Golden Age mystery. Oxford University. “Undergraduettes.” Countryside. No wars. Sly author. What’s not to like? Well, alot. Ultimately a frustrating and disappointing experience, in spite of the mystery and charming characters – not least the extended Oxford University campus itself.
I was happily enjoying the Bright (Very) Young Things at Oxford and the author’s sly digs, the humorous situations, and the dialog. So too the efficiently early discovery of a floating canoe containing the corpse of a women’s college Bursar by a group of its students meeting on the banks of the Cherwell River to swear unending loathing for that very “Burse”. Scotland Yard or no, they will try to figure it out, discovering facts and checking comings and goings among their varied Oxford and colorful local acquaintances. Scotland Yard’s Inspector urbanely works them into his investigations. Gently sparkling fun.
But within a few chapters it all starts sharing the page with broken watches, parallel timetables and intricate geography. A little of that goes a long way, especially without a map, and there’s more than a little. I did force myself to finish. The writing and the characters, whether collegiate or local rurals, were engaging and the murder motive elusive.
Reward had I none. Frustratingly, the last straw was the last paragraph. Not only had the book required a map, it required a coda, a follow up, an epilogue. Not forthcoming. The mystery was solved, but the solution’s impact on the characters, and its effect on the extended little community, were left totally out of the telling. A bad case of reader’s lectorus interruptus.