Bats in the Belfry by E C R Lorac

Remembering an early writer of the police procedural

The British Library Crime Classics edition
The British Library Crime
Classics edition
Bats in the Belfry, the 13th novel in the series featuring Chief Inspector MacDonald of Scotland Yard by E C R Lorac, has a complex plot with the focus on the way detectives in the 1930s used standard police procedure to solve cases.

First published in 1937, the novel may seem rather dated in 2022, but it is fast moving and presents a challenging puzzle for the reader. It was reissued in 2018 by the British Library in their Crime Classics series and is now also available in large print.

Bats in the Belfry is the story of a failed novelist and his wife, a successful actress, who lead separate lives in their smart house in London. When the husband is called away suddenly to Paris, he seems to disappear completely. His suitcase and passport are later found in a sinister artist’s studio, the Belfry, in a dilapidated house in Notting Hill.

The novelist’s friends set out to investigate what has happened to him but find things at the Belfry are so sinister they decide to enlist the help of the police and Chief Inspector Macdonald, already an established series character, takes over the case.

By the time Lorac wrote Bats in the Belfry, she was an experienced writer of whodunnits and had developed the skill of being able to shift suspicion from one character to another while keeping up the interest for the reader.

The opening scene introduces most of the characters who will play a central part in the story. They have gathered together following a funeral and before long the conversation turns to the subject of how to dispose of a body. This conversation contains a vital clue for those alert enough to spot and remember it…

E C R Lorac was the pen name of Edith Caroline Rivett, who died 64 years ago today. She wrote under the pseudonyms E C R Lorac, Carol Carnac and Mary Le Bourne during the Golden Age of Detective fiction. 

Lorac chose her pseudonym because it was the name Carol, which was part of her name, spelt backwards. Her first detective novel, Murder on the Burrows, which introduced Chief Inspector Macdonald, was published in 1931 when she was 37She wrote 48 mysteries as E C R Lorac and 23 as Carol Carnac along with other novels, short stories and radio and stage plays, before her death in 1958.  

Bats in the Belfry is available from or