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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Tremendous Starter for a Charismatic Lead
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,...
Published 21 months ago by ACB(swansea)

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Eccentricity Personified
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...
Published 9 months ago by Philip Hind Woodward

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Eccentricity Personified, 1 Aug. 2014
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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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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Tremendous Starter for a Charismatic Lead, 27 July 2013
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ACB(swansea) - See all my reviews
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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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Calm down, dears - it's just a bit of fun, 1 Jan. 2015
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'Sherlock Holmes with a dash of Lord Peter Wimsey' indeed? Well, hardly: unless we are speaking of the author, whose encyclopaedic knowledge of trivia and Latin tags, as put in the mouth of his protagonist, the autodidact and polymath, 'People's Professor' Swanton Morley, certainly challenges that of Holmes himself; and the whole enterprise on Sansom's part is nothing if not whimsical ...

But what fun we have with Morley and his sidekick, our narrator Stephen Sefton, mainly at the expense of such characters and their 'golden age' setting. It's a joke, and it looks as if not everybody gets it.

The icing on the cake, and yet, too, the fly in he ointment of this particular confection, is of course the simultaneously attractive and repellent Swanton Morley himself. Are we meant to admire him - or condemn him? Sefton doesn't seem too sure, either, now impressed, now exasperated by this employer.

In his Mobile Library novels, Ian Sansom developed a wonderful conceit whereby the hero would routinely uncover the deepest wells of knowledge and experience behind the unlikeliest and most unprepossessing net curtains (etc.) on the North Antrim coast. His Swanton Morley seems to have been born of a similar idea, but now sustained over a whole novel. Some of my fellow reviewers here obviously feel this is asking rather a lot, but I think Sansom just about gets away with it.

Go with it: it's fun.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I've run out of superlatives !, 16 Sept. 2013
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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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Norfolk Mystery, 22 Jan. 2015
By 
Damaskcat (UK) - See all my reviews
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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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2.0 out of 5 stars A major disappointment, 2 May 2015
I found this a disappointing read, after being taken in by the blurb on the back. I like books set in the inter-War period - "The Dig", by John Preston, is my favourite example of this particular genre - and the name of the main character, Swanton Morley, was the hook that really caught me (I trained as a glider pilot at Swanton Morley, an RAF base in Norfolk, many years ago). The story is of how the polymath hero, Swanton Morley himself - assisted by his amanuensis, Sefton, a trauatised survivor of the Spanish civil war, and his daughter, Miriam - goes about unravelling the mystery of why a local village priest was found hanged from the beams of his own church.
The book starts out fairly well (they usually do, don't they?), but after a while Morley's constant effusion of Latin tags and abstruse facts (he is a journalist-cum-author who makes a living as the "People's Professor", publishing columns in daily papers and books of an encyclopedic nature on just about everything) started to get on my nerves. It's one thing to describe a character, quite another to hit you over the head with his quirks until you are punch-drunk with them. Eventually, it became apparent to me that the concentration on characterisation masked the fact that there wasn't really much of a plot, or a mystery, to the novel. The denouement, when it came, revealed a pathetically thin excuse for a revelation that might not have sustained one of Agatha Christie's lesser-known short stories, let alone a full-length novel.
Irritating, repetitive and paper-thin on plot. Disappointing to an exasperating degree. Not recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Journey Into Sesquipadelia, 16 Jan. 2015
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'The Norfolk Mystery' is a delight; original, utterly captivating and executed with style and panache. The characters, all the characters, are beautifully drawn with a precision and economy of language that contrasted delightfully with the astounding verbosity of the central figure, the infuriating but fascinating Swanton Morley.
One needs a good dictionary and access to Wikipaedia to keep up with the good autodact at times but the effort opens new horizons.
For me, the narrator, Sefton, Morley's Doctor Watson, is the real hero.
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2.0 out of 5 stars which some other reviewers seem to feel is so wonderful. I found the main character tedious and repetitive, 13 Oct. 2014
I've also been struggling through this book, which some other reviewers seem to feel is so wonderful. I found the main character tedious and repetitive, and there are far too many anachronisms for a novel supposedly set in the 1930s. At one point Morley refers to 'Sri Lanka', which would have been Ceylon in that period. Worse is the endless reference to 'the reverend'. Nobody in the 1930s would have used this expression: it would have been 'vicar', 'the vicar', 'the rector' or 'the clergyman'. Addressing a clergyman as
'Reverend' is a modern Americanism (which sadly seems to be all too prevalent in British TV dramas these days as well). Another gripe is the use of a real place-name (Swanton Morley - I've been there) for the name of the main character. I feel the same about the comedian Boothby Graffoe, who 'stole' his name from a Lincolnshire village. I accept that this is a personal quibble, but I do feel that it contributes to a lack of belief in the characters as three-dimensional.
On the plus side, I do like the author's evocation of North Norfolk, and the sense that he really knows the area he is writing about. If only the novel had been more rigorously edited to a more fast-flowing narrative, instead of being mired in the tedium of its own cleverness!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Can't wait for the next one!, 6 Mar. 2014
By 
Wynne Kelly "Kellydoll" (Coventry, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Norfolk Mystery (The County Guides) (Paperback)
It is 1937 and Stephen Sephton, a disillusioned veteran of the Spanish Civil War, is penniless and jobless. He spots an intriguing advertisement for an assistant to a writer and is called to a somewhat unorthodox interview and is offered the post. The job is assistant to Swanton Morley (“The People’s Professor”) who is planning a series of guide books to traditional England. They travel to Norfolk to look at interesting facts, history, folk tales etc. But their research is put on hold when they find vicar of Blakeney hanging in his church. Suicide or murder? When a second death occurs soon after Swanton Morley is unable to resist using his knowledge and ingenuity to solve the mystery.

Morley is a great character: clever, opinionated, infuriating and intuitive. Stephen acts as a terrific foil. (Yes, of course, he is the Watson to Morley’s Holmes.) This book celebrates the golden age of British detective fiction but without taking itself too seriously.
It is laugh-out-loud funny in places and highly entertaining. The outcome of the crime is less important than the atmosphere evoked and the good humour of the relationship of this odd couple.

Can’t wait for the next one! Just keep writing, Mr Sansom….
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Swanton Morley Is a tedious bore. The novel has far too many diversions ..., 29 July 2014
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Swanton Morley Is a tedious bore. The novel has far too many diversions which add very little to the plot but much to one's desire to throw the book away.
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