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Holy Disorders (Gervase Fen Mysteries) [Paperback]

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Item description for Holy Disorders (Gervase Fen Mysteries) by Edmund Crispin...

Gervase Fen--the eccentric Oxford don with a knack for solving "impossible" crimes--made his debut in The Case of the Gilded Fly, which Edmund Crispin (in reality, composer Bruce Montgomery) wrote to win a bet. With Holy Disorders, Crispin's skills matured, but Fen remains as maddeningly childish as ever, still deliciously fond of his own wit and erudition, and given to quoting Lewis Carroll at inappropriate occasions. First published in 1945, Holy Disorders takes Fen to the town of Tolnbridge, where he is happily bounding around with a butterfly net until the cathedral organist is murdered, giving Fen the chance to play sleuth. The man didn't have an enemy in the world, and even his music was inoffensive: Could he have fallen afoul of a nest of German spies or of the local coven of witches, ominously rumored to have been practicing since the 17th century? Tracking down the answer pleases Fen immensely--only the reader will have a better time. This, said the New York Times Book Review, is "Fen at his very best."

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Item Specifications...

Pages   240
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 0.75" Width: 5.5" Height: 7.5"
Weight:   0.64 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Feb 15, 2006
Publisher   Felony & Mayhem
ISBN  1933397284  
ISBN13  9781933397283  

Availability  0 units.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > General > Contemporary
2Books > Subjects > Mystery & Thrillers > Authors, A-Z > ( C ) > Crispin, Edmund
3Books > Subjects > Mystery & Thrillers > General
4Books > Subjects > Mystery & Thrillers > Mystery > British Detectives

Reviews - What do customers think about Holy Disorders (Gervase Fen Mysteries)?

"A Quaint and Curious Volume�"  May 30, 2001
For the second mystery in his series featuring Gervase Fen, Oxford don and amateur detective extraordinaire, Edmund Crispin finally treats World War II with more than just a passing reference to blackouts and tobacco substitutes.

Unlike other writers from the Golden Age of British Mystery such as Margery Allingham in "Traitor's Purse" (1941) or Michael Innes in "The Secret Vanguard" (1940), Crispin didn't weigh in against the Nazis with "Holy Disorders" until the war was almost over (1945).

Perhaps it was to be expected that a fictional professor of English Language and Literature would be less informed about current events (WWII!) than a fictional hereditary peer who performed secret missions for the Government (Allingham's Albert Campion) or a fictional chief of New Scotland Yard who performed secret missions for the Government (Innes's Sir John Appleby). Fen does run for office in one of Crispin's later books, but for reasons that have nothing to do with government, politics, or current events.

Incidentally, Sir John Appleby gets some air time in "Holy Disorders," as the local constabulary keeps threatening to call in the big shot from New Scotland Yard when their murders are not promptly solved. Fen manages to fend off Appleby as well as the Nazis.

Instead of a mere 'locked room' murder, "Holy Disorders" sports a pair of 'locked Cathedral' murders. There is also a tinge of the supernatural---collapsing tomb stones, witchcraft, the shadow of a hanged man. As one of the characters says about the first murder victim, "What was it he saw, when he walked alone about the Cathedral? What was it he found there, that no one else has found?"

"Holy Disorders" may not be the most tightly constructed of the Fen mysteries, but there is a full cast of eccentric ecclesiastics, many of them inclined to witty, religious debate and obscure literary allusions. In one of my favorite scenes in the book, Fen and his companion interview one of the murder suspects, a minor church canon, who is unfamiliar with the poetry of Edgar Allan Poe. The interview takes place in the suspect's study which is furnished with, "a pallid bust of Pallas-or more probably of some dead ecclesiastic, since both sex and features were indistinguishable in the crepuscular light---in a niche above the door. And there, great heavens---Geoffrey felt the sense of unreality which one has immediately on waking from a vivid dream---was a raven. It perambulated the desk with that peculiar gracelessness which walking birds have, ruffled its feathers, and stared malignantly at the intruders."

The minor canon also has a wife named Lenore. Once Fen and his friend, Geoffrey learn about Lenore, they are off and quoting:

"On its perch, the raven ruffled its feathers again. The branch of a tree growing outside of the window scraped against the panes. Fen succumbed suddenly to the obsessing temptation.

'Surely,' he said---surely that is someone at your window lattice?'"

The interview deteriorates into a morass of mangled Poe (a fen of finagled Poe?). Even without the evil Nazis and spooky witchcraft, this interview alone is worth the price of "Holy Disorders."

Especially if you were forced (as I was) to memorize "The Raven" at some point in your misspent youth.


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