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review 2019-06-21 11:58
Death on the Cherwell
Death on the Cherwell - Mavis Doriel Hay

So much unfulfilled potential. 

 

An Oxford setting, a mysterious death, college intrigue, and an underlying issue that is worthy of discussion and that would still have been a taboo at the time of writing. Seriously, there was so much in this book that should have been the foundation of an excellent book. 

 

However, the potential was spoiled by TSTL characters that dominated the first half of the book for no reason - absolutely none! - and was made worse by (if that is possible with TSTL characters) by pretty explicit racism. I know, I know, it was acceptable at the time...yadda, yadda.

But here is the thing...it contributed absolutely nothing to the story. What was the point? It only made the characters more stupid than they were already. Tho, granted, that was a feat on the part of the author that I had not expected.

 

It doesn't help, of course, that the book was published in the same year and has a very similar setting to Gaudy Night, which is one of the best books I have read this year and is now firmly placed on the list of my all-time favourite books. 

Where Sayers showed us how to write a Golden Age mystery set in Oxford, Hay showed us how not to do it. 

 

If it had not been for familiarity with Oxford from either personal experience or other sources, I am not sure that Oxford setting really came to the fore in Hay's book. Sure, we have punting, a river, and a fairly nondescript college, but where is the description of the city? Where is the atmosphere? The closest I found to an Oxford description was when two of the students discuss Blackwell's bookshop. That was all.  

 

Just as ubiquitous yellow fog does not create a Victorian London setting, there is more to Oxford than Blackwell's and punting. 

I expected more.

 

There are issues with the mystery, too. 

 

Again, the main characters were too immature - childish even - to pass for first-year students. The police were too all-knowing and presumptive to pass for detectives. 

 

The real issue I have, however, is that the actual interesting plot twist is left to the last chapters of the book and is not actually used to discuss the intricacies of the deficiencies in the mores of the time. Sure, it would have been a topic that was unmentionable at the time, but if the author didn't want to discuss it and the hypocrisy around it, why would she use it as the underlying reason for the entire story?

 

I expected more. Much more.

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text 2019-06-16 21:38
Reading progress update: I've read 288 out of 288 pages.
Death on the Cherwell - Mavis Doriel Hay

Too little, too late.

 

Why did we need the first half of the book?

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text 2019-06-16 19:28
Reading progress update: I've read 288 out of 288 pages.
Death on the Cherwell - Mavis Doriel Hay

I really liked the ending of this novel. What a surprise. And I´m happy that Gwyneth got her moment to shine.

But as for the rest of the novel, I´m not a big fan. The plot was all over the place and I don´t think that the girls were needed to solve the mystery around the bursar´s death. I enjoyed the story much more when it was centered around the Inspector, unfortunately Hay only began focusing on him towards the end.

I liked this more than "Murder Underground", though, and thankfully there wasn´t a lot of Basil in this novel.

 

 

We could argue about the strong female lead characters (they were more stupid than strong), but this book will do the trick for this card.

 

Page count: 288 = $ 3.00

 

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text 2019-06-16 16:59
Reading progress update: I've read 202 out of 288 pages.
Death on the Cherwell - Mavis Doriel Hay

I´m probably wrong, but I have a hunch what the motive for the murder might be:

 

Pamela is Mrs. Dennings daughter and the murderer is Pamela´s biological father. 

(spoiler show)

 

And I have a hunch, who the murderer might be:

 

Mr. Mort, who had muddy feet when he arrived at the appointment with Sally. The Scotland Yard didn´t pay much attention to his appearence, though, so either he is a bad police detective or I´m wrong again.

(spoiler show)

 

I´m really not enjoying this book at all. But there are only 80 pages left and I should be able to finish them today.

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text 2019-06-16 15:00
Reading progress update: I've read 147 out of 288 pages.
Death on the Cherwell - Mavis Doriel Hay

"Have you ever learnt to cook?" inquired Daphne.

"I thought not. If you had been properly brought up you would have learnt that when vegetables are boiled all their goodness goes into the water. That´s what´s happening to you; all your goodness, including the intellect, goes down the drain. You´ll never get a first."

 

Seriously, I hope Gwyneth becomes the next Madame Curie. Then she can give her stupid ass friends the finger.

I could live with this book being stupid, but this makes me really angry!

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