Love Lies Bleeding – Edmund Crispin
If you have read this book blog before, you’ll know that I’m rather fond of murder mystery novels. I admit to struggling with the more modern crime books, Ann Cleeves excepted, but I really like murder mystery books set in early to mid 20th Century Britain, as well as medieval evil doings…
I am pounding through Laurie R King’s Mary Russell books. For fans of Sherlock Holmes they are an intriguing feminist twist. I must admit still being baffled at their running order, and I am still a bit miffed at the end of The Language of Bees which dovetailed into God of the Hive. At least the latter goes paperback next week, I believe, so it will be cheaper to buy. My wonderful local library got a much read hardback copy for me, so I did not have too long to wait.
Anyway, today’s book was written in 1948, and is an enjoyable whodunnit set in a large private school. Gervase Fen, the Professor of English from Oxford, is once more called on to solve murders, and cracks the case quickly, much to the mystification of everyone, including the reader. The hunt for evidence is still enjoyable, even if a hard slog for the hero.Crispin is one of the few writers of this period (any period?) who can describe a car chase in words and still make it exciting, funny and comprehensible. I will reveal that the much abused, desirable sports car Lily Christine survives, but apart from her there are lamentably few opportunities for females to take the detecting lead. I feel that Mr Crispin enjoys describing the younger women in the novel, though…
Altogether this is an good murder mystery, with comedy, pathos and a reasonable quota of victims and suspects. The setting is not quite as interesting as The Moving Toyshop and the characters not as funny, but this is an enjoyable run around with suitable ‘how is he going to get out of that?’ moments. More complex than Christie, less wordy than Sayers, and funnier than many similar mysteries, this is a good book. A tv series, anyone?
Excitement builds hereabouts for the local library Ann Cleeves evening. I managed to get one of the very last tickets; despite receiving plenty of prior notice Husband finally decided that I was not going to be enjoying the delights of Manchester or Sheffield so I scooted over there to get ticket 48 of 50!
I must confess that I’m not really well up on Ann Cleeves’ writing. I have to be feeling strong to cope with modern day crime writing; Agatha, Margary, Susanna (Gregory) and of course CJ Samson can be brutal, sad or a bit depressing but at least they have the advantage of historical distance. When I have a go at writing murder mysteries, I usually take the easy route of setting them in the past, which at least means that I don’t need exhaustive knowledge of CSI! I have shown willing though by buying The Crow Trap.
so that I will not be completely taken by surprise! Apparently it’s the first in the Vera Stanhope series, soon to be televised. Friend HR tells me that she attended an evening with Ann Cleeves which involved actually setting up a mystery! Will I become addicted? Watch this space!
Today’s book that I have actually read is The Moving Toyshop by Edmund Crispen.
My copy is modern reprint of this old edition, but it’s not the Crime element which is so interesting about this book. The hero is Gervase Fen, a Professor of English at Oxford. I don’t know the city well, beyond a couple of competitive visits in the early eighties, but this book is full of hair raising trips in a sports car, moving shops, a dastardly and complex plot that I enjoyed greatly. It is a very funny book, with poetry being quoted, tiddly professors, woman – charming undergraduates, confused moments locked in cupboards etc. It does differ from most of the female writers of the 40s and 50s which I normally read in that the men take the lead and women can be charmed, murdered and generally a bit confused. But it is very funny. Not sure about the plot; it is outrageously complex, but that is probably part of this book’s undeniable charm. It is definitely a period piece, dated and a little sexist, but clever, funny and charming. Research suggests that there are others in this series; not doubt a great antidote to more serious minded murder mysteries (or you could try The Affair of the Bloodstained Egg Cosy by James Anderson, but that’s another post…)