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Summary

Yseut Haskell, a pretty but spiteful young actress with a talent for destroying men's lives, is found dead in a college room just metres from unconventional Oxford don Gervase Fen's office. The victim is found wearing an unusual ring, a reproduction of a piece in the British Museum featuring a gold gilded fly but does this shed any light on her murder?

As they delve deeper into Yseut's unhappy life the police soon realise that anyone who knew her would have shot her, but can Fen discover who could have shot her?The Case of the Gilded Fly is the first Gervase Fen mystery and is the perfect introduction to this most idiosyncratic, eccentric and entertaining detective.

©2012 Edmund Crispin (P)2012 Audible Ltd

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

written in 1944

Any additional comments?

and set in 1940 this story comes alive with the language and society of the time and place.
gervase fenn is the don/detective in this the first book of the series.
well written with good characterisation, there is the investigation with little bits of humour along the way. Philip bird's performance added to the enjoyment. I loved it.
recommended.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Constance
  • 07-05-13

Witty, Well Written Classic British mystery

Any additional comments?

Combine witty, literate writing and a cast of idiosyncratic actors putting on a play in Oxford, and you have a thoroughly engaging and enjoyable classic British mystery. I loved every minute of this story, which is particularly enjoyable for the colorful characters and their interactions with each other. The narrator is perfect.

10 of 10 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
  • Marina
  • 06-01-13

Sad disappointment

This is far from Crispin's best. Nicely narrated by Philip Bird, who cannot save it from its top-heavy academic preciousness and a case of systemic sexism which I don't remember from Crispin's other books. Every woman is a girl, every girl has a shapely body and an empty head, and even the clever, independent, professional ones secretly long to have someone "make an honest woman" of them. Crispin does not play fair with the clues (the murderer's motive stems from an unrevealed, unguessable foreign life), and Gervase Fen, who in later books like The Moving Toyshop is funny and clever, here suffers from advanced insufferability, and maunders on about how he knows who did it for half the book in a very annoying way. Skip this one (unless you think women are irretrievably venal and silly, in which case you'll be confirmed in your opinion) and listen to the other Gervase Fen books which are much more entertaining.

12 of 13 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Anniebligh
  • 06-06-13

written in the 1940's


While I enjoy all these 'tongue in cheek' stories, the older ones are better. They are well read by Phillip Bird who sometimes reminds me of 'the book' in Douglas Adam's 'Hitch Hikers Guide', especially when towns (and railway stations) are described. It seems at least one of Crispen;s stories was inspiration for a Dr Who TV show. Even The Doctor reminds me a little of Fen. Food for thought.

The quotes from various authors send me into 'search mode' as I try to track them down.

The earlier Fen is a bit over the top with his self importance.and in this story his solving the crime in 3 minutes and leaving the police to figure it out over the rest of the book is such an example.

Good listening and much more fun than many of his contempories.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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  • JMay
  • 06-09-13

This may be too British for me

I admit I never finished listening to this book. After multiple chapters of character description I never even made it to the murder. Sorry but I won't be going on with this series.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
  • framed
  • 25-01-17

Good old fashioned sexism

Liked the book, over all. I tried to take the sexism in stride, keeping in mind the context/era, but I think I'm just too raw at this time to be a good sport. it became a distraction. Otherwise, a good read.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Victoria J. Mejia-Gewe
  • 14-04-18

Murder of an Actress

The Gilded Fly, the first novel by Edmund Crispin, written in 1944, introduces Gervase Fen, an Oxford don of English language and literature who explains that his understanding of literature makes him more qualified than the average detective to solve cases because he knows logic and people. One night in October 1940, a group of people descend upon Oxford to put on a play performed by a repertoire theater, written by Robert Warner. In addition to the playwright and actors, the train contains a few others, in particular journalist Nigel Blake, from whose third person perspective the book is written. Nigel learns that the repertoire cast contains a pair of half-sisters, the delightful Helen Haskell, with whom Nigel immediately falls in love, and the odious and wildly promiscuous Yseut Haskell, former mistress to Warner. The group all gets invited to a party by an army captain on leave later that week. At this party, everyone drinks heavily, and Yseut, drunk, threatens Warner with the revolver belonging to the host.

But when the murder takes place, it isn't Warner who dies, but Yseut. Nigel, Warner, and Fen are spending time together in the Oxford housing when they hear a shot. Racing to the room where the shot appears to come from, they see Yseut lying dead in the room of the organist who has been in love with her, Donald Fellowes, the gun lying next to her. On her finger has been placed an Egyptian ring with a fly stuck inside it. The police are ready to declare the death a suicide, but Fen, who already has a track record with helping the police, disagrees, stating immediately that the answer is obvious to him. But then he refuses to tell anyone the solution.

The Gilded Fly is a book full of literary allusions, especially to Shakespeare, from whom the title is taken: "the small gilded fly does lecher in my sight" (King Lear IV:6:110). This seems particularly suitable to describe Yseut, who has slept around a lot and even once complained that another actress doesn't exude the proper level of sexuality. In addition to King Lear, the book contains references to Hamlet, Cymbeline, Measure for Measure, Troilus and Cressida, and Coriolanus, among others. Besides Shakespeare, we see references to Greek mythology, Voltaire, and the 17th century playwright John Webster.

This book has some good points of interest, but it didn't grasp me the way I had hoped it would. The book begins strong, but once the murder happened, I didn't feel that much detection took place, especially visible to the readers. Fen announces from the start that he knows that it was not suicide and that he knows the identity of the murderer, so he doesn't really do much detection, while the police don't investigate at all because they have written off the case as a suicide.

The most vivid character in The Gilded Fly is Yseut, and once she dies, the book loses some of its energy. I didn't connect to any of the other characters very much, as they just seemed to fall somewhat flat.

Philip Bird performs the audio edition of this book. I enjoyed his narration, as he sounds like he belongs in Oxford and has a voice that harkens back to the older era in which the book was written and set. Bird serves as an effective performer in bringing the book to life. I suspect that I would find the book less enjoyable if I hadn't listened to it with Bird!

The Gilded Fly has a strange solution that seems fantastic. No one entered the room after Yseut went in, so we already know the solution will be curious, and it gets strange. The book was okay, but it really didn't draw me in much either. I give it three stars.


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  • Ms Lixie
  • 27-12-15

Wonderful listen!

An excellent story, very well read, with a highly satisfying ending. I am a big Crispin fan and love the little "fourth wall" digs he includes when his characters complain about mystery writers always doing this or that while he is doing it himself. Gervase Fin is an excellent detective although not really the main character in this one. Definitely recommend it for lovers of period british detective fiction.

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Anne Flanigan
  • 03-10-14

Confusing

Would you try another book from Edmund Crispin and/or Phillip Bird?

No

Has The Case of the Gilded Fly turned you off from other books in this genre?

No

Which scene was your favorite?

Can't remember

Was The Case of the Gilded Fly worth the listening time?

Maybe

Any additional comments?

A very large cast of characters that got confusing. They were introduced in the beginning chapters but I found it hard to remember who was who. It probably would be a better read than listen because you could flip back to the start as necessary. Thouroughly unlikeable victim that should have been killed off sooner and way to many people with really good reasons for doing the deed

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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  • S. Jones
  • 28-05-13

Superficial and Shallow

In this cheap trick of a mystery novel, Edmund Crispin distracts his audience scene after trivial scene that kill time and fill space while doing nothing to advance the plot. Information is deliberately withheld so the “detective,” who operates on “intuition,” can appear to be as brilliant as he keeps telling us he is by revealing all in the grand finale. Instead of clues dropped the way, there’s a long, unsatisfying explanation at the end. (Actually, any number of explanations could have been devised to explain why any of the characters could be the murderer.) The characters are such clichéd personalities that they could have been called the Director, the Big Star, the Budding Starlet, the Talentless Jezebel, etc., with one being indistinguishable from the other. Having never before heard of Crispin, I had hoped to discover a new treasure, but now I understand why he is not mentioned in the pantheon of great mystery writers of the 20th century.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful