For Geoffrey, the choosing of a tie had developed into an elaborate ceremonial, involving reference to his suit and shirt, to the weather, and to an imperfect memory of what he had worn during the preceding ten or fourteen days. On this particular morning, having returned with some sense of anti-climax to the tie he had first selected, he gazed for rather longer than usual at his reflection in the dressing-table mirror. The impact of womanhood on his life, he reflected, is to make one rather more attentive to one’s imperfections than is normal. None the less, he did look at least ten years younger than his age; the slightly faun-like mischievousness of his face was, he supposed, not unattractive; light blue eyes and close-cropped brown hair had, without doubt, their charms… From these complacent reflections he was interrupted by a subterranean booming which he supposed must mean breakfast. He bent his attention painfully upon the outside world again, and hurried downstairs.
observations: There are many things worthy of comment in Edmund Crispin’s books: they are enjoyable lightly comic crime fiction stories and his series hero Gervase Fen is a fine creation, and there are some strange plots and great clues going on. There is another aspect of his books which we discussed in a blog entry featured on the Guardian books blog (sex, since you ask). And here’s something else: a man taking pains with his appearance because he is newly in love – surely a very real phenomenon, but not one that turns up in books much. (There is this excellent piece of David Copperfield as a major counter-example, also discussed on a Guardian podcast). But here’s nice Geoffrey thinking about the beautiful daughter of the Precentor. Geoffrey is a musical expert, as was his creator – Crispin was the penname of composer Bruce Montgomery who, solid gold fact, composed scores for the Carry On films.
The action takes place during the second world war, and it is a key element - there may be spies - but oddly there is no wartime atmosphere, and most of the action could take place at any time. The story is a touch melodramatic, but not in the completely unlikely way that, say, The Moving Toyshop is – it’s a plot that you could imagine coming from another writer, not true of most of Crispin. But like his others, this one is clever and funny and charming. Gervase Fen describes a knot used by the killer and says it is called the Hook, Line and Sinker because ‘the reader has to swallow it.’ The cathedral clergy are shown as detective story fans: apparently they are ‘great readers – they have little else to do.’
Another Cathedral Close mystery here, and a Nativity play set in a Cathedral here.
The sweet, if rather fuzzy, photo is of E Herbert Norman, a Canadian diplomat and historian, as a young man.