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Landscape with Dead Dons Paperback – Apr 1963


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Paperback, Apr 1963
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Product details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd (April 1963)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 014001831X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140018318
  • Product Dimensions: 17.8 x 2.5 x 12.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,283,888 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Mike on 26 Aug. 2011
Format: Paperback
Set in Oxford University in the 1950's, Robert Robinson's only detective story is a hugely entertaining blend of gentle satire (much of it still highly relevant to the world of academe) and a cunning detective tale. Beautifully placed clues lead to a denoument that makes most other detective story revelation scenes tame and jejune by comparison. I first read this in the sixties, in the Penguin edition, but it disappeared as these things do. Finding it in the very nicely put together Back In Print edition was a joy. It says a great deal for the book that even when one is aware of whodunnit, it is still a story you can read again with great enjoyment. As an epitaph for Robert Robinson, it is not a bad one, and the only sadness of his career in journalism and television is that he did not write any more adventures of the redoubtable Inspector Autumn.
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As a massive Robert Robinson fan I loved this earlier work of his. Slowish to start, the book soon rewards perseverance as his absolute mastery of the well wrought sentence shines through, with not a word wasted and full of humour. The plot is sprinkled with characters whose names ironically reflect their personality / role, for example "Bow-Parley" for the Chaplain of whom he writes pricelessly:
'In conversation it always seemed as if the Rev. Cyprian Bow-Parley were using his hands as antenna, as sensitive apparatus whereby he might put himself in touch with corporeality. He would clamp his hand on the arm of the person he addressed as if apprehension that the slightest break in contact might involve instant sublimation of Bow-Parley-on-Earth, and a reappearance (crystalline and ethereal) somewhere in the region of the ceiling.'
For me it was altogether a brilliant and enjoyable read but being a fan of the author always helps I suppose.
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This is my favourite genre. Solving crime before cell phones, finger print registers and other advanced technical aids in sleuthing were available, was based on much more refined methods of observation and psychological and behavior analysis. Quite entertaining but this authoer doesn't come even close to the talent posses by Agatha Christie, my all time favourite British crime author.
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Loosely connected to Chaucer, this quite amusing book has a certain individuality. It is not long and perhaps a good holiday read for those that like detective stories - but dependent on one clue. Will you spot it?
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Graham R. Hill VINE VOICE on 6 Mar. 2010
Format: Paperback
The author will be well known to those who both live in the UK and are of a certain age, for his appearances as a quiz master on radio and television. As one would expect this novel contains both erudition - it is about Oxford after all - and humour. In the end the humour is largely at the expense of the reader, but not in a way that should annoy or irritate.

On the back cover of the 1963 Penguin Crime reprint Edmund Crispin, a most distinguished exponent of the crime novel the influence of whose Gervase Fen novels can be seen throughout this book (compare the farcical chase scene with a similar one in The Moving Toyshop; even the route is the same albeit the direction reversed), says 'the placing of the decisive clue will delight connoisseurs'. I suspect that he chose his words carefully. The book adopts the forms of the detective novel, but does not faithfully adhere to them. Ther reader has access to the clues, but can never - I would suggest - solve it in a classic manner; rather they can only have it revealed to them either by inspiration or eventually by the Scotland Yard inspector's exposition.

What the book is true to are the forms of the campus novel, or more specifically the novel about Oxford (more Gaudy Night: A Lord Peter Wimsley Mystery (A Lord Peter Wimsey Mystery) than Brideshead Revisited: The Sacred and Profane Memories of Captain Charles Ryder) including dons, high table, college architecture, rowing etc. etc. Very interesting if you were there I'm sure; not that gripping if you weren't.
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