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Saturday, 9 February 2013

Review: Love Lies Bleeding, Edmund Crispin (England)

Title:                                            Love Lies Bleeding
Author:                                         Edmund Crispin
Date/Place of Publication:             1984/Great Britain: Hamlyn Paperbacks
Original Date/Place of Publication: 1948/Great Britain: Victor Gollancz
ISBN #:                                        0-600-20663-7
# pages:                                       200
Discovered in my own home library
Read in paper format
Also available in e-book format

Dr. Stanford, Headmaster at Castrevenford School, is preoccupied with the school's upcoming Speech Day and the heat. Learning from the local girls' school head mistress, Miss Parry, that something untoward has happened to one of her students at his school only serves to increase his gloomy and unhappy mood. Fortunately, his friend Gervase Fen, Oxford Professor of English and amateur detective, is coming as a last minute substitute to hand out prizes and he will be given the task of ferreting out the truth. Truth-seeking quickly involves multiple murders and a disappearance, all of which are miraculously resolved by the end of the weekend.

This is a fairly traditional English murder mystery, set in the 1940's, with all the boarding school hierarchies, politics and idiosyncrasies on display. Fen is reminiscent of Sherlock Holmes, with his ability to notice minor details and deduce the correct solution out of a multitude of options. Fortunately for the reader, the last 30 pages of the book outline how he did this, through a conversation he has with Dr. Stanford.

The author's Oxford education clearly comes through, in his language as well as his knowledge of prep schools. The reader may wonder if they need to have a dictionary at their side, to deal with "palliating circumstances" and "inchoate daydream(s)", as well as a basic knowledge of Latin (for instance, the first chapter is entitled "Lasciva Puella"). Although this may seem annoying, it helps to establish the time frame of events and set the atmosphere of a 1940's prep school. Interestingly, the young female characters are refreshingly spirited and independent for the era in question.

Even the avid mystery reader will likely find it challenging to determine the final solution but Fen's recap confirms all the clues are there. Worth tackling. I would love to hear your comments on whether you were able to puzzle out the answer.

About the author:

Edmund Crispin is the pseudonym for (Robert) Bruce Montgomery, a British writer who died in 1978 at the age of 56. Not only did he write nine detective stories and two short story collections, he also composed film, concert and church music under his real name. This particular book is dedicated to "The Carr Club". According to David Whittle in "Bruce Montgomery/Edmund Crispin: A Life in Music and Books", this informal society of four friends was inspired by John Dickinson Carr radio plays. They would meet in a public house or rented cottage " tell detective stories for which solutions had to be proposed by the members."


  1. I love the Edmund Crispin Books. It's been a while since I read this one....back before my blogging days, so I don't have a good review of it. I don't believe I ever beat Fen to the solution in any of them, though.

  2. Yes, it's hard to beat Gervase Fen! I do remember reading this one, but it's been a while - my favourite of the Edmund Crispin novels has to be 'The Moving Toyshop', which is so bizarre it deserves a whole chapter to itself in a history of Golden Age Mysteries.

  3. Hadn't heard of The Moving Toyshop, now on my TBR list!!!