Novella a Day in May 2019 #26

Buried for Pleasure – Edmund Crispin (1948) 176 pages

Although I’m not a big reader of contemporary crime, I do like a golden age mystery and I enjoy Crispin’s tales of amateur detective/Oxford professor Gervase Fen’s adventures. In Buried for Pleasure, Fen has left Oxford to travel to the delightfully named Sandford Angelorum, where he is standing for Parliament as an Independent.

“This panorama displeased Fen, he thought it blank and unenlivening. There was, however, nothing to be done about it except repine. He repined briefly and extracted himself and his luggage from the compartment.”

Fen stays at The Fish Inn where loud renovations undertaken by the owner blast him out of bed every morning. He seems surrounded by comely women – the bar manager, the bar maid, the local taxi driver.  Thankfully once their attractiveness is established it isn’t dwelt on and there’s some good characterisation of women in this, which is not always present in GA novels. In fact, the resident detective novelist, Mr Judd, is quite scathing about the whole thing:

“Characterisation seems to me a very overrated element in fiction. I can never see why one should be obliged to have any of it at all, if one doesn’t want to. It limits the form so.”

Crispin pokes fun at everyone in this novel. Novelists, academics, and of course politicians all come in for a gentle ribbing. There is the response to Fen’s first loquacious, entirely meaningless political speech:

“ ‘You’re a natural, old boy … can you keep that sort of thing up?’

‘Indefinitely,’ Fen assured him. ‘The command of cliché comes of having had a literary training.’”

And the political system as a whole:

“ ‘Now, these Sandford people don’t know you as well as I do,’ Captain Watkyn pursued, with a confidence which their quarter-hour acquaintance did not seem to Fen entirely to justify, ‘and … they’re quite likely to elect some scoundrelly nitwit who’ll help send the country to the dogs. Therefore, they’ve got to be jollied along a bit – for their own good, d’you see?’

‘As Plato remarked.’

‘As whatsit remarked, yes.’”

This is not the GA novel to read if you’re in the mood for a good murder with plenty of suspects and clues to work out. This side of the novel – a poisoning before Fen arrives, a stabbing after he becomes resident in the village – is pretty negligible.

However, it’s funny, light, endearing, and doesn’t fall into many of the prejudices which can mar this genre, although the villagers are portrayed as a bit yokely.

Buried for Pleasure was just what I needed after the gothic tribulations of O Caledonia yesterday: complete and utter nonsense and none the worse for it 😀

 

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16 thoughts on “Novella a Day in May 2019 #26

  1. This sounds like a lot of fun! We all need books like this in our lives now and again, particularly in light of the current political environment. Would you recommend this as a good intro to the Gervase Fen mysteries or better to start elsewhere (e.g. the Gilded Fly)? I’d like to try one at some point.

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    • Yes, I think I should probably read more fun books to try and cope with the news at the moment! The Gilded Fly ids the first Fen novel and a good place to start, although you can read them in any order and The Moving Toyshop is also good fun. I hope you enjoy your time with Fen as much as I did Jacqui!

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    • It was good fun, and the political satire definitely hit home with the way things are now (sadly, given it was written 70 years ago, that side hasn’t dated). The Gilded Fly is good fun Ali, I hoe you enjoy it 🙂

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  2. Hahaha: “complete and utter nonsense”! Yes, I could use a little more of that in my stacks. It sets off the thinking-too-much portion of the TBR!

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  3. I’ve only read one Crispin – The Moving Toyshop – and loved the humour, and all the cheeky fun-poking at various pillars of the establishment. He’s on my list of authors to be further investigated – tragically, there are currently 124 authors on there. I’m hoping that when I end up in prison there will be an extensive library… 😁

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