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Blog > Book Review: Post After Post-Mortem

The cover of E.C.R. Lorac's Post After Post-Mortem, illustrated with a classic travel poster

I promised I’d review E.C.R. Lorac’s Post After Post-Mortem next, a book by one of my favourite British writers from the “Golden Age” of crime fiction (think Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, Ngaio Marsh, etc). This particular book was published in 1936 (and republished recently by the British Library in 2022, so it’s fairly easy to get hold of!), and features Lorac’s series detective, Chief Inspector Macdonald. The title refers to the fact that the whole mystery turns on a letter sent by a woman who rather suddenly died, revealing that her death was highly unlikely to be a suicide (which is what it is originally assumed to be).

Before digging in further, I ought to mention first that I found this one a little bit heavy-going due to the subject matter. Because the death is initially thought to be a suicide, the victim’s family suffer quite a bit as a result—and then again when they learn that she was actually murdered, and through being unable to quite trust one another. Unlike some writers of that period, Lorac had quite a gift for writing about places and people that you instinctively care for, so the distress of the characters and the strained feeling in their home all ring quite true for the reader as well. This definitely didn’t feel “cosy” to me in the way that people sometimes call Golden Age crime cosy. It’s not gory or anything, nor gratuitous in any way, but I couldn’t take it lightly.

Anyway, to turn back to the story itself, it fits our theme of books about the mail because the crime is only discovered because the victim happened to send a cheerful letter to her brother right before she supposedly killed herself. I won’t “spoil” the details too much, but it feels like the author thought about the way the postal service works to work out the mystery. In sending a letter or a postcard, you never quite know when it will arrive, and how things will look when it lands on the recipient’s doormat. It’s a little bit creepy to think about receiving a letter from someone after they’ve died, to be honest; it’s a clever story device, but it also provides that human touch for the characters, in showing her brother’s strained reaction.

So I think it’s possible some people might find this one a bit too upsetting, especially as the discovery that it was a murder is at least a third of the way into the book, if not more. I think it was worth it, but in the end, it was a book I appreciated a lot but didn’t love: it is well-written, with characters I cared about and an outcome that mattered to me as the reader, but perhaps less escapist than a lot of the Golden Age crime fiction. If you’d like to give E.C.R. Lorac’s work a try but feel you’d rather skip this one, Death of an Author (also recently reissued by the British Library) had me riveted! The postal service features somewhat less prominently in that book, though. (Boo!)

I’m not sure now what the next book to review should be; if you have any suggestions, then let me know via the forum (you may need to spend some time looking around the forum before that section unlocks). Until next time, happy reading!


10 comments so far

stukgelezen, Netherlands

Maybe The Post-Office Girl by Stefan Zweig?

stukgelezen, Netherlands

Or Denis Theriault Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman, I love his books.

Demmi, Romania

I will add this book to my list. Thanks for the review!
Happy readings & Happy Postcrossing!
:) :D

cheerful_rabbit, Japan

I'll add this book to my reading list, too. I think I'll read this book next. Thank you very much for the review.
I am currently reading " Borkmanns punkt " by Hakan Nesser .
It is one of the works I was taught by an American postcrosser.
Very exciting and interesting.

charluber, France

It's not a book, but there's the mail carrier Cheval's Ideal Palace, which is an extraordinary example of naïve art architecture.

the mail carrier :
the ideal palace :

ink-stained-wretch, United States of America

I love English crime fiction from the 1930s, so I had to buy the Kindle edition as soon as I read this blog "post."

eta55, United States of America

"A bit creepy to think about receiving a letter from someone after they've died." I recently found out that a postcrosser I know had died suddenly, and just yesterday I sent out a meetup card with her signature on it. The reprint will likely never know, and the card wasn't sent by the dead person, but you did give me pause for a moment. The I dismissed it. I disagree. Not creepy at all. It's just the way things go sometimes. Thanks for the recommendation, I'll add this to me reading list!

Owlagdad, United States of America

If one judges a book by its cover, this book is a must read!—how beautiful. I am familiar with Agatha Christie and Sayers, but not this author. Now on to more reading adventures with a “brand new” author….

Alison_K, United States of America

If I may add a recently published title to the reading list, Anne Berest's "The Postcard" is the gripping story of a young woman's determination to solve a family mystery. It all starts with an anonymous postcard.

Flippie, Canada

Thank you for sharing...

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