A Question of Proof: Nigel Strangeways, Book 1

Narrated by: Kris Dyer
Series: Nigel Strangeways, Book 1
Length: 6 hrs and 49 mins
3.5 out of 5 stars (27 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

In the first book in the Nigel Strangeways classic crime series, an obnoxious schoolboy is found dead at his school Sports Day. Can amateur detective Nigel Strangeways help find the killer?

©2012 Nicholas Blake (P)2012 Audible Ltd
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Poetry Doesn’t Pay. Happily, Crime Writing Does.

‘But, Percy darling, you surely can’t make much out of your poetry?’ He twiddled his fingers for a moment. You could see he was trying to nerve himself to reveal something he would much have preferred to keep under his hat…

‘I don’t,’ he said. ‘I only got fifteen shillings for that “Caliban at Sunset” thing of mine in Parnassus…But I have a … an alternative source of revenue…My receipts from this — er — alternative source of revenue amounted last year to nearly eight hundred pounds…Florence, you will shrink from me, but…I write detective stories under the pseudonym of Rex West.’

-P. G. Wodehouse
Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit, 1954

One doesn’t make much out of verse, even now; the most I've ever received was a dollar a line. So we shouldn't wonder that C. Day Lewis, alias Nicholas Blake, chose the same alternative source of income as Percy Gorringe, alias Rex West. Nor should we regret his decision. This story has everything we ask for from Golden Age Detective Fiction: a good puzzle, interesting characters, engaging dialogue and a wit that leavens the somewhat brooding atmosphere brought on by corpses in hay stacks and lawn chairs. That some vital details only get revealed in the final pages really doesn’t bother me; first, because our amateur sleuth Nigel Stangeways has to live up to his name and second, in the end he recounts every instance where the murderer tipped their hand. Had I been more attentive, I could have come closer to solving the puzzle, even without those final pieces.

Of course, the book bears testimony to the times in which it was written. Socialism, psychology and skepticism seemed logical alternatives in the aftermath of the Great War and the Great Depression, especially for the younger literati. But while we all deplore religious maniacs I can’t, as Strangeways does, lump the prophets of the Old Testament among them. I wasn't so much offended as disappointed; after several hours punctuated regularly by the sleuth's spot-on observations of human nature, this came off as frivolous at best. Still, it’s a small fly in otherwise grade-A ointment.

Our reader, Kris Dyer, comes in for some pretty severe lumps from other reviewers, but I think he does a superb job, creating a unique, recognizable voice for each character in this crowded cast and performing the whole in the spirit in which it was written. I’m looking forward to the other ten Strangeways mysteries on tap, all with Mr. Dyer at the mic.

3 people found this helpful

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Think I'll read this in print

This was a book that I thought I'd enjoy (and I still think that). But I had a lot of difficulty listening to it. The premise is interesting--a murder at a private school, lovers who early on look vulnerable to being suspected...but that was as far as I got.

I usually finish most books, even if they are not as good as I had hoped. But this narrator was very exasperating. At times he would pause for breath several times within a sentence--leaving the listener with a choppy experience of the narrative, and usually he read too fast--leaving me feeling so frustrated--backing it up to have to listen to an extremely uncomfortable delivery all over again.

But I want to say that oddly, he had surprising interludes where he read beautifully--he was especially brilliant with voices of certain characters--capturing the nuances of speech of snobby intellectuals perfectly! I thought that his talent there would make it okay to listen to the rest, but alas, I finally just gave up. I do want to finish the book--I think it will be very good in the written form. So I'm going to find the book and just read it.

4 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars

Almost unlistenable, but great Classic

What did you like best about this story?

Nigel Strangeways! I find him amusing and entertaining. This was the first and we learn the snipe was always a prodigy from a young age. Blake's characters are pleasingly eccentric, and well- representative of their classes' stereotypes. Golden age mysteries!!!

What didn’t you like about Kris Dyer’s performance?

His voice was OK but some insane director/producer had him read in a very annoying, stilted manner with oddly placed hesitations. I've not ever heard the like before even after listening to over 2000 audible books.

Any additional comments?

I have persevered listening to this classic series with long gaps in between books. I have to wait for my TMJ flare-up to abate. I need to be able to grit my teeth throughout! The stories are good, some more than others as in any series and worth the downsides.

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    3 out of 5 stars

Not worth the cost.

Characters were silly, story was silly and I really thought the detective should have taken up another career.

2 people found this helpful

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  • common reader
  • 11-28-13

Classic English Golden Age murder

Would you consider the audio edition of A Question of Proof: Nigel Strangeways, Book 1 to be better than the print version?

Not really, because I wasn't altogether happy with all aspects of the narrator's performance. Nicholas Blake/Cecil Day-Lewis was a donnish crime-writer in the Sayers/Crispin mould. His literary approach calls for a more classically-educated reader than Kris Dyer, who mispronounced many references which he could easily have verified on the internet.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Strangeways himself, I always enjoy this kind of learned eccentric with buffoonish tendencies.

Have you listened to any of Kris Dyer’s other performances? How does this one compare?

I've heard him reading the third Strangeways novel, There's Trouble Brewing. He does a much better job in A Question of Proof. His strength is in mimicking regional accents, so he does a great job on the dialogue. However, he seems to have had the same vocal training as Princess Diana - i.e. he breaks every phrase and sentence into chunks of three or four words, which makes his delivery jerky and under-inflected. Question of Proof has lots of dialogue, so is not spoilt by this mannerism; but the other book has lengthy monologues from the hero, which become very tedious thanks to this mosaic-like narration.

Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

Frequent laughter throughout, much of it from the belly.

Any additional comments?

Given that they are paid professionals, I wish narrators would take more trouble over easily-checked details of pronunciation, foreign phrases, etc. Thanks, however, to Kris Dyer for supplying a treasurable blooper - the 'crème passionelle'.

9 people found this helpful

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  • Ginger
  • 01-08-16

Enjoyable

Actions which can only lead to disaster set this story up. Then it moves into a whodunnit puzzle. Interesting and enjoyable and of its period.

2 people found this helpful