Saturday, February 8, 2014

Buried for Pleasure, by Edmund Crispin

I came back to Edmund Crispin after a long absence, mainly by happenstance. I had a copy of Buried for Pleasure floating around the house, and as for some reason I'm very drawn to reading old, neglected mass market paperbacks these days (mainly because to a large extent, the format seems to be doomed) I picked this up. Although strictly speaking this isn't a Golden Age mystery, being published a few years after the Second World War, to all intents and purposes it may as well be.

Gervase Fen, Oxford don and professor of literature, has decided to run for parliament, for reasons that are never quite clear. Boredom with the academic lot and a desire for a new role are cited, though it's patently clear that what Fen wants is a vacation, preferably with a little crimesolving thrown in. And this is exactly what he gets.

I'll say up front that this is the kind of book which you either find tedious or find delightful (as I do), almost regardless of the mystery, although I think Crispin does an honorable job on this aspect. Where he really excels is at creating the three ring circus that is Sanford Angelorum, the small English village from which he runs his campaign. I see reviewers make useful comparisons to Michael Innes and John Dickson Carr, but really the writer Crispin puts me more in mind of is Margery Allingham. The prose is sparkling, Crispin's erudition evident (in real life, he was the Oxford educated composer Robert Bruce Montgomery), and it takes pleasure in the eccentricities of life. Sanford Angelorum, odd though it is, seems a place that will continue on after Fen's and our departure.

I will take issue with one small detail of the book, though. The non-doing pig has a good deal more charm than Gervase Fen credits...


  1. This reader has piqued my curiosity about the non-doing pig having more charm than Fen credits . . . where does Crispin more fully elucidate upon the pig, and why is it "non-doing?" (Aren't pigs wont to be less than doing anyway? Is this his intent?) And with whom is the pig "love-struck?" I wonder is it not Fen, although the Cleric comes close?

    1. Thanks for these thought provoking comments, Chris. Unfortunately, it's been too long since I read Crispin now to even pretend to have any insight to offer. You do remind me, though, to get on with my Crispin!