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The Norfolk Mystery (The County Guides) [Hardcover]

Ian Sansom
3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)

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Book Description

18 July 2013

Love Miss Marple? Adore Holmes and Watson? Professor Morley’s guide to Norfolk is a story of bygone England; quaint villages, eccentric locals – and murder!

It is 1937 and disillusioned Spanish Civil War veteran Stephen Sefton is stony broke. So when he sees a mysterious advertisement for a job where ‘intelligence is essential’, he applies.

Thus begins Sefton’s association with Professor Swanton Morley, an omnivorous intellect. Morley’s latest project is a history of traditional England, with a guide to every county.

They start in Norfolk, but when the vicar of Blakeney is found hanging from his church’s bellrope, Morley and Sefton find themselves drawn into a rather more fiendish plot. Did the Reverend really take his own life, or was it – murder?

Beginning a thrilling new detective series, ‘The Norfolk Mystery’ is the first of The County Guides. A must-read for fans of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie, every county is a crime scene, and with 39 counties in store there’ll be plenty of murder, mystery and mayhem to confound and entertain you for years to come.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 300 pages
  • Publisher: Fourth Estate; First Edition edition (18 July 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007360479
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007360475
  • Product Dimensions: 20.4 x 14.2 x 3.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 116,488 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Born in Essex, England, Ian Sansom is the author of the popular Mobile Library Mystery Series. He is also a frequent contributor and critic for The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, The London Review of Books, and The Spectator. He is a regular broadcaster on BBC Radio 3 and Radio 4.
He studied at both Oxford and Cambridge and is a former Fellow of Emmanuel College, Cambridge. Currently, he teaches at Warwick University.

Product Description


Praise for ‘The Norfolk Mystery’:

‘A delightful, idiosyncratic mystery set in the Thirties … There is a touch of Sherlock Holmes and a dash of Lord Peter Wimsey, but the total is put together with a charm that is teasingly precious … Beautifully crafted by Sansom, Professor Morely promises to become a little gem of English crime writing; sample him now’ Daily Mail

‘Sansom is both celebrating and sending up the golden age of detective novels when, in the 1930s, Dorothy L Sayers and Agatha Christie were the queens of crime … A brilliant first outing that leaves you looking forward to the next maniacal mystery tour’ Mark Sanderson, Evening Standard

About the Author

Ian Sansom writes for the ‘Guardian’ and the ‘London Review of Books’. He is the author of nine books including, ‘Paper: An Elegy’, ‘Mr Dixon Disappears’, ‘The delegates Choice’ and ‘The Bad Book Affair’, some of the instalments of The Mobile Library series. He lives in Northern Ireland.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I've run out of superlatives ! 16 Sep 2013
Format:Kindle Edition
What a brilliant book! Witty, clever without being pedantic, and a superb mystery to boot. Beautifully written, stylistically excellent. Both Sefton and Professor Morley leap from the pages as fully formed characters though throughout the book we gain further insights into their characters. The death of the vicar, discovered during their Norfolk peregrinations leads to the mystery. All the local inhabitants seem to have motives and the final denouement is truly brilliant.
Though the book is set in the 1930s there are many references to the social and cultural mores of that time which have resonance today, often uncomfortably so.
I really cannot praise this book highly enough. If you want a book which is, in many ways ,an hommage to the Golden Age of mystery fiction , beautifully written and wonderfully plotted the buy this, whether it be in hardback, paperback or kindle.
I hope that Ian Sansom will provide us with as many mysteries as Prof. Morley intends to write county guides. It is going to feel a long time to wait until 2014 for the next in the series
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Tremendous Starter for a Charismatic Lead 27 July 2013
By ACB (swansea) TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is really a delightful read. It is in the mode of old-fashioned or traditional detective work. The concept is fun and reminiscent of obsessionals who want to visit every racecourse or pub in Britain. On this occasion, set in the 1930's, one of the main protagonists, Stephen Sefton enters Cambridge via Merchants Taylor school, leaving with a third class degree, referred to as a 'poet's degree'. Not surprisingly he earned this through self-indulgence and lack of study to find himself as a lowly schoolmaster in minor public schools. Ill-prepared for the real world he embarks on a crusade. Firstly he joins the communist party and then drives himself into the Spanish Civil War where he encounters 'death everywhere', even shooting 'poor souls' himself.

Wounded he returns looking for employment. He is taken on by Professor Morley , a writer of some renown , whose aim is to visit every county in England, writing a guide to their attractions. The amiable Swanton Morley and his head-on daughter, the equally opinionated, rebellious Miriam is problematic. Unfortunately the fascination of his task is blighted as when his adventure begins there is a murder. In Norfolk, for starters, a vicar is found hanged in his vestry. Although it seems like suicide, Morley has doubts that delay him in his project of a county and country guide.

Inevitably he is drawn into a detective mode of dealing with the facts, aided by Sefton, into the evidence, the motives that may lead to the killer. This is the stuff of whodunit literature without the sensationalism. A joy to read amongst the aggressive crime thrillers. This is not without suspense nor wit but suggests Ian Sansom is on to a winner with his reluctant hero Swanton. Excellent, charming, amusing and different. Another 38 counties to go? I Hope Morley and the author have enough time. Great stuff!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Eccentricity Personified 1 Aug 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I found this entertaining but in an eccentric way, which I can only imagine was the author's intent. It was interesting to see someone else's take on North Norfolk, where I lived for fourteen years, and the way that they imagined life in the 1930s. As much as anything, this book is a creative, backwards looking, travelogue more than a genuine mystery or investigation.
The principal character, named after a Norfolk village, is pretentious in the extreme, never having had an education worthy of the name but who has managed to establish himself in the tabloids of the day as the People's Professor.
He succeeds in avoiding any sleuthing of consequence until, in very typical Poirot style, he reveals all of his conjectures in the final dénouement, accompanied by excessive sniffling.
There is, undoubtedly, potential for the rest of the Guides, as threatened by the author, but I would suggest that the eccentricity of the Professor be reined in somewhat and the other two lead characters given more overt participation.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not at all as I expected... 5 Jan 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
For those reading this review, there is a small spoiler alert as to what happens in the book, but one that does reveal whodunnit. I really love discovering new detective characters to fall in love with and was really looking forward to this new series, but I was disappointed. I get that the author was creating a larger-than-life and very eccentric character in Morley, but he is too much of everything and frankly I grew tired of the endless Latin interruptions, most of which are never explained and are just meant to put the reader into a state of total confusion just like the supporting character Sefton. In a great detective story, the reader is meant to glimpse the tiniest clues, some of which are great red herrings and that's what makes it a great story and a satisfyingly unravelled mystery, where the reader was taken on a journey with the detective. Not so in this book, where the longed for conclusion (especially longed for, given the tediousness of Morley's character) is quite anti-climactic. I also did not at all think it was feasible for Hannah, the Jewess, to have had a one-night stand with Sefton in the circumstances described in the book. It felt to me like this was added into the book purely to have some sort of erotic scene. I do admire the sheer amount of encyclopaedic knowledge that Ian Sansom has put into this book, but I would prefer it if this was more balanced with actual detective storyline and better work done on the characters themselves. For the price of the kindle edition, there are much better stories out there.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars First of a promising new series
At times rambling and apparently inconsequential,this is an enjoyable yarn in the style of an old English cosy detective novel
Published 2 days ago by Mr. M. W. Jarvis
2.0 out of 5 stars ... character is objectionable to the point that it spoilt enjoyment...
The main character is objectionable to the point that it spoilt enjoyment of the book.
Published 3 days ago by Ms Sarah J Knights
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
hard to get into at the beginning
Published 7 days ago by Kay Beckett
3.0 out of 5 stars Not the best read
I got tired of the pretentious language and the story is slow. Not the best read ever
Published 18 days ago by Mrs Deborah E Ireland
3.0 out of 5 stars mystery??
A good story that tumbles you through back water Norfolk and it's inhabitants. Slightly too lacking in plot for me, but beautiful scene setting and characterisation.
Published 25 days ago by Ross
1.0 out of 5 stars One Star
Not a great novel, the principal character bring way too overbearing and unbelievable, as well as being tediously repetitive
Published 27 days ago by Mark Brandon
3.0 out of 5 stars Plot weak but enjoyable read
I enjoyed this book, particularly as I am familiar with North Norfolk and I have a set of Arthur Mee's children's encyclopaedia on my bookshelf. Read more
Published 27 days ago by Clo
4.0 out of 5 stars Mystery
Really enjoyed this book. A very good read especially as I know all the places visited in the book.
Published 1 month ago by Larsson fan
1.0 out of 5 stars annoying and boring
annoying and boring. The author tries to show off by using big words whitch are not used nowadays even by really educated people
and his attempt to educate the reader is... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Terence Laarge
1.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing
Really didn't enjoy this book, but forced myself to finish it. Character development doesn't really happen, and the main character, Morley, is like a stuck record. Read more
Published 1 month ago by C
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