E. C. R. Lorac Death on the Oxford Road

ISBN 13: 9781903400005

Death on the Oxford Road

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9781903400005: Death on the Oxford Road
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We say that this classic detective story from the 1930s will keep its secret to the end. Who did it? If you can work out why, and there are clues, you'd know who did it. Anyone in the book could be the murderer. Even the Scotland Yard man has a curious connection with events.

This is the puzzle set by E. C. R. Lorac.

"The simple fact is that her novels are the archetypal 'good read'...Lovers of golden age crime fiction will not be disappointed." D. W. Blake.

E. C. R. Lorac was the pen-name of Edith Caroline Rivett-Carnac (1894-1958) who was one of the accomplished band of English female detective story writers. She wrote 71 detective novels under the Lorac and Carol Carnac names. Death on the Oxford Road was one of her big successes.

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CHAPTER I

"The only object of running a car nowadays is that it makes you independent of railway time-tables," asserted Peter Vernon dogmatically, as he refilled his pipe and leant back comfortably in the smooth-running Talbot.

"Motoring for pleasure is a contradiction in terms," he persisted. "Either you stick to the main roads and form one of a procession,-bonnet to tail-reaching from Land's End to John-o'-Groats, or else you take to the by-roads and rattle your car to ruins over ruts and pot-holes until it's not worth anyone's while to salvage the remnants."

"I'm always willing to listen to an honest opinion," replied the driver of the Talbot, accelerating discreetly as he saw the long stretch of open road ahead of him. "Opinions nowadays are derived from two sources; one source is the car-owner class,-hogs to a man; the other is the pedestrian class, the back-bone of England, the fellows who get the work done, and who, by reason of their convictions, (define the word in any sense you like), can't own a car, and are reduced to accepting lifts from the swine who do."

Vernon grinned. "Don't rub it in. I'm enjoying the run at the moment, but it doesn't invalidate my argument. The roads at the present moment are a pleasure to drive on, but as it's past midnight, that fact can hardly be taken as a criterion of their state during the rush hours. I admitted, quite handsomely, that I liked to be relieved of the burden of coping with time-tables. Railway schedules are composed for the purpose of annoying a logical brain."

"Then I take it that your brain is not troubled by them," retorted the driver. "As a matter of fact I agree with you that motoring for pleasure is an over-estimated pastime, but on an occasion like the present, when you have spent a day in Oxford and prolonged the day until after the last train has departed, then a car is not to be despised. . . . Hell's bells! That chap's asking for trouble. . . ."

The last remark was due to the unexpected appearance of a big car from a side turning just ahead. The driver of the Talbot,-by name Robert Macdonald, by nature a cautious Scot-had his car well in control, but he was glad that the road surface was dry and hard as his four-wheel brakes checked the Talbot's progress with a suddenness that made Peter Vernon swing forward in his place.

"Sorry," said Macdonald, "but to try and pass him was to ask for trouble, I should have been driving blind. Now why do drivers swing out of a small side turning on to the main road without sounding a horn, and without bothering to see if the road is clear?"

"A little problem for your deductive brain," responded Peter Vernon. "Probably they've been burgling the local manor, and are hurrying quietly away. More probably they've been to a dance, and counted on the road being empty at this hour. Can't you pass the brute? . . . I hate this procession business."

For a few minutes Macdonald accelerated, and the Talbot crept up towards the leading car; then for a while the distance between the two vehicles remained constant as they climbed steadily up the long hill which leads over the first ridge of the Chilterns. Then, to Vernon's surprise, the pace of the Talbot suddenly diminished, and the speedometer went back to zero, as Macdonald pulled up at the roadside.

"That's a Sunbeam six," he said calmly, as his hand sought for his pipe. "I can't pass him if he doesn't want me to, and I share your views on processions. We'll give him a couple of minutes to get clear away,-I don't want to tail him for miles. Judging by his previous exhibition he doesn't indulge in driving sense."

"Sunbeams are a good breed," said Vernon, "cars after my own heart. You may well snigger,-the grapes are sour, and you damn well know it. If you can't afford a car, the best thing to do is to manufacture reasons for not wanting one."

"I'm with you," said Macdonald, "besides, you don't need a car. I get some perks to help me run mine. Sorry to hear that trade's bad, though."

"Trade's damn' bad," replied Vernon. "Publishing's suffering like everything else these rotten days, and authors are about as plentiful as gooseberries in a bumper season. As for journalism, it's a dog's life. Every specialist in every walk of life is making an extra penny by ramming articles into the Press. The monster's gorged,-and my choicest articles don't even get read."

"It's a hard life," said Macdonald, puffing away at his pipe. "No matter which way you turn, everyone's broke. . . . I should think that blighter's had time to get clear by now. We'll stroll on. As a matter of fact I don't like speeding, it always means asking for trouble in the long run. An average thirty is good enough for ordinary purposes."

Letting in the clutch, Macdonald got going again after a glance at his watch. The time was one-fifteen a.m., just forty-five minutes since they had left Oxford, and they were now mid-way between Tetsworth and Wycombe, having covered the twenty-two miles without a hitch. P>"Well, if you're not busy, why not come up to Scotland with me?" enquired Macdonald, as he drove on. "A holiday's due to me, and I'm thinking of going up to Edinburgh and then north. There's some grand country around St. Andrew's way, and we could carry on right up to Inverness. It's a cheap holiday if you know the way to do it."

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Lorac, E. C. R.
Published by Swallowtail Books (2000)
ISBN 10: 1903400007 ISBN 13: 9781903400005
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