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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
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 16 months ago by ACB(swansea)

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3 of 3 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 3 months ago by Philip Hind Woodward


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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) - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
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This review is from: The Norfolk Mystery (The County Guides) (Kindle Edition)
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
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This review is from: The Norfolk Mystery (The County Guides) (Kindle Edition)
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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Dire, 6 Aug 2014
Parvum in multo, as the appallingly tedious Sefton Morley might have said (and probably will say in a future book). Mannered to the point of unreadability, with no significant plot and characters so cardboard they disappear when viewed sideways, this is a worthy successor to the so-called "Golden Age of Crime Ficition". If you want to be bored silly on a winter's night sitting in front of a cozy fire, this is the book for you. Avoid.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I really wanted to like this book but couldn't warm to it, 30 Sep 2014
By 
Debbie Young "Debbie Young" (Gloucestershire, England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Norfolk Mystery (The County Guides) (Kindle Edition)
I really wanted to like this book, for lots of reasons. I love the Golden Age of Crime Fiction - Sayers, Christie etc - and I thought the concept of having a series presumably intended to travel eventually to every county was genius. I also liked the opening chapter, getting to know Stephen Sefton and his background fighting in the Spanish Civil War - what a great foil to cosy mystery detection in England and one that could add real depth and a greater sense of England's place on the world stage in the 30s, an era that I find fascinating and compelling.

But the promise of the initial chapters and set-up of Sefton as a sidekick to an eccentric professor with a beautiful, feisty daughter was never fulfilled. Lots of things quickly went wrong: Professor Morley swiftly turned from engaging to annoying, and while I suspect he was meant to appear to be a Holmesian character with quirks but depth, we never got to see the depth, discovering why he is so obsessive about facts and such a compulsive writer, why his morals and judgement are as they are, what happened to his wife, why does his daughter still live with him, what is the nature of their relationship. The daughter, Miriam, who I really liked, disappears to London for most of the book, abandoning Sefton and Morley in Norfolk, and I don't blame her. We are also never told why Morley needs Sefton as a sidekick anyway - he never does anything useful except stand around smoking, drinking and trying to pick up any vaguely attractive woman that looks twice at him. Dr Watson may not have Holmes' sharp detective skills, but saves Holmes' bacon and his sanity frequently, and there is a clear and touching dependency. Not so with Morley and Sefton.

In what little there is of the plot contains too many unbelievable incidents, e.g. (plot spoiler alert): the sex scene, the vicar's suicide, the girl's setting fire to herself, Morley taking to the pulpit at the end of the service and revealing his take on the vicar's death (who for some unknown reason is bizarrely referred to by everyone as "the reverend" and never "the vicar"). I live in a small village where lots of mad and quirky things happen, and I often think "you couldn't make this up", but even to me this story was just ridiculous. I was also bewildered by the inclusion of archaic photos of rural Norfolk which looked as if they'd been chosen to make the place look especially dull and characterless. If I was a native of Norfolk, I would not be pleased. Developing a more flattering depiction of Norfolk - and, to be fair, Morley's endless ramblings about detail do add a spark of interest in a county I know little about - could have turned this into a local bestseller boosting tourism, which may not be any novelist's prime artistic aim, but it's a smart way to sell more books. A valuable trick missed.

The story could have been so much better, if only there had been some character development, some depth to Morley, and a more believable plot, which could easily have been spun from the same starting point. The author's missed another trick in not setting up an on-and-off relationship between Sefton and Miriam, which would have added interest, fun, and another layer, and had readers clamouring for his next book in the series to see what happens next between them. Such a shame, as the author can clearly write well, and a much better book was within his grasp. I'm tempted to try the next in the series to see whether he's got a grip there, but am wary of wasting my time and finding further disappointment. I don't want to have it confirmed that the prime purpose of the series is not to entertain readers but to demonstrate the author's own erudition and vast general knowledge, thinly veiled in false irony. Disappointing.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I've run out of superlatives !, 16 Sep 2013
This review is from: The Norfolk Mystery (The County Guides) (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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, 21 Aug 2014
By 
C "Clare Jarmy" (Cambridge, England) - See all my reviews
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. It's not clear at what time this is being narrated- Sefton seems only a couple of times to be looking back in the way he does at the beginning. Most of the time, the narration is not really detachef from the main action. It also irked me that he used the phrase 'the reverend' throughout, which doesn't ring true for how parishoners actually address their vicar. The twist at the end is both underprepared but also feels obvious as soon as it's there. I finished the book just being glad it was over.
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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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Norfolk Mystery, 9 Aug 2013
By 
S Riaz "S Riaz" (England) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 10 REVIEWER)   
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This review is from: The Norfolk Mystery (The County Guides) (Kindle Edition)
It is 1932 and Stephen Sefton has returned to England after fighting in the Spanish Civil War. He is aimless, unemployed and wondering what to do next when he comes across an advert in The Times asking for an assistant for a writer. After a rather bizarre interview, he is employed by the eccentric Swanton Morley; known in the press as "the People's Professor". Self taught and with an exhausting work ethic, Morley intends to write a series of books called "The County Guides" and to complete this mammoth task of guides to all the counties in England by 1939. Before he knows what is happening, Sefton has met Morley's charming daughter Miriam and is on his way to accompanying him on their first journey to Norfolk. However, their schedule is halted by the 'mystery of the Church at Blakeney', when the Reverend is found hanging from a bell rope.

If you enjoy cozy mysteries, particularly those with a historical twist, you are bound to enjoy this novel. Both Sefton and Morley are delightful characters. Sefton Morley is totally charming, although his hackles can be raised when snobbery rears its ugly head and his abilities are questioned. He knows, it seems, everything about everything and Stephen Sefton views him with part admiration and part exasperation. Their next outing is to Devon and I look forward to reading on in this promising series.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars a truly tedious read, 18 July 2014
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This review is from: The Norfolk Mystery (The County Guides) (Kindle Edition)
I found this book over mannered and tedious. Almost all of the characters were two dimensional and Sefton's employer irritating beyond belief. The only reason I reached the halfway mark was because I had spent £4 on this kindle edition. A complete waste of time and money.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not at all as I expected..., 5 Jan 2014
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This review is from: The Norfolk Mystery (The County Guides) (Kindle Edition)
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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