The Bad Quarto – Cambridge climbers

A little while ago I posted about The Attenbury Emeralds by Jill Paton Walsh, a book that I really liked mainly because it dealt with the afterlife of Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane.  I wondered what Walsh’s other books were like, especially those set in Cambridge. I know it’s changed a lot since my days there, but essentially after the Morse phenomenon I wondered what a writer could do with modern day colleges etc. This was especially true because I love books about medieval Cambridge, especially those of Susanna Gregory.

Unfortunately I have to say that I was a bit disappointed. The Bad Quarto 

by Jill Paton Walsh is not the first in the series concerning the college nurse, Imogen Quy, so I was a little confused as to why she was so omnipresent and omniscient. It would seem that she is best friends with the Master of a college and wife, which is fair enough, but she seems best buddies with everyone else. She seems to be quickly embroiled in many situations beyond what I would expect of a college nurse; not that I would criticise the profession who helped keep me sane…

I learnt a lot about canal boats, Hamlet and nightclimbing from this book. There was even some interesting stuff about foster care. The “mystery” though was a bit weak, I felt, and the setting was incidental rather than important to the book. It was a bit indistinct as to when it was set; partly present day and partly revealing the Cambridge of many years ago. All things considered it’s not as good as her Sayers books, though I realise if I had read these books in order they may seem better. If another book in the series turned up in the library I would borrow and get round to reading it, but I am not trying to track down the rest to buy. It’s not a bad book, but a bit of a let down after her others.

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