Death and decapitation seem to go hand in hand in the Devon village of Aller. When the first victim's head is sent floating down the river, the village's rural calm is shattered. Soon the corpses are multiplying and the entire community is involved in the murder hunt. While the rector, the major, the police and a journalist, desperate for the scoop of the century, chase false trails, it is left to Gervase Fen, Oxford don and amateur criminologist, to uncover the sordid truth.
©2012 Edmund Crispin (P)2013 Audible Ltd
I like mysteries (particularly British ones, historical fiction and nonfiction, science fiction and fantasy.
This was my first run-in with Philip Bird, but I am really pleased with his work on this book. He manages to differentiate the characters very well-- which isn't easy when the speaking characters are mostly male. I thought this was as close to a five star performance as makes no difference.
As for the story. This is the last book published by Edmund Crispin (aka Robert Bruce Montgomery). His popular detective, Oxford Don Professor Gervase Fen, is house sitting for a couple of friends traveling in Canada while writing a book on the post WW II modern novel. About eight weeks before the beginning of the story, a murder had been perpetuated against a most deserving victim. However, it was the events that occurred after the murder that led to the arrest and incarceration in an insane asylum of Hagbert, a local eccentric with a mania for work.
As usual Crispin populates his story with a host of amusingly looney characters. There's also some jokes that don't quite come through in the narration. For instance one character is named Thouless who is composer of music for movies-- he is currently working on music for a horror movie title Unalive. Crispin under his real name, Bruce Montgomery, composed music for movies including the first six "Carry On" movies. There's also a tortoise named Ellis with an underbite who needs his pansy petals premasticated; an overly amorous tom cat named Stripey; the Major who despite his years of service in the Cavalry disliked horses, mainly because he had never been thrown; and assorted other local characters including Titty and Tatty (Titania and Tatiania) a pair of elderly sisters who had one deaf aid between them and a devotion to what they fondly imagined was a Botticelli painting of the Assumption of the Virgin.
So part of the time the book is a mystery and part of the time it is a farce. And I have to believe that the ridiculously drawn out denouement was intentional. There's also sly literary references everywhere.
Recommended highly for those who are willing to accept a satire of the mystery genre and delight in ferreting out Crispin's donnish humor (or humour, I guess I should say).
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