Fen Country by Edmund Crispin

The continued wanderings of a newly minted librarian

 

Crispin, E. (1979). Fen Country:Twenty-six stories. New York: Walker and Company.

 

This collection of short stories was published after Crispin’s death. The majority of the stories involve Crispin’s hero, amateur detective Gervase Fen. Most of the stories are “locked room” mysteries which are solved by Fen or another detective. A few of the stories are ones of murderers getting away with it or with would be assassins missing their mark but without police involvement.

Fen Country is a quick and entertaining read and is a nice ending to the series of novels Crispin has contributed to bookshelves. Highly enjoyable.

Love Lies Bleeding by Edmund Crispin

The continued wandering of a newly minted librarian

 

Crispin, E. (1948). Love lies bleeding. New York: Walker and Company.

Love Lies Bleeding is one of Crispin’s earlier works. It is not quite as hilarious as Glimpses of the Moon, but still has a good bit of humor. This mystery takes place at a boys’ public school (Castrevenford School), and features a missing schoolgirl from the neighboring girls’ school, two murdered school masters, a murdered old woman, stolen acid from the chemistry lab, a stolen gun, and an old, homicidal bloodhound who saves the day while ultimately sacrificing himself.

The two murdered school masters are a mystery because of no apparent motive until it comes to light that a local old woman may have found buried in her Elizabethan cottage some letters, an old miniature painting, and a manuscript of Shakespeare’s lost play Love’s Labour’s Won. This then proves to be the motive for the killings. One school master was going to buy the manuscript (worth millions) from the unsuspecting woman for a mere 100 pounds! The other school master overheard this and said it was unfair fraud and he would do what he could to make sure she knew the real value of what she found.

So one school master murders the other but is then himself murdered by someone he told about the manuscript. The first master is also responsible for the chemistry theft and gun theft and for the disappearance and attempted murder of the girl. Another Castrevenford employee is the one who murdered the murderous school master and the old woman and also attempted to kill the school girl and our hero, Gervase Fen, who was of course solving the mystery. They were saved by the heroic dog, and all ended reasonably well. Unfortunately the Shakespearian letters were burned as was the majority of the manuscript except for one surviving page.

This is one of those “locked room” type of mysteries where all the clues are provided and the bodies pile up. It is solvable if only one asks the right questions and realizes that everything is interconnected.

Glimpses of the Moon by Edmund Crispin

The continued wanderings of a newly minted librarian

Crispin, E. (1977). The glimpses of the moon. New York: Walker and Company.

Glimpses of the Moon is the last of the Gervase Fen mysteries which Crispin authored.  It was written later in life (1977) before Crispin died (1978). This work takes place in the Devon countryside and features a great deal of humor in the Devon dialogue and in general. However, this humor is in stark contrast to the quick but gruesome descriptions of the mutilated bodies. The descriptions really aren’t that gruesome, but in contrast to the humor throughout the rest of the book they stand out all the more.

Gervase Fen is visiting the Devon countryside in which there have been two recent murders. One, a local man is found decapitated and the rest of his limbs hacked off and rearranged—another local man is arrested for the deed (but Fen isn’t sure if he is really guilty of the murder). The second is the mysterious death of a woman from a bridge (did she jump or was she pushed?). While Fen, the Major, and Padmore (a journalist trying to write a book on the first murder) discuss ideas and attend the local country fete, another murder/ decapitation occurs.  Now Fen, the Major, Padmore, and the Rector (it happened at his fete) are trying to figure out what is going on while the police are going nuts trying to track down body parts (they lose the head of the second victim before he can be identified).

While the murders are being investigated, there is also a traveling con-artist who is posing as a utility company employee. He tries to steal a locked chest from the Rector but is blocked by a humorous traffic jam (3 hunt participants are blocked by the vehicle of some hunt protesters which in turn blocks a cattle drive and a motorcycle race and the police). 

In the end Fen, as usual, provides the answers (multiple murderers one of whom is a police officer, and one man who didn’t commit a murder, but did hack up a body). A thoroughly enjoyable entertainment.

The Case of the Gilded Fly by Edmund Crispin

The continued wanderings of a newly minted librarian

 

Crispin, E. (1954). The case of the gilded fly. New York: Felony and Mayhem Press.

Many of you are probably familiar with the uber famous librarian, Nancy Pearl. She recently did a segment on NPR’s morning edition in which she highlighted some mystery stories. I was able to get my hands on one of them, The Case of the Gilded Fly by Edmund Crispin, and thoroughly enjoyed it. As Nancy Pearl mentioned it is very Agatha Christie-ish. All the clues and characters are laid out for the reader so one can make an attempt to solve the mystery oneself.

The Case of the Gilded Fly takes place in 1940 in Oxford. It features an amateur detective, Gervase Fen, who is an English Professor at Oxford. The mystery is about the death of an actress (Yseut Haskell) whose body is found in the room of the Oxford organist/student and choirmaster (Donald Fellowes). The story is told from the point of view of Nigel Blake who is one of Gervase Fen’s former students returning to Oxford for a brief visit. Blake is a journalist working in London and acts like a Watson to Fen’s Holmes. Blake has all the clues and in fact is the one who passes them on to Fen, but he is unable himself to piece together the clues and figure out who murdered Yseut. After the first murder, Donald is also murdered but this is not quite as mysterious.

I am going to have to try and read another Edmund Crispin mystery featuring Gervase Fen and see if they continue to be as enjoyable as this one was.