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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't let the sub-title put you off!
Yes, it is a whodunnit, and yes the main characters are a group of young barristers. But "a legal whodunnit" makes this sound both dull and old-fashioned, which it isn't! The main character is off to find fun and sex on a holiday she can't afford to take - and gets involved in murder as well, and what follows is how her friends manage to investigate the case. I can't tell...
Published on 5 Feb 2003 by fortuna104

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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars an erudite romp through Venice and Lincoln's Inn
Hoping to temporarily forget the harrassment of the despised Inland Revenue, Julia goes to Venice on an Art Lovers' Holiday, armed only with borrowed guidebooks and a working knowledge of dead languages. She is hoping to find Love as well as Art, but the Inland Revenue intrudes and murderous as well as romantic complications ensue.
This book is a treat if you enjoy...
Published on 16 July 2002


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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't let the sub-title put you off!, 5 Feb 2003
Yes, it is a whodunnit, and yes the main characters are a group of young barristers. But "a legal whodunnit" makes this sound both dull and old-fashioned, which it isn't! The main character is off to find fun and sex on a holiday she can't afford to take - and gets involved in murder as well, and what follows is how her friends manage to investigate the case. I can't tell you too much without spoiling the plot, other than that it is funny as well as being a good murder mystery - and it's the sort of book you'll want to read over again, so buy it don't borrow it! Oh yes, it's well written too.......
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliantly funny mystery, 4 July 2004
By 
L O'connor (richmond, surrey United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This is the first of Sarah Caudwell's series of legal whodunnits narrated by Hilary Temple, professor of Legal History at Oxford. Hilary's friends are a group of young barristers in Chancery Lane, Timothy, her former pupil, the austere and elegant Ragwort, impulsive, imaginative Cantrip, Selena, who is like 'a Persian cat which has just completed a succesful cross-examination' and passionate, susceptible, accident-prone Julia. Julia, who is having a disagreement with the tax man, decides to get away from it all by going on an Art Lovers tour of Italy, where she meets a beautiful young man called Ned and succumbs to his charms. Then one afternoon, after having enjoyed a passionate interlude with Ned, Julia finds him dead in bed. It turns out that Ned was an employee of the Inland Revenue, which means, as Ragwort reasonably points out, that anyone might have murdered him. However, Julia is chief suspect, and her colleagues set out to try and prove her innocence. They track down the other membersof the Art Lovers tour to try and find out the truth. Cantrip finds himself inteviewing a dodgy art dealer, the Major, who spends their time together telling Cantrip about all the women in his life. "The Major's known a lot of women. The right sort of women. The wrong sort of women. Women who would, women who wouldn't, women who might have. He told me about them all." This is a blissfully funny book. All the characters are hilarious, the book has a complex and ingeneous plot, witty dialogue, and a laugh in nearly every sentence.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Introducing Hilary Tamar and the members of the Nursery at 62 New Square, 5 April 2007
By 
Michele L. Worley (Kingdom of the Mouse, United States) - See all my reviews
"'I don't believe Shakespeare told Julia to try fainting,' said Cantrip. 'He's dead.'

'She is referring,' said Selena, 'to his early poem "Venus and Adonis". Julia read it at an impressionable age and has since regarded it as a sort of seduction manual.'

'It is a most indelicate work,' said Ragwort. 'Not at all suitable reading for a young girl.'

'It's hardly Julia's fault,' said Selena. 'They told her at school that Shakespeare was educational.'

'As I recall,' I said, 'the methods employed by the goddess in her pursuit of Adonis, though forceful, achieved only limited success. Doesn't Julia find that discouraging?'"

- the members of the Nursery, discussing with Hilary Tamar Julia's latest letter, herein

There you have a sample of the speech and manner of four of the principal performers of Sarah Caudwell's Hilary Tamar mysteries: honey-tongued Selena, who could get someone out of a deal with the devil on a good day; the incorruptably prudish Ragwort; legal scholar and Oxford don Hilary Tamar; and Cantrip, the token Cambridge graduate among a flock of Oxonians. It always tickles me that while the others dazzle us with floods of sophisticated wit, Cantrip sounds like an escapee from P.G. Wodehouse who might hang out with Bertie Wooster. Cantrip also has the least reputable skills, such as lockpicking, and associates, such as his connections at the newspaper that uses him to check for potentially libelous material before going to press.

As the story opens, the four junior barristers of 62 New Square, unable to take their own holidays thanks to the tyranny of their clerk, are whiling away their days of toil by looking forward to two things: holiday letters from their colleague Julia Larwood, and coffee and gossip sessions with their old mentor Hilary Tamar, at which the letters are shared around. The most they expect are cheerful travelogues of an Art Lovers' Holiday from their hapless friend who hopes for more Love than Art from her holiday, having spent a very stressful few months doing battle with the tax authorities. Her friends, for their part, hope that putting Julia on a packaged tour will compensate for letting their accident-prone friend out without a keeper.

At first, all is pretty much as expected: Julia reports a series of very funny mishaps and minor disasters in her encounters with her fellow Art Lovers, beginning with attracting the pursuit of the Major (old ex-army bore, now selling shady antiques and art objects), failing to attract the lovely Ned (already in a relationship with rising sculptor Kenneth Dunfermline), and accidentally giving the impression of attempting to attract her friendly shopping companion Marylou (whose husband broke a promise not to make it a working vacation, then picked an awkward moment to walk in on them). The last member of the group, wealthy art gallery owner Eleanor Frostfield, far from involving any attraction to/from anyone, distributes insults and starts fights with all the generosity she fails to show financially to her artists - or to fellow travellers who have to pick up the check at a cafe. Her holiday, naturally, is being put down as a business expense.

Speaking of working holidays, several characters turn out to have them. Timothy Shepherd - another member of the Nursery - amid many grumblings from his colleagues is sent to Venice to reason with a client who needs to take steps to avoid paying heavy taxes on an inheritance. Several of the Art Lovers are professionally involved with the Tiverton Collection forming part of the client's estate, though whether as legitimate valuators, potential buyers, or hopeful sneak thieves is an open question.

As Ragwort later remarks, if anyone were to be murdered, it's surprising that nobody murdered Julia. :) Fortunately, Cantrip at his part-time newspaper consulting job intercepts a report that she's a suspect within hours of the murder, he and the rest of Julia's friends need waste no time getting to work on solving the problem.

The story has very polished language, helped along by the fact that it alternates between long chatty letters and conversations among the recipients analyzing them both for clues leading to the actual culprit and for any plausible-sounding line of defence that might hold up in court. I highly recommend listening to the unabridged recording read by Eva Haddon, who handles all the characters superbly, from Julia's perpetual inability to understand what's going on if it doesn't involve the Taxes Acts to Hilary Tamar's discourses on the usefulness of scholarship in identifying and sorting out discrepancies in evidence.

Highly recommended.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A clever classic mystery with a good dose of humour., 29 Dec 1998
By A Customer
From the very first paragraph of this book, the reader knows that Sarah Caudwell's writing will be clever and entertaining throughout! The twists and turns of a classic "whodunnit" as well as a cast of hilarious characters (amusing to identify on the Edward Gorey cover illustration) keep the readerguessing in this story of murder in a romantic foreign setting. A definite "must read" for mystery fans who enjoy using their "little grey cells."
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Death in Venice, 17 Jan 2013
By 
Roman Clodia (London) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
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This review is from: Thus Was Adonis Murdered (Kindle Edition)
This is a wonderfully funny and articulate read set amongst a group of young lawyers practising at Lincoln's Inn. Julia goes on a trip to Venice - but when a fellow traveller is found stabbed in his bed she's soon `helping the police with their enquiries'... while her colleagues back in London try to find the real murderer.

This was first published in 1981 but I think written earlier and does depict a far more innocent world where people can joke about `extremists' hijacking planes, and where people write each other long letters on a daily basis.

It is set in an elite environment of Oxford-educated lawyers and academics (poor Cantrip is pitied for his deficient education - he only went to Cambridge!), and is full of effete, beautiful young men, and ambiguous sexualities.

What makes this book are the narrative voices: sly, witty and slightly malicious. Like Wodehouse and Nancy Mitford, the humour and enjoyment of the book is as much, perhaps more, in the style of telling as in what is told. Hugely enjoyable!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great deal of fun for lawyers, 16 Oct 2013
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This review is from: Thus Was Adonis Murdered (Kindle Edition)
It is a clever novel with a great deal of humour - I immediately ordered other books by her, as I enjoyed it so much. It is based round a chamber of barristers who become involved in some murky goings on which eventually lead them to Greece. Great fun.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting style., 28 Sep 2013
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A bit old fashioned but a good crime novel. I liked the legal setting which gave it a different feel.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lovely intelligent read, 4 Sep 2013
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A bit overly wordy but an absolute delight nonetheless.
As gently humorous as a murder mystery can be. Just a shame that more weren't written.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The First in a Wonderful Series of Books, 26 April 2013
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This review is from: Thus Was Adonis Murdered (Kindle Edition)
I discovered this book when Amazon offered it for 99 pence as a Kindle download. At that price I thought it was worth a go, especially after reading the reviews given it was an author I had never heard of.

I am so glad I did. I thoroughly enjoyed the book, and have gone on to read the other three titles in the series. Sarah Caudwell's stories are based around a group of lawyers and their mentor Professor Hilary Tamar who get involved with and solve 'legal' mysteries. Each story has a financial/legal/tax background and so there are many mantions of the law relating to those areas. Don't let this put you off, as in my view Sarah Caudwell makes it understandable.

The books are witty, sophisticated, and funny and the crimes themselves are well thought out with many twists and turns. They are not the sort of book you can skim through, you do have to concentrate on the story in order to avoid missing anything important but in my view this makes them a very satisfying read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hmmmm. Interesting!, 15 April 2013
This review is from: Thus Was Adonis Murdered (Kindle Edition)
What an amusing idea....to write a mystery in pompous Legalese English, about the oddest set of barristers - or are they? Almost farcical, but clever. I enjoyed the various 'voices' in the letters, which I found to be cleverly done. I liked the development of the plot through the letters, and the dry academic classicist narrator. The rather long winded opening paragraphs with their measured academic approach had me wondering, but in the end this was an enjoyable and entertaining read.
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Thus Was Adonis Murdered
Thus Was Adonis Murdered by Sarah Caudwell
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