It is Friday and that means it is time for Friday’s Forgotten Books hosted by Patti Abbott. Like last week, Todd Mason is collecting the titles and links to compile the list on his excellent blog at http://socialistjazz.blogspot.com/ as Patti is unavailable today. If you are not already reading Todd’s blog you should be. Thanks again to Barry for not only contributing another review but all his help in keeping things going around here.
To make matters worse, the bodies of two masters, Somers and Love, are found. Both men have been murdered. Still later, the body of slovenly Mrs. Bly, a woman who lives in the country nearby, is discovered by a clerk on a walking tour vacation.
Are the events ill-timed random occurrences, or are they connected? (If you can’t answer that question, you’ve clearly never read a traditional whodunit.)
Fortunately for the local, inexperienced Superintendent Stagge, Oxford Professor of English and amateur sleuth Gervase Fen, a friend of Castrevenford’s headmaster, is on hand to present Speech Day awards. Stagge is grateful for his assistance.
It doesn’t take too long before Fen discovers what connects Brenda’s disappearance and the three murders: a lost literary treasure of enormous scholarly and financial value. He knows rather quickly who the murderer is, too, but in accordance with classic tradition, won’t reveal the name until he has conclusive proof.
Edmund Crispin (real name Bruce Montgomery) was one of mystery fiction’s most literate producers. (You might want to have a good dictionary close by for when you encounter words like ferial, resipiscently, unhouseled, and irrefragable.) He was a skilled plotter, and had a knack for creating wildly colorful characters. Love Lies Bleeding has a solid enough plot, but I found it, on the whole, to be a disappointment. Most of the characters are mere names on the page; they don’t come to life as individuals, and they and the novel’s overall tone lack the expansive extravagance I’ve come to expect from Crispin. Even Fen’s explanation of the solution and how he arrived at it felt plodding and tedious.
I can recommend this one to readers already familiar with Crispin via livelier works such as The Moving Toyshop, Buried for Pleasure, Swan Song, and The Case of the Gilded Fly. If you’re new to his work, this probably isn’t the place to start.
Barry Ergang ©2008, 2012