyed me: "Our researches revealed the appalling fact that he is a Jew."  There follows a discussion about whether to reveal this information to the woman who is planning to marry him, or leave her to find out after the fact since she is considered equally appalling. The speaker goes on to stress that "there is no room for prejudice" in his job.

Anyway. I don't like to leave negative comments but since this book is coming up to 100 years old (well, in the next 15 years or so), I assume most readers will expect the plot to be dated. I'd be interested to find out what any of you think of this book - if you should decide to give it a try. My copy was published by Poisoned Pen Press in 2018.

https://poisonedpenpress.com/authors/e-c-r-lorac/

JRob

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Re: BATS IN THE BELFRY, A London Mystery by E.C.R. Lorac
« Reply #1 on: January 14, 2021, 04:00:28 am »
I've found that when reading books that are set in the past, it is best to accept the fact that there are going to be lots of things that would offend how one thinks these days. You have to make the decision to either read it and move on or not read it at all. Simply because you know you are going to be upset with what was commonplace when the book was originally published and there is really nothing you can do to change that.

I know when I read Thomas Mullen's DARKTOWN I was constantly battling the urge to throw the book against the wall for all the racism that it was describing. This even as I knew that the author was simply telling a story set in a time when said racism was part and parcel of daily life. In the end, the captivating story won out and I ended up loving the book despite the aggravation.

Becke Davis

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Re: BATS IN THE BELFRY, A London Mystery by E.C.R. Lorac
« Reply #2 on: January 15, 2021, 12:30:03 am »
I've found that when reading books that are set in the past, it is best to accept the fact that there are going to be lots of things that would offend how one thinks these days. You have to make the decision to either read it and move on or not read it at all. Simply because you know you are going to be upset with what was commonplace when the book was originally published and there is really nothing you can do to change that.

I know when I read Thomas Mullen's DARKTOWN I was constantly battling the urge to throw the book against the wall for all the racism that it was describing. This even as I knew that the author was simply telling a story set in a time when said racism was part and parcel of daily life. In the end, the captivating story won out and I ended up loving the book despite the aggravation.

That is a good point. I absolutely loved Nancy Drew books when I was young. When I read them now the subtle and not-so-subtle racism annoys me, but it went right over my head when I first read the books.

I wasn't surprised to find racist remarks in this book, but I was disappointed that this type of remark was repeated so often. You mentioned the captivating story of DARKTOWN winning you over in spite of everything. I have read some vintage books where I was able to overlook annoying things because the story was so good. Unfortunately - for me, anyway - that wasn't the case in this book. That is not to say others might disagree. Apparently this book was very popular in its day. Maybe others will be mermerized by the puzzles and twists, as I was not.