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Book Death on the Cherwell (British Library Crime Classics) by Mavis Doriel Hay (2014-03-31)

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Death on the Cherwell (British Library Crime Classics) by Mavis Doriel Hay (2014-03-31)

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Review Text

  • By Glynn Young on August 16, 2014

    Four young women who attend Persephone College in Oxford casually stroll down to the River Cherwell for a little ceremony. They are there, an undergraduate secret society of a sort, to express their frustration, anger, and general ill will against the college’s bursar, Myra Denning, who’s apparently something of a tyrant and generally disliked. As they stand near the riverbank, they see a canoe coming toward them, Myra Denning’s canoe, and Myra’s in it.And Myra Denning is very much dead.And she appears to have drowned. But if she drowned, then how did she get into the canoe?So begins Mavis Doriel Hay’s “Death on the Cherwell,” one of three mysteries published by Hay in the 1930s and recently republished by the British Library (the others being “Murder Underground and The Santa Klaus Murder”).“Death on the Cherwell” is kind of a locked room mystery. While there’s no apparent shortage of suspects – from local residents fighting the sale of land to the undergraduates themselves – everyone involved seems to have something of an airtight alibi. The local detective investigating the murder is somewhat confounded; the college girls start doing some sleuthing of their own; and eventually Scotland Yard arrives. And it is the Yard who will ultimately solve the murder. And murder it indeed is.Hay attended St. Hilda’s College at Oxford, at a time when women could attend but not graduate. She draws upon that experience for this story, and it has the feel of the city and colleges we know as Oxford (says this seasoned traveler who’s been there all of one time).While story looks like one without a solution, it has one, of course. And the shape of it appears fairly early in the narrative – the key is something of a secret, buried in the past. Those secrets, however, have a bad habit of surfacing at inconvenient times.It’s a fun story, too, and includes cameo appearances by two of the characters from “Murder Underground.”The three stories were Hay’s only contributions to the Golden Age of the mystery story (and the sub-genre popularized by Agatha Christie). For whatever reason, she left mystery writing behind, and turned her creative energies to other endeavors, especially quilt making. But we do have these three.

  • By Patto on April 27, 2017

    Death on the Cherwall was among the earliest of the Oxford-based crime novel that became a tradition in crime fiction. Her setting is a women's college, probably based on the one Mavis attended herself at Oxford. This results in an authentic picture of what college life was like for young women in the early nineteen hundreds.According to the very interesting introduction, women were not eligible for degrees at Oxford until 1920. Prejudice against women is a strong theme in Hay's novel, though many other factors are considered in solving the crime. The victim is Miss Denning, bursar of the college, and universally unpopular. Scotland Yard is brought in to help the local inspector. But before he arrives, several undergrads are deeply engaged in amateur sleuthing. Their behavior is somewhat juvenile, naturally enough, but the students do uncover a few thing of interest to the police.The book is well plotted, and I read it from beginning to end, but without much enthusiasm. Too many immature characters for my taste. Their escapades are meant to be charming, but I was not particularly charmed.

  • By Debbie on October 17, 2016

    "Death on the Cherwell" is a mystery that was originally published in 1935 and is set in Oxford. Four girls from the women's college started investigating the mystery (giving it a cozy mystery feel), but soon Detective-Inspector Braydon arrived from Scotland Yard. He asked the girls to tell him the information they had uncovered, set them to explore potentially useful (and less disruptive) avenues, and pulled various clues together to discover whodunit.There were many, tangled clues, but it wasn't difficult to guess whodunit by the time the detective named his suspect. It was interesting to follow how he sorted out the clues and gathered the needed evidence to arrest the suspect. The antics of the undergraduates were humorous and gave a lighthearted feel to the story.There was no sex. There was occasional use of bad language. Overall, I'd recommend this enjoyable novel.I received an ebook review copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.

  • By acckp on September 4, 2014

    much disliked college bursar found dead in boat by college girls, suspects abound in this Oxford college community, but was it murder?

  • By M J on May 13, 2014

    What a delight to read a book from the era when words were used precisely, with intent and elegance. So much trash postures as literature in today's instant-read world that it is an infrequent pleasure to read something well-written, especially in the genre of mysteries. Too bad that Ms. Hay wrote so few!

  • By Samantha on November 4, 2014

    It is a good mystery but i could put it down. Words used are British so I had to look up the meanings which does not help enjoyment of a book

  • By Guest on July 29, 2014

    Interesting as a historical read, but the women characters are a bit too too for me. Stop shuddering please and get on with it.

  • By tonnapollo on January 8, 2015

    I purchased this book because of an ad in the New York Review of Books. It said a relaxing book for one's summer vacation. It was a pleasant read far away from the sex and blood of today's mysteries. It had enough characters, some red herrings, to keep you guessing, but not too many characters to confuse one. One had a good time trying to guess which red herring actually could be the villian. I find writing a review of a mystery and not giving away too much to spoil it for the reader a challange. That said, if you want to forget your surroundings for a few hours and read a light work of fiction, this might be a good choice.


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