The arrival in my Christmas stocking of Death on the Cherwell has prompted me to reflect on what a dangerous place Oxford is if you are a fictional character. Death on the Cherwell is by Mavis Doriel Hay, was first published in 1935, and is in the wonderful British Library Crime Classics series. It looks a cracker (groan …): the body of the Bursar of Persephone College is found floating on the eponymous river by member of an undergraduate secret society ….
Were Oxford not such a perennial nest of ingenious murderers Messrs Morse and Lewis would have had to seek employment elsewhere (possibly Midsomer).
In my collection I see I also have:
- Dorothy L Sayers’ Gaudy Night (of course, what a classic – also first published in 1935; though I do think that Agatha Christie would have told the story in half the length);
- When Scholars Fall, by my former work colleague Timothy Robinson (1961);
- Death at the President’s Lodging by Michael Innes (1936); and, still to be read,
- Landscape with Dead Dons by the broadcaster Robert Robinson (1956).
My favourite fiction read in 2015 was Max Beerbohm’s preposterous Zuleika Dobson (1911) which, while not a whodunit, does involve mass violent death in Oxford on a scale that dwarfs all the corpses in Endeavour, Morse and Lewis put together. (I was fortunate enough to read an edition with the author’s own illustrations, which fit the story so well.)
You will know of others?