Tuesday, June 25, 2019

40. Love Lies Bleeding by Edmund Crispin

I am specifically on the hunt for The Moving Toyshop by the same author, as recommended by Kenneth Hite, but found this one in an Amsterdam used bookshop as a decent proxy.  It turns out that the detective is the same and that this story takes place ten years later than the Moving Toyshop (without any spoilers thankfully, just a passing reference from a tertiary character).

Loves Lies Bleeding starts off very British and very promising for me.  It takes place at a second-rate public school where the headmaster and headmistress of the affiliated girls school are discussing the distressed state of one of the latter's students.  Already, the language is really rich, dry and quite funny.  It felt like a slightly older and more verbose version of Michael Gilbert.  The masters are a motley lot, described with a cynical but affectionate regard by the headmaster.  The next day the girl disappears and soon after that, two masters are found dead, murdered by a .38.  Fortunately, the headmaster's old acquaintance, Gervase Fen, Professor of English Language and Literature at Oxford and amateur detective had previously been invited to deliver the end of year speech.  He works with the headmaster and the local constabulary to unravel the mystery.  Along the way, we get a very British and entertaining cast of characters, a comprehensive and fulfilling portrayal of the school and environs and an exciting hunt through the forest and a final car chase.  I enjoyed everything thoroughly except the mystery itself, which was a bit too convoluted for my limited attention span.  The last twenty or thirty pages went into excruciating detail first about the logic of Fen's deduction process and then a narrative about what actually happened, at which point, I didn't really care anymore, especially as we barely got to know the culprits before they were revealed.  For real mystery fans, I think this would have been all pretty good stuff.  As it was, the overall writing (though perhaps a bit excessive on the obscure vocabulary and adverbs) and characterization of people and place were very much what I look for in this kind of book, so I am extremely glad to have Edmund Crispin added to my list and my search for the Moving Toyshop will continue in earnest.

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