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3.7 out of 5 stars
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3.7 out of 5 stars
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on 23 April 2003
If you've read Crispin's 'The Moving Toyshop' you'll already be wanting to read this book, if you've read neither 'The Moving Toyshop' or 'Holy Disorders' then you've missed a couple of real treats.
'Holy Disorders' is one of my favourite Crispin novels featuring great characters who whilst they perhaps border on caricatures are such great fun it would be churlish to complain. The setting is a small town in wartime England and centres around the local clergy. It features Gervase Fen, the wonderfully eccentric Professor of English, a true Don. Humour and tight clever plotting recall Michael Innes or Carter Dickson at their very best.
Highly recommended for lovers of the classic English crime novel.
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Holy Disorders is the second Gervase Fen novel, following on from The Case of the Gilded Fly and published in 1945. This is very much Britain in Wartime, although some parts of normal life go on as usual - including the cathedral services at Tolnbridge, where Fen is on holiday from his job as Professor of English at Oxford. When the current organist at the cathedral is attacked, Fen invites Geoffrey Vintner, composer and organist, to take over. Vintner, a mild mannered bachelor, also finds himself attacked, more than once, during the journey and matters are not improved when the eccentric (verging on rude) Fen seems not to even recall asking him to come once he does arrive!

This is a murder mystery with a difference. Full of eccentric characters, rumours of ghosts, devil worship and Nazi spies, Fen is in a race to find the culprit before 'the Yard' arrive and beat him to the chase. Very much in the Golden Age style, this is a puzzle and the emphasis is more on plot than character. Edmund Crispin (pseudonym of Bruce Montgomery) had both his first detective novel and his first musical composition accepted while still an undergraduate at Oxford and you feel that he and Vintner had some things in common - including their love of church music and an ongoing debate about the loss of their bachelor state (Crispin married only two years before his death). This is a fun read, sure to be loved by readers who enjoy detective fiction from this era. The next book in the series is The Moving Toyshop, widely regarded as the authors best book.
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on 16 September 2013
I really enjoyed a couple of other books by this author, which makes it all the sadder to say I disliked this one.To be fair, I think it was the author's skill in portraying his sleuths as a couple of snooty, pedantic academics with no redeeming features which put me off !Perhaps a book a student of sociology might enjoy better , for the attitudes of the 1940s?
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This is the second book written by Edmund Crispin which features Gervase Fen, the Oxford don and part-time detective. The first book, The Case of the Gilded Fly, was published originally in 1944 (and set in 1940), and this book was published in 1945.

Geoffrey Vintner gets an annoyingly cryptic telegram from his friend Fen, which appears to demand his presence at Tolnbridge. Oh, and he wants a butterfly net. Aggrieved, Vintner sets out to buy said butterfly net and travel to Tolnbridge; but somebody seems to be trying to kill him. Slightly surprised by this, his life having so far been fairly blameless, he decides that it has something to do with Fen, and proceeds (with some care) to Tolnbridge to find out what’s going on.

This is an absolutely delightful novel. Set during the War, Tolnbridge is presented as a small seaside town where soldiers and naval ships are present, and where life appears to be going on fairly normally given the war; but in the precincts of the Cathedral dastardly deeds are being done. Fen, of course, considers that only he has the required intelligence to sort it all out, and drags his friend Vintner mercilessly about, searching for the truth.

There are humorous and witty literary references scattered throughout the book (including one extremely funny section involving Poe’s The Raven), a gathering of delightfully dotty characters, each slightly more odd or eccentric than the last, and underneath it all, sinister happenings that may be more dangerous than even Fen had realised.

A wonderful mystery, with a very convoluted unravelling of details, and all wrapped up in an engrossing narrative peopled with great characters, this is a highly recommended read. I look forward to reading more in this series, continuing with the next in the series, The Moving Toyshop.
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on 26 August 2012
Great little whodunnit. Gervaise Fen is such a great character - half caricature, half mad eccentric, and he bounds about having such fun while poor old Geoffrey stubles about with no clue what is really going on. Interesting plot, good character dynamics, well described setting. Dated yes, but enjoyable.
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on 7 March 2016
A very dated and far from satisfying read. With a plot incolving witchcraft, satanism and Nazis, it isn't really surprising that the book is dated, but for me by far the worst aspect is the total lack of characterisation. Our sleuth Fen's main characterisitc is being a "character" with various annoying and pointless eccentricities. By comparisson with the other cardboard cut-outs who populate the book though he comes across as positively well rounded. Ultimately this reads like a second rate spy thriller rather than a classic whodunnit, with Gervase Fen as a poor man's Sherlock Holmes.
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on 10 September 2012
Have just finished this - in both senses of "just". Very nearly gave up on it around p100 as it seemed to be taking forever to get going. Unlike a previous reviewer I couldn't get to grips with what seemed to me to be an excessive number of not very well delineated characters. Will try the next in the series & hope for better.
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on 8 June 2010
I've read most of Crispin's "Fen" series of books, the highlight must be "The Moving Toyshop" - and I'd rank this one towards the bottom. Initially promising, it seems over-long and the end result feels highly contrived. Far too many characters and not enough editing
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This is the second of Edmund Crispin's beautifully compact Gervase Fen mysteries featuring his quirky hero, who moonlights as a detective from his 'day job' as Professor of English at a fictional Oxford University college.

Like the first novel, The Case of the Gilded Fly, there is frequent literary allusion - although it's not vital to the plot, it's great fun working out where the quotations come from. Just make sure you have a copy of Edgar Allan Poe's poem "The Raven" handy! The book is also full of outlandish situations, such as Geoffrey Vintner in the early pages lurching inexpertly from one life-threatening situation to another whilst clutching the huge butterfly net that Fen has insisted he brings with him. We are also introduced to a range of eccentric clerics alongside some neo-Nazis and a coven of devil-worshippers as well as a group of policemen who seem to have been spirited in from The Pirates of Penzance...and then there is the murder in the cathedral...all within the span of the same day.

Fen himself does not appear until we get nearly a third of the way through the book, although we are frequently reminded of him via notes and people's reports of conversations with him. The final section of the book is much darker than we might expect from what precedes it, but it brings a sharp dose of realism to the plot and highlights the seriousness of the situation.

There is great fun to be had with this book. Like its predecessor, there is a map in the early stages which holds some of the answers. See if you can work out who did it - and how!
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on 2 August 2014
A very fast and efficient service - and just as described! Much appreciated.
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