This volume in the Gervase Fen mystery series by Edmund Crispin is a fine addition to the series. It is the final volume of the Vintage (Random House) set which were reprinted in 2009 with smart new covers. All the ensuing books need to be found second-hand or in Kindle editions.
Surprisingly, Fen has moved out to a small countryside constituency to run for parliament as an independent candidate, having tired of his life as a professor of English in the Oxford college of St Christopher. Less surprisingly, dark deeds are afoot which Fen gets drawn into and ends up helping to solve. There is a magnificent gallery of characters depicted in the book, and a number of entertaining, on-going situations such as the enthusiastic but misplaced amateur demolition work going on to renovate the pub attached to the hotel where Fen is staying. Crispin's insights into the world of politics show that remarkably little has changed since the 1940s and Fen's discussions with his campaign manager are frequently hilarious.
The dénouement of the novel is particularly well thought-through and the reader can look back through the book and see where the clues to one of the significant aspects of the case were laid in front of us by the author.
On balance, this is probably the most consistently enjoyable and well-written of the Fen mysteries, closely followed by The Moving Toyshop and Frequent Hearses. It is also a very compact and economical story, told within 180 gripping pages.
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