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3.1 out of 5 stars
3.1 out of 5 stars
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on 24 June 2015
I love the classic English murder mystery set in the inter-war period so this should have been right up my street. Alas it was a dreadful disappointment.

The first chapters give us the back story of the narrator which is interesting but doesn’t develop. Instead various tedious and boring conversations with the professor take place and I found myself skimming waiting for something to happen. Eventually a body is found – some more long irrelevant conversations take place, and then there is an announcement in church as to what happened. I couldn’t wait to finish this book so I could start something interesting.

• If you don’t speak Latin you’re in trouble – the author litters almost every page with some Latin saying without explaining what they mean. This was pretentious and disrespectful to the reader.
• The main professor character is presumably supposed to be a quirky character but comes across as an off-putting know-it-all bore
• His daughter is straight out of the cliché school of feisty young woman – even down to a risible fast driving escapade and has very little to do
• The narrator seems like the most interesting character but apart from his back story he isn't really involved
• There is no mystery – the biggest crime of all!

This is the first in a series set in various counties of Britain – I will not be continuing the journey and would advise anyone against buying a ticket.
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on 1 August 2014
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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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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on 26 March 2016
The author has certainly created an original literary character in Swanton Morley but I didn't particularly warm to him. As many have said before, his inability to refrain from uttering some Latin phrase at every situation becomes tedious. The author needs to tone down this aspect of his character.
The story is reasonably interesting but the plot (as it is) lacks depth and ultimately goes nowhere.
The author occasionally introduces a word or situation that seems completely out of step with the overall tone of the book e.g. the narrator's meeting with Hannah.
Living in Norfolk, I liked the local connections made. However, the illustrations seem arbitrary.
Will I buy the next book in the series? Probably not.
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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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on 13 April 2015
the difference between this &, say, miss marple, or, heaven forbid, holmes & watson --as advertised!-- is not only that this is poorly written & the others are brilliantly written, but more to the point, the others were Murder Mysteries. & this [warning: spoiler coming, watch out!] is neither a murder nor a mystery, just a very very boring & enormously irritating man yattering on & on. if you have read authentic 1930s murders, you will NOT like this.
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on 26 November 2015
I must admit I was expecting something more. This is very much a book which focuses on character to the expense of plot. The characters themselves (especially the protagonist, Swanton Morley) are overtly eccentric and as a result grate upon the readers nerves rather than being something enjoyable and entertaining to read. The plot itself is wafer thin and deeply unsatisfying by the conclusion. There are definitely better books out there.
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on 17 June 2015
This is dreadful - talk about boring and pretentious - I think that author was trying to prove how many Latin phrases he knew..... The plot is thin, the characters are very unengaging and unbelievable. To compare this to Allingham and Sayers is an insult. I would not bother with it - there are other much better classic crime novels - with real plots, good writing and real characters - available!!!
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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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on 6 April 2015
This was disappointinf as I have read the Mobile Library mysteries and enjoyed them. In the end I found this far too wordy in that the main character constantly digressed and in the end was boring. I skip read to find out the outcome but immediately deleted it from my kindle. Might be OK if you like reading books where the main character talks all the time about everything under the sun but the plot could be reduced to a few sentences.
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