Death on the Cherwell

There is a good series of mystery novels: the British Library Crime Classics. They’re reissues of Golden Age crime novels. I’m discovering lots of ‘new’ novelists.

One of these is Mavis Doriel Hay, whose Death on the Cherwell I picked up in my last library haul.

The body of the Bursar of Persephone College, Oxford, is discovered by a group of her students floating down the River Cherwell in her own canoe. The students were gathered on the boathouse roof to establish a new society for the express purpose of cursing the not-well-liked Bursar.

Suspects, not unnaturally, abound, and the college principle, Miss Cordell, is aghast – the vulgarity of the publicity! It gets worse (from her point of view) when the students begin their own investigations.

I enjoyed reading it, but I can see why Mavis Doriel Hay did not become as well known as some of her peers (not least because she only published three crime novels). It also struck me that perhaps those who condemn adverbs (especially as regards speech) and words other than ‘said’ for identifying speakers might not be quite as judgmental as I normally consider them. Used judiciously, other speech identifiers and modifiers are good; otherwise it does become a bit silly. Like all the conspiracy theories in a lot of criminal TV series. Something to bear in mind with my next piece of fiction.




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