These Names Make Clues by E C R Lorac – review

Published by The British Library

Publication date – 10 September 2021

Source – review copy

Chief Inspector Macdonald has been invited to a treasure hunt party at the house of Graham Coombe, the celebrated publisher of Murder by Mesmerism. Despite a handful of misgivings, the inspector joins a guest list of novelists and thriller writers disguised on the night under literary pseudonyms. The fun comes to an abrupt end, however, when ‘Samuel Pepys’ is found dead in the telephone room in bizarre circumstances.

Amidst the confusion of too many fake names, clues, ciphers and convoluted alibis, Macdonald and his allies in the CID must unravel a truly tangled case in this metafictional masterpiece, which returns to print for the first time since its publication in 1937.

Chief Inspector Macdonald has been invited to a treasure hunt. The real identity of the guests is kept secret, each one having been given a literary pseudonym. The other guests are novelists and have to work out who is really behind the names. But the fun stops when a body is found, one of the guests dead. And when his real identity is revealed, Macdonald has to work out who would have wanted the victim dead.

The British Library Crime Classics series is fast becoming a favourite of mine. Authors and fictional detectives from the Golden Age of crime fiction all there to be discovered. When I read the synopsis for These Names Make Clues I knew it was one I had to read.

Chief Inspector MacDonald has been invited to the party of a book publisher, principally because he derided crime fiction to the said publisher. Intrigued, and somewhat abashed, he agrees to attend, intent on seeing if he can unveil the true identities of his fellow guests. What he was not expecting was for a murder to happen right under his nose. When the fuses blow, sending the house into darkness, the return of light finds a body in one of the rooms. Aware of his presence, and that of some of the other guests, MacDonald has to figure out where the rest of the gathered writers were at the time of the blackout. Meanwhile another body is found and he has to establish a link to the first victim, who may or may not be who he seems.

This is the very definition of a closed room crime drama. Limited suspects, each with their own possible motive and a rather dislikeable victim. MacDonald is meticulous in his methods, but fairly involves those officers underneath him. He can be jocular or serious as the situation needs and whilst I am not familiar with all of his stories, I would be keen to read more featuring him.

There are clues littered throughout the novel, including the requisite red herrings. As the name suggests, and this isn’t a spoiler, the names do indeed make clues.

E C R Lorac was the pen name of Edith Caroline Rivett. She was a prolific writer, with over 70 books written, in addition to short stories, with her MacDonald series spanning 25 years. In addition she wrote as Carol Carnac (Lorac is Carol backwards) and Mary Le Bourne.

These Names Make Clues is another fun, entertaining addition to the British Library Crime Classics series. A perfect way to spend a wintery weekend.



3 Comments Add yours

  1. MarinaSofia says:

    And thank you for giving me a copy. Really enjoyed it myself!


  2. Isn’t this fun? Lorac has been one of the real successes of the BL reprints, I feel!


  3. FictionFan says:

    Just finished this one last night – it is fun, isn’t it? Rather different from her later war-time ones where her settings are the most important thing.


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