Item description for Swan Song (Felony & Mayhem Mysteries) (Gervase Fen Mysteries) by Edmund Crispin...
Hurrah! With the Nazi's routed, the British can sing Wagner again. The company assembled in Oxford for the first post-war production of Die Meistersinger is delighted, but their happiness is soured by word that the odious Edwin Shorthouse will be singing a leading role. Nearly everyone in the company has reason to loathe Shorthouse, but who could have had the feindish ingenuity to kill him in his own locked dressing room? Answering that question will require a certain finesse, a certain je ne sais quoi, a certain eccentric professor of English Literature with a passion for amateur detecting. Happily, Gervase Fen is on the scene, fresh from his adventures in The Case of the Gilded Fly and Holy Disorders, with his sleuthing skills as sharp as his epigrams.
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Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 0.5" Width: 5.25" Height: 7.25" Weight: 0.5 lbs.
Release Date Oct 15, 2006
Publisher Felony & Mayhem
ISBN 1933397543 ISBN13 9781933397542
Reviews - What do customers think about Swan Song (Felony & Mayhem Mysteries) (Gervase Fen Mysteries)?
Gervase Fen is the best! Apr 10, 2007
All of Crispin's boks are wonderful, funny mysteries. I am only sorry that he was so creative that he spent a lot of his time doing other things.
Alternate title: "Dead and Dumb" May 29, 2001
The British mystery author, Michael Innes a.k.a. John Innes Mackintosh Stewart wrote the introduction to "Swan Song," wherein he claims that Crispin solved the dilemma of the 'Great Detective versus the bumbling police' scenario that many Golden Age mystery authors had to contend with. The dilemma in a nutshell: why would a twentieth-century policeman, who was much more adept and scientifically trained than his counterpart in the late Victorian era of Sherlock and Mycroft, call in an amateur (no matter how intelligent) to help him with his inquiries?
According to Innes, "The Great Detective was, curiously, often a person of title, like Dorothy Sayers's Lord Peter Wimsey, or at least the familiar of persons of title. It is never easy to render plausible the acceptance of a meddlesome private investigator by a group of professional policemen standing round a corpse, and novelists appear to have felt that a lord will be better received..."
Innes himself wrote a series of mysteries starring the titled Sir John Appleby.
Crispin avoided the 'blue-blooded detective' solution. His detective, Gervase Fen is part of the same social milieu as the police. He is a professor of English literature at Oxford, but his cherished hobby is criminal investigation. His detective counterpart (Sir Richard Freeman in "Swan Song") has a passion for literary scholarship. Their dialogues (mainly disagreements) keep "Swan Song" swimming right along. It's definitely not a 'Great Detective versus bumbling policeman' relationship---it's more like two crotchety friends with mutual interests who keep running into each other in various Oxford pubs and murder scenes.
"Swan Song" starts out rather unpromisingly:
"There are few creatures more stupid than the average singer. It would appear that the fractional adjustment of larynx, glottis and sinuses required in the production of beautiful sounds must almost invariably be accompanied---so perverse are the habits of Providence---by the witlessness of a barnyard fowl."
I would have thought that the above statement applied to tenors and sopranos only (singing in such a high register seems to destroy their brain cells), but it is the bass in "Swan Song" who sets himself up for murder. Several members of "Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg" cast have good reasons for wishing Edwin Shorthouse dead, in spite of his voice and its drawing power.
Even his composer-brother has a motive for killing the bass, and after a meeting with him, Fen is also made to question the intelligence of composers: "As a general rule, composers aren't the brightest of mortals, except where music's concerned."
Since Crispin himself composed music, it might be better if the reader did not take his commentary on the intelligence of musicians too seriously!
One of my favorite characters from "The Moving Toyshop" shows up in "Swan Song"-the deaf and (according to Fen) senile Professor Wilkes who makes a habit of stealing Fen's whisky. He and Fen are always good for a round or two of acrimonious repartee whenever they meet.
A third dialogue element that threads merrily through the book is a crime writer's attempt to interview Fen about his most famous cases. Every time Fen clears his throat and begins, "The era of my greatest successes..." someone is bound to interrupt him.
We never do get to learn what Fen considers his greatest successes, but surely the outcome of "Swan Song" must be counted among them.
NOTE: "Swan Song" was also published under the title "Dead and Dumb."
Fantastic story with twists and turns of the first order! Apr 17, 1998
The ubiquitous Gervaise Fen finds himself literally "on stage" and proves again that his powers of observation and deduction are second to none. The language and style of Crispin are reminiscent of Dorothy Sayers and are fully as entertaining. Great vacation reading, as it is very hard to put down.