The trouble is, I find, that once you’ve got into a groove with vintage green Penguins, it’s very tempting to just keep reading them – the majority are so good and so enjoyable!! This particular volume is Michael Innes’ first Appleby story and because I liked “Hamlet Revenge!” so much I decided to pick this one up next.

The story is set in the college of a University town, situated tactfully between Oxford and Cambridge (so that neither can be accused of harbouring murderers, presumably!). The book opens with the discovery of the murder of the President of the college in rather bizarre circumstances. Through the pulling of strings, Inspector Appleby of Scotland Yard is dispatched to his old Alma Mater to attempt to solve the crime whilst not ruffling the feathers of the academics. The local policeman is fortunately an old friend of Appleby’s and the two get along just fine during the investigation – this is not one of those crime stories with a bumbling local bobby falling out with the big cheese from the Yard!

The plot is a complex one, with a limited group of suspects all of whom seem likely to have wanted to bump off the President. There are red herrings, sub-plots, a very funny group of Undergrads who go off at a tangent but actually throw a lot of light on the plot – and some classic Golden Age puzzles and detecting. The ending (which I of course won’t reveal) is remarkably clever and surprisingly involved, and of course I had no idea who-dunnit!

The closed-in atmosphere of academia often turns up in classic crime and certainly works well as a setting for a puzzle – with a limit on the number and type of characters, the slightly claustrophobic setting and of course for modern readers the sense of lovely nostalgia, a University seems designed for crime.

As I’m finding with Innes, this is also a remarkably well-written book – there are little hints of the forthcoming storm that would hit the country later in the 1930s (although not such a pronounced theme as in Hamlet, Revenge!), fully rounded and engaging characters, lovely descriptions and sense of place. I believe Innes’ early books are considered his best, and it’s interesting to note that this volume was apparently written in 6 weeks to raise funds! I certainly enjoyed it.

The trouble with these books is they’re addictive and I kind of feel guilty if I just go from one green Penguin to the next – I feel like I should be reading something more serious….

 

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