Oxford University and the actors are in town. To be fair, Oxford is full of acting troupes of varying degrees of talent, but this one is going to cause more than just bad theatrical reviews. The group contains more than a few tensions but the cause of all of them is Yseut, an actress with a stunning ability to get under the skin of everyone who meets her. And watching the company is Professor Gervase Fen, an English professor who wants nothing more than to try and solve a mystery – and he’s about to get his wish.
When Yseut is found dead in a college room, everyone believes it was suicide – nobody was near the room when the shot was heard. Fen believes otherwise, and decides soon persuades the police that it was murder – but can he stop further blood being spilled?
The third of three holiday reads that deals with academia, and this time it’s straight to the top to Oxford University (take that, Cambridge!). Crispin apparently knocked this off in a couple of weeks – it’s the first novel to feature the utterly charming Gervase Fen, and it’s a damned fine novel at that.
Crispin takes time to create a strong set of suspects, all with believable motivations, along with Fen himself and his own supporting circle. The mystery itself is cleverly done – I suppose it counts as an impossible crime – with developments in the plot that keep it moving along. Crispin takes time to add in an additional human element as Fen makes a serious error of judgment at some point.
I can imagine that the rather verbose style of writing might put some off, but the quality of the writing more than makes up for it. Oh, and the Gilded Fly bit seemed a bit irrelevant… It’s been reprinted recently, so you can easily get a copy of it. Highly Recommended – better, I think, than The Moving Toyshop.