Two Post-War Novels by E.C.R. Lorac: Shroud of Darkness (1954) and The Last Escape (1959)

Shroud of Darkness, my favourite of Lorac read so far, begins with a train journey on a foggy night. Five strangers in a compartment reach London when one of them is coshed on the head and left for dead. As he has no identification-papers on him and his luggage etc has been stolen, Macdonald has a baffling mystery on his hand. As Macdonald meets the other passengers who had travelled with him, it seems everybody except for the PYT are hiding secrets but then the PYT has a shady psychiatrist-boss.

The last Macdonald mystery, The Last Escape, is all over the place. It begins with a prisoner who had succeeded in breaking-out from a German high-security prison, planning to break-out from the English prison he is in. Then there is Macdonald, retired from service, in process of becoming a complacent land-holder and farmer. There is a derelict farm house next to his property in which a decomposed body is discovered and then there is construction work going on a little ahead where the labourers are a rough and hardy lot. There are missing persons who never returned home from war. And in the end there are pages of discussion about psychology.

Both the novels reflect the post-war realities of Britain.

In Shroud of Darkness, we find a generation impatient to get ahead. The younger people have neither the time nor the inclination to fret about the war. The war happened and their childhood was much affected by it but now it is time to move ahead. They are also the contemporary readers of what we now call Vintage mysteries. While we browse through dusty shelves of libraries and second-hand book shops and pray that we get a book we can brag blog about, they coolly read and pass about books like The Verdict of Twelve and The Franchise Affair.

The older generation finds itself at odds with the mind-set of the younger (not as regards the books). They have survived the war and done things which they are not proud of, whether guilty or innocent, they have tried to rebuild their lives but the shadow of the past haunts them.

In The Last Escape we find men demobbed who now find themselves adrift in a society. Missing the danger and camaraderie of the war, they take to different ways. Some of them turn anti-social indulging in illegal activities. Thus in the last few pages we have a discussion of what is to be done so that people who have done exemplary service during the war do not turn astray.


First Line: “Where are we now?” asked Sarah.

Title: Shroud of Darkness

Series: Robert Macdonald #39

Publication Details: NY: Doubleday & Co.,1954

First Published:

Pages: 221

Other Opinions: A Crime is Afoot, In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel, My Reader’s Block


First Line: When Rory Macshane saw the raincoat, something inside him said, “This is it.”

Title: The Last Escape

Alternate Title: Dishonour Among Thieves

Series: Robert Macdonald #46

Publication Details: NY: Doubleday and Company, 1959

First Published: 1959

Pages: 189

Other Opinions: My Reader’s Block


Source for both the books: Open Library


Have you read these? Any post-war novels, you’d like to recommend?


22 thoughts on “Two Post-War Novels by E.C.R. Lorac: Shroud of Darkness (1954) and The Last Escape (1959)

  1. Post-war books is one of my favorite topics:
    I suggest (and I can’t remember if you have read these are now)…

    The Jane and Dagobert Brown series by Delano Ames. I have only read the first two in the series but Kate at Crossexaminingcrime has reviewed a lot of them.

    Patricia Wentworth is one of my favorite authors who wrote mysteries after the war: Miss Silver Deals with Death, Wicked Uncle (was published in the UK under the title Spotlight).

    Minute for Murder by Nicholas Blake

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks a lot Tracy for all these recommendations. Have heard about Delano Ames’ books but haven’t read them. Will search for them. Have read one Miss Silver book: The clock strikes 12 and I really liked it. Am planning to read the book in order. Have read one Blake: Beast Must Die, didn’t like it but will look for this one.


      1. I liked The Clock Strikes Twelve also. Wentworth’s Miss Silver books are not all as good as that one but I have enjoyed all I have read. I have not read The Beast Must Die, but I plan to, even though the summary doesn’t sound like I will care for it.


  2. I just found a hardcover edition of Shrouds and now that I’ve read your review I’m definately looking forward to reading it. Finding Lorac’s books is not an easy thing to do, but I keep trying!


  3. Both of these reflect so many post-war concerns that one doesn’t as often think about. Those that were affected, those who lost, and those that find themselves at sea now that things have normalised but a different normal than before. Must look up more of Lorac’s books

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Mallika, in fact, I felt rather sorry for that person who had made another life but whose past didn’t let go. Very true what you have written about ‘a different normal’. I think it’s very difficult to adjust to it.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. True, the place has changed, you have changed and reality has changed, so for those removed it must have been so much harder, not to say the women who were playing important roles during the war and were suddenly expected to fall back into domestic roles

        Liked by 1 person

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