Carol Carnac is perhaps better known (at least since the British Library Crime Classics started coming out) as E.C.R. Lorac — one of my preferred writers from that series of reissues. It’s not that her plots are particularly original or different, and in fact they’re usually easy to work out, but it’s the way she writes about people and places, bringing out the atmosphere of place and writing well about ordinary, decent people (for the most part — aside from the criminal).
All in all, her books epitomise the sense of things being set to rights that’s common to a lot of Golden Age crime fiction, and that can be rather comforting if that’s your thing. They’re a reasonable puzzle, and the detectives are generally likeable (unlike, say, John Dickson Carr’s); more Agatha Christie than Dorothy Sayers on the scale of literary pretension. This book is exactly what you’d expect, as a consequence: a decent sense of place, a series of thumbnail portraits about decent, pretty ordinary people in a pretty ordinary situation, and a couple of red herrings.
I found this one a tad obvious, because I very quickly narrowed the field down to two possibles, from all the descriptions and actions of the characters. The setting, though, is lovely — you get the sense of the crowded trains, the cold air, the bubbly enthusiasm of the group of Brits getting away on a skiing holiday together, slightly lacking in inhibitions because it’s not Britain and they don’t all know each other well. The characters are mostly sketched in because the group is so large (16 characters in the traveling party), so I didn’t find it quite as good at bringing characters to life, here.
It all sounds a bit like I’m damning Lorac’s books with faint praise, but I genuinely pounce upon each one that gets reissued, and enjoyed this one too — but it’s like enjoying food from the fish and chip shop rather than a fancy restaurant. Solid and satisfying, but usually not surprising.