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Swan Song [Paperback]

Edmund Crispin
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
RRP: 8.99
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Book Description

1 Oct 2009


As inventive as Agatha Christie, as hilarious as P.G. Wodehouse - discover the delightful detective stories of Edmund Crispin. Crime fiction at its quirkiest and best.

When an opera company gathers in Oxford for the first post-war production of Wagner's Die Meistersinger its happiness is soon soured by the discovery that the unpleasant Edwin Shorthouse will be singing a leading role. Nearly everyone involved has reason to loathe Shorthouse but who amongst them has the fiendish ingenuity to kill him in his own locked dressing room?

In the course of this entertaining adventure, eccentric Oxford don and amateur sleuth Gervase Fen has to unravel two murders, cope with the unpredictability of the artistic temperament, and attempt to encourage the course of true love.

Erudite, eccentric and entirely delightful - Before Morse, Oxford's murders were solved by Gervase Fen, the most unpredictable detective in classic crime fiction.

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Swan Song + Buried for Pleasure + Love Lies Bleeding
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Product details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (1 Oct 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099542145
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099542148
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 299,501 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"A splendid reminder of the intricate craft involved in creating a superior locked room mystery... Crispin provides neatly observed characters, clues honestly presented, a denouement which is both outrageous and satisfying and a splendidly offhand opening" (The Times)

"The books are fast, fun and smart, their hero charming, frivolous, brilliant and badly behaved" (New Review)

"One of the most literate mystery writers of the twentieth century" (Boston Globe)

Book Description


As inventive as Agatha Christie, as hilarious as P.G. Wodehouse - discover the delightful detective stories of Edmund Crispin. Crime fiction at its quirkiest and best.

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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
4.0 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Saved by the denouement! 15 Jun 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is the third of Edmund Crispin's Gervase Fen whodunnits I have read and it is on balance the one I have enjoyed the least, despite it being set in one of my favourite cities, Oxford, and revolving around the world of opera, a major interest of mine. Pleasant enough reading, of course, but it somehow failed to grip me as much as the previous Crispin works I had read until, that is, the explanation of how the locked-room crime had been executed, which is as outrageous as it is ingenious.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Worth reading but.... 1 Oct 2009
I adore Edmund Crispin's books but this was not one of his very best - and it grieves me to admit it. So saying, it was enjoyable but when compared to The Moving Toyshop or his masterpiece, Buried for Pleasure, I found it a bit lacking in the pure humour I have come to expect from Mr. Crispin. I would still recommend purchasing it, however, because it's worth reading and completing your collection of Crispins.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Chronicles of Crispin, Vol.4 6 Jun 2012
By Kenneth F. Mcara VINE VOICE
An opera-singer dies in mysterious and inexplicable circumstances in a theatre in Oxford whilst preparing for opening night. Many other characters involved in the same production have motives to kill him. Few of them, however, have watertight alibis... Enter Gervase Fen, erstwhile Professor of English at St Christopher's College and successful, if unorthodox, amateur sleuth.

Sound familiar? That's because it is. Change `opera-singer' to `actor' and you basically have the plot to The Case of the Gilded Fly, Edmund Crispin's first Gervase Fen mystery novel. Unlike the first in the series, however, Gervase Fen does not begin to see what happened, or whodunit, until we are into the last tenth of the novel. Where its predecessor, The Moving Toyshop, was a blur of motion and excitement throughout, Swan Song only sputters into life around page 180. Despite many references to the previous novel and its characters, as well as the re-appearance of Fen's quirky sports car, Lily Christine III, Swan Song is a bit of a let-down in comparison.

There are, however, some entertaining touches. During one of many long conversations, Fen looks out of the window of the Mace & Sceptre and remarks "There's CS Lewis. It must be Tuesday", later on confirming "There's CS Lewis again". It turns out that Tuesday lunchtime was when The Inklings: C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien and Their Friends- an Oxford University writing group - had their informal meetings in a local pub.
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By jxn
In a way, Edmund Crispin's fourth Gervase Fen novel is a rip-off of his first; if you're going to steal then steal from the best, I suppose. Thankfully it's not due to artistic bankruptcy that we find ourselves back on such familiar ground (here it's an impossibly-murdered opera singer rather than an impossibly-murdered actress), and this is arguably the far finer and more focused novel that a few intervening years of plotting should produce.

Whether the culprits are obvious or not depends on your exposure to this type of puzzle, but as a puzzle in itself it is fabulously marshaled. Crispin has a grip on his characters and his plot that gives not one inch, and charts the fortunes and attitudes of his cast fluently alongside a suitably rapid closed-circle murder. This Vintage edition is 195 pages long, and without a single word wasted there is a fair amount of time spent with everyone who matters, and a virtually quibble-free solution that is as technical as it is gratifying.

In fact this is probably a five star book if you've never read Crispin before, but what's missing for me is Fen. Two too-brief interludes (one with a half brick-wielding stranger, the other a chemist) and the appearance of Thomas Shadwell aside, there is almost none of Fen's brilliant, incorrigible fancy, and I for one missed it. Crispin's previous giddiness may have abated given the immediately-post-war setting, but virtually no-one else is as good at this sort of crossover and it would be a shame if we never got to see him in full comic flight again.
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5.0 out of 5 stars I love Crispin! 1 Mar 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
And Swan Song is a good example of his work. This is perhaps the most overtly musical of his crime stories - reminding us that as Bruce Buckingham he was a highly respected writer of film scores. Fen is on top form.
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