A contemporary murder mystery set in Cambridge, a woman of a certain age detecting, poison and corruption make for an excellent and sometimes humourous novel. This book has charm and some passion as clues, motives and mysteries pile up around the unorthodox team of Professor Elizabeth Green, her grandson Godric and Inspector Alby. Cycling around the city or driving the aging Talbot, botanist Elizabeth gets close to her suspects, just as she knew the first victim. This is far from a straightforward murder mystery, as many people have their reasons for remaining silent, and the Cambridge system contrives to make the investigation even more delicate. I am glad to have come upon a copy of this book, the first in a series, in the rather brilliant Heffers bookshop.
The book opens with an assignation which goes wrong, and ends in death. As Edward finds himself in the river Cam, Elizabeth sadly remembers her recent loss, and is traumatised when she discovers a dying man. When Inspector Alby turns up they both remember past investigations and yet Alby warns her off getting involved in this case. This does not stop her finding and talking to Susan, who it seems knew Edward rather too well. Meanwhile, his widow, the despairing Rebecca, contacts her brother, the ambitious M.P. Jonathan Smythe, and he tries to help her with the assistance of his girlfriend. At the same time a college dean begins to realise that he has perhaps taken on too great a challenge in the quest to fund his college. Elizabeth must use her specialist knowledge despite the advice of her friends, Alby plays golf, and Godric does everything except academic work. As revelations and red herrings pile up, Elizabeth defies all advice in order to get to the truth, as well as attempt to discover just who is stealing her grapes…
This book is in some ways a simple story in the well described setting of Cambridge. It presents a vivid picture of life in the city in the twenty first century, when links across the world mean that murder is not just an enclosed matter. In terms of detection it is actually more logical than some other novels that I have read set in the University. I certainly enjoyed its carefully constructed world, and I liked the character of Elizabeth immensely, as she is quite determined to set the world to rights despite everything thrown at her. The wayward Godric certainly has possibilities as a foil and assistant, though Inspector Alby is not always the sharpest hope, despite his evident concern for Elizabeth’s well being. I found the continuous use of the present tense a bit of a problem, but that was the only downside of this otherwise very enjoyable book. I have already bought a copy of the second book, and look forward to becoming involved again in the puzzling world of Cambridge University in the company of Elizabeth Green and co.
So a book bought from Cambridge and set in that city. It would only work in Cambridge, really, if only because of the position of the river and lovely houses. This book has been on my must finish pile not because I wasn’t enjoying it, but simply because other more urgent books had to be finished first. I think it is a mark of the writing that it was memorable enough that I could pick it up and carry on reading. It is worth finding and enjoying!