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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)
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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: 29,694 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
2.0 out of 5 stars overly wordy and condescending 24 Mar 2014
By katiec
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Ultimately boring. The story did not move along at a clip, it was sluggish while totally smug and condescending. It felt like being stuck in a small room with someone determined to prove how clever they are. If you're into vague and obscure quotations from vague and obscure literary sources then this is for you. If you're looking for a good murder mystery then this most definitely isn't.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good old-fashioned detective story. 8 Jan 2010
By pppme
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. The detective is Gervase Fen, an Oxford don, who is as eccentric as he is brilliant. He is helped along by Nigel, a slightly confused and clueless journalist and Oxford graduate who plays the role of the reader - stumbling across information but unable to solve the crime as effortlessly as Fen. The cast of the story, and the suspects in the murder, are an agreeably dislikeable bunch of stereotypes, and the central puzzle is well worked out, with a few clever twists.

Crispin is clearly a fan of the murder mystery format, and he respects it here as an intellectual game. There is not a hint of psychological realism, and the book is littered with self-conscious references to the genre and to literature in general. Characters often quote famous literary passages, and their speech is sometimes described according to its grammatical correctness. In other words, The Case of the Gilded Fly is well written and well constructed, albeit in a way that puts everything at service to the main mystery. As a result, the puzzle is as darkly simple as a cryptic crossword puzzle, but the story occasionally stretches a little too far beyond the bounds of credibility.

There are a few touches that struck me as in bad taste, but that is probably because of the time when this book was written - there is an underlying trail of misogyny and classism, for instance. All in all, not one of his best books, but a good fun read nevertheless.
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