Love Lies Bleeding (1948) by Edmund Crispin

Speech day is due at Castrevenford Boys’ School, and guest of honour, Professor Gervase Fen of Oxford University, is on the premises. Given his reputation for crime solving, he is immediately brought into the investigation into the disappearance of Brenda Boyce, a girl from the adjoining Girls’ School, and the theft of chemicals from the science department.

And then there’s the small matter of the murder of two schoolmasters, Messrs Somers and Love, and a later third murder. Fen finds that something of incredible value is the prize coveted by the killer, something that Fen would also love to get his hands on…

A quick browse on the internet finds mixed opinions on Crispin’s work. Most (although by no means all) readers seem to enjoy his writing, but few can agree on his best work. The most commonly cited title seems to The Moving Toyshop, but as one might expect, most people are wrong. Personally, my most enjoyable Crispin experience to date is his debut, The Case Of The Gilded Fly, where I didn’t feel that the plotting was overlooked in favour of the humour. So what about Love Lies Bleeding?

Love Lies Bleeding was the fifth Fen mystery penned by Crispin, aka Bruce Montgomery, who would go on to write four more novels featuring the sleuth. I’ve just read the novella The Hours Of Darkness from Bodies From The Library 2, which I enjoyed immensely, so I thought it was time to go back to Fen in novel form.

This is an enjoyable read – as ever, Crispin’s narrative sparkles, and the book is never boring. Fen is an entertaining sleuth, at one point even having a pop at Crispin himself. The plot is clever… up to a point. One aspect of the plot is very cleverly thought out, but… at the end of the day, I found the choice of villain somewhat dull – I overlooked them as I thought they were a bit obvious. I’ve read a lot of books over the past few days, and this was by no means the only book to fall into this trap.

So, an entertaining read – not his best, but still ahead of that over-rated Toyshop…

Just The Facts, Ma’am: WHERE: At a school


  1. Hmmm … Aren’t we dealing here with a case where Crispin out-foxed the reader by going with the person too-obvious-to-be-the-real-culprit, and is then being criticized for having made a somewhat dull choice by that very same out-foxed reader? When Christie uses the reader’s experience and expectations against themselves, it’s often called craftiness or even brilliance, but when Crispin does it, it is not? Of course, I must admit that execution of the gambit matters as well.

    Liked by 1 person

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