Friday, May 18, 2012

FFB Review: “Love Lies Bleeding” by Edmund Crispin (1948)--Reviewed by Barry Ergang

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 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.
The timing couldn’t be worse at Castrevenford School. Brenda Boyce, a schoolgirl who is precocious in ways that are unhealthy—even potentially deadly—has gone missing. So have some dangerous chemicals from the school’s science lab. These incidents just before Castrevenford’s annual Speech Day.

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

Barry Ergang has a mystery spoof short story in the recently released anthology Uncle John's Bathroom Reader Presents Flush Fiction, which is available at and at Barnes & He has books from his personal collection for sale at He'll contribute 20% of the purchase price of the books to Kevin’s fund, so please have a look at his lists, which have recently been added to. For links to material he's written that's available online, and fiction that's available for e-readers, see


Anonymous said...

the only one of his I've read is MOVING TOYSHOP. This sounds interesting, I'll try it. Thanks.

Peg said...

I'm going to seek out LOVE LIES BLEEDING now. Thanks for posting Kevin!

Peg said...
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