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The Case of the Gilded Fly [Paperback]

Edmund Crispin
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 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.

Yseut Haskell, a pretty but spiteful young actress with a talent for destroying men's lives, is found dead in a college room just metres from the office of unconventional Oxford don and amateur detective, Gervase Fen. The victim is found wearing an unusual ring, a reproduction of a piece in the British Museum featuring a gold gilded fly but does this shed any light on her murder? As they delve deeper into Yseut's unhappy life the police soon realise that anyone who knew her would have shot her, but can Fen discover who could have shot her?

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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Product details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (1 Oct 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099542137
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099542131
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 111,198 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"One of the last exponents of the classical English detective story...elegant, literate, and funny" (The Times)

"The Case of the Gilded Fly...couldn't be more British if it came packaged with fish and chips" (New York Sun)

"I very much enjoy Edmund Crispin" (PD James)

"Has all the ingredients of a Golden Age detective story" (Brandon Robshaw Independent on Sunday)

"Both a classic detective story and a ludicrous literary farce" (Guardian)

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

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fen's First Fling! 3 May 2012
By Kenneth F. Mcara VINE VOICE
This is the first of Edmund Crispin's 'Gervase Fen' detective novels and was written whilst he was still an undergraduate. It's the type of mystery which is simply not written anymore, and you will either love it or hate it. The rather reluctant sleuth - who helps out the local police when they get stuck with cases - is an irascible lecturer in English at a fictitious Oxford college who complains loudly about aspects of modern life, the way in which detective novels themselves tend to be constructed and the inability of his companion, the young Nigel Blake, to see how the available evidence points towards the perpetrator of the murder which is being investigated.

The novel is sprinkled with literary allusions, references and quotations alongside some outlandish scenes including a cage full of typewriters and monkeys ("copulating uninterestingly") in the college quadrangle and a pub where you are unlikely to be served unless you are a regular, which features a bald caged parrot which loudly quotes Heine when it's closing time.

Despite Fen's protestations, you'll be doing well to spot the murderer before the 'reveal' towards the end of the book - it could be any one of at least 11 credible suspects, all of whom are in Oxford for the premiere of a new play.

I've given the book 4 stars because there are better books in the series than this, the 'star' of which has to be The Moving Toyshop which is simply wonderful.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Witty, sharp, and clever whodunnit 18 Mar 2013
By Keen Reader TOP 100 REVIEWER
Edmund Crispin was the pseudonym of an English crime writer and composer, Robert Bruce Montgomery. The nine Gervase Fen mysteries were published originally between 1944 and 1977. Gervase, an Oxford Don, and professor of English finds himself involved in a murder mystery. While that may relieve him of some of the boredom he had been feeling, it is not an altogether pleasant experience.

Right from the start of this book, describing the leisurely progress of the train on its way to Oxford in October 1940, the reader is aware that they are in the company of a writer who has a highly sharp and witty style, with an economical use of the English language, and a fairly acerbic wit. I found myself re-reading sentences to savour the joy and humour that are hidden under the top layer.

The murder, which appears for some time to have been suicide has police and Gervase Fen involved in seeking to resolve the mystery. The characters all involved in the story are suitably either troubled, ghastly, nave or eccentric. Fen himself is a character indeed who has his own take on life. This is a great `classic' whodunnit, and I'm glad I have discovered a new author to read. Totally recommended.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Case of the Gilded Fly 26 Aug 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This Golden Age detective novel begins with eleven people arriving in wartime Oxford, most of whom are involved with putting on a new play out of the glare of London critics. We are told that within the week, three of these people will die by violence, and the author sets the scene nicely with a cast of characters that seem full of jealousy and intrigue. These include the playwright Robert Warner, actress Yseut Haskell who seems universally disliked, organist Donald Fellowes, who is in love with the uncaring Yseut, and journalist Nigel Blake, who studied under Gervase Fen and is hoping to meet actress Helen Haskell, Yseut's sister, and who is the main character we witness events through. He is a likeable and pleasant young man who has been invalided out of the war after Dunkirk and whose knowledge of both Fen and the cast tie the book together nicely.

As Nigel attends rehearsals we witness the anger, jealousy and dispute that Yseut causes. Events escalate until they end in murder. This is almost a locked door mystery, with a lot of motives, no alibis and an almost impossible crime. Still, Gervase Fen, who is great friends with Sir Richard Freeman, the Chief Constable of Oxford, states he knows who is responsible for the crime. Gervase is a "cherubic, naive, volatile and entirely delightful" character, totally uninhibited and often rude, extremely intelligent and a specialist in English Literature, which is Sir Richard's passion in the same way that Fen is obsessed with crime.

This is a very atmospheric novel. I enjoyed the setting, with the use of rep theatre, Oxford University and the wartime era being used to great effect. The plot was convuluted but interesting, the characters good.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
The Case of the Gilded Fly was first published in 1944 and the story is set in wartime Oxford. Author Edmund Crispin, real name "Robert Bruce Montgomery", graduated from Oxford in 1943 and it is obvious his experience in that centre of learning was plied into the pages of this book.

The character, "Gervase Fen", is an Oxford don and is the amateur sleuth in this, the first of nine Gervase Fen mysteries written by Crispin.

Rehearsal and performance of a new play provide the focus for the murder mystery and many colourful and intriguing actors, actresses and others associated with the play populate this novel.

Overall I enjoyed the book and I believe it will entertain those who favour murder mysteries that include a bit of humour. I must, however, add a word of caution. Edmund Crispin was obviously a very knowledgeable chap and he wanted to let people know that he was a very knowledgeable chap. This manifested itself in several ways.

Firstly, Gervase Fen considers himself to be intellectually superior to most people and is forever alluding to literary and musical works that I would suggest the majority of people would have to look up to appreciate the significance of the reference fully. I believe Crispin identified with this character.

Secondly, Fen uses many words that will also require looking up in a dictionary; at least I had to look them up.

Thirdly, and this was blatant teasing, there is a character named "Nigel" who is used as the reader's eyes and ears into the mystery. Fen frequently turns to Nigel and jibes him for not having yet worked out who the murderer is.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars overly wordy and condescending
Ultimately boring. The story did not move along at a clip, it was sluggish while totally smug and condescending. Read more
Published 4 months ago by katiec
4.0 out of 5 stars The Case of the Gilded Fly
This book is like Marmite, you'll either love it or hate it. It's a quaintly 1940's English detective story, which is amusing yet serious at the same time with a few red herrings... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Blue and white
4.0 out of 5 stars Original sleuthing book.
A fun read for lovers of crime fiction! Ultra english-maybe not so good if not familiar with Oxbridge mores of the 30s.Witty and charming.
Published 17 months ago by N Conway
3.0 out of 5 stars Fun mystery, but not keen on some of the characters
A fun mystery, well designed plot, and plenty of characters and red herrings. A good evocation of time and place, with well-described settings. Read more
Published 23 months ago by snowqueen01
5.0 out of 5 stars Welcome return
I was very pleased to see that this old school author has been revived. A treat instead of the usual Agatha Christies and Peter Wimseys.
Published on 20 Jun 2011 by herladyship
3.0 out of 5 stars Good old-fashioned detective story.
Edmund Crispin sets up an intriguing mystery around a collection of characters involved with a rep theatre company in Oxford, set (and written) during the second world war. Read more
Published on 8 Jan 2010 by pppme
5.0 out of 5 stars A Welcome Reissue
I always find it difficult to write about mysteries. Difficult to say what you want to say without giving too much away. Read more
Published on 14 Dec 2009 by Lynrow Kernow
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