Title: The Long Divorce (Gervase Fen #8)
Author: Edmund Crispin
First published in 1951; republished by Agora books on 22nd November 2017
Mr Datchery loses his way to Cotten Abbas and stops by to see a hundred or so boys trying out an experiment of sorts. A young girl of sixteen is standing by, watching the boys. When Datchery asks about Cotten Abbas, the girl tells him that she lives there and would be happy to show him the way.
The duo set to their destination. The girl looks chirpy. There is no doubt that she has her eyes set on one of the teachers – Rubi. The girl, Penelope, tells Datchery that there’s been tension in the village for the past couple of days. People are receiving anonymous letters and the blackmailer is threatening to wash their dirty laundry in public. One of the villagers commits suicide after reading such a letter. Or, so it is said. And two days later, someone else is found murdered.
This is my first Edmund Crispin novel. I had heard a lot about his works through fellow bloggers so I decided to give one of his books a try.
I liked the beginning. Datchery seems like a normal guy who thinks high of himself – he’s been given directions to reach Cotten Abbas but he takes (his own) short cuts to the place, thinking nothing could go wrong. He finally finds himself in the middle of nowhere. He then finds Penelope and others and the girl helps him out. As he reaches the inn, the news of Beatrice Keats-Madderly’s suicide reaches his ears. A day later, he meets Penelope again and she says the villagers think Datchery is from Scotland Yard.
Until Penelope said that the villagers think he’s a Scotland Yard man, I did not realize that Datchery might not be whom he says he is – a Professor at Oxford. Well, Datchery, or should I say, Gervase Fen, is not a Scotland Yard fella but he is surely a professor at Oxford.
This story has all the elements necessary for a masterpiece – the right amount of humor, characters and their emotions, mystery, suspense and tension. However, it failed to capture my interest! I liked the first few chapters in the story but the latter chapters turned out to be boring and lengthy. However, the ending was pretty interesting.
The inclusion of a love story (of sorts) between Dr Downing and Inspector Casby was okayish. He has his doubts – after all, she had the murder weapon and probably motive too. In turn, Dr Downing also doubts on Casby – does he really adore her or is he behind her newly acquired wealth?
The cat Lavender – no, he isn’t purple in color – turns out to be a hero as the story ends. He’s always knocking off things and trying to catch Martians and he helps Gervase and Colonel Babbington (Chief Constable of the county) in catching the perp. Lavender was pretty silly but at the same time, funny.
On one end of the bookcase-top was the cat Lavender. In the middle of the bookcase-top was a very large and fragile empty porcelain vase. And at the other end of the bookcase-top, invisible to all except the cat Lavender, were a number of Martians.
I like mysteries that are quirky or funny. This story was quirky enough – the characters and of course, cat Lavender. However, I felt that there was something missing. I am a bit disappointed with this story. I took almost three days to read it, mainly because I couldn’t connect with the story. I didn’t have the heart to DNF this book and somehow I managed to read it till the end. If you have read any other book from Gervase Fen series, then let me know. If you think the other books in this series are worth a read, I might give those a try. If not, this would be first and last Gervase Fen mystery.