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The Norfolk Mystery (The County Guides) Paperback – 19 Jun 2014

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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Fourth Estate (19 Jun. 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007360487
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007360482
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2.2 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (63 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 29,727 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

3.3 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Philip Hind Woodward on 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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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By ACB(swansea) TOP 50 REVIEWER on 27 July 2013
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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Damaskcat HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 22 Jan. 2015
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The narrator of this charming mystery set in the 1930s is Stephen Sefton who finds himself almost at the end of his resources when he sees an advertisement for an assistant to 'Professor' Swanton Morley. The Professor is a journalist and author who writes popular books on almost any subject under the sun. He is intending to write a guide to each of the English counties and needs an assistant to help him with the mammoth undertaking.

On their first trip around Norfolk they come across the body of the Vicar of Blakeney hanging in his church and are forced to stay in the area while the police investigate the case. Naturally Swanton Morley feels urged by his insatiable curiosity to investigate the case himself.

I found Swanton Morley himself mildly irritating at first as he is constantly quoting from all sorts of authors and in all sorts of languages and he never seems to let anyone else get a word in edgeways though his glamorous daughter Miriam seems able to manage him. The book includes photographs of Norfolk in the text and is almost a guidebook to the county in itself as it includes a great many facts about the county.

The mystery itself doesn't take up very much of the book though it is interesting in itself. The book evokes a forgotten era and a different way of life with plenty of eccentric and colourful characters. If you're looking for something a little different then this is worth a try and it is the first one in a series. I shall definitely be reading the next one.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Chrissie on 16 Sept. 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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