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The Shortest Way to Hades (Hilary Tamar #2)

4.13  ·  Rating Details ·  1,917 Ratings  ·  96 Reviews
To avoid taxes, the family agrees to change the trust and support heiress, ravishing raven-haired Camilla Galloway, except dreary Cousin Deirdre, who wants money, then dies. The young London barristers handling the trust, especially suspicious Julia, summon Oxford friend Prof Hilary Tamar. Accidents escalate. And the naked lunch at Uncle Rupert's?
Kindle Edition, 195 pages
Published October 18th 2012 by Robinson (first published 1984)
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May 18, 2011 Sparrow rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: beach readers
Recommended to Sparrow by: Elizabeth
Proper British lawyers + orgies = win! I love these ladies like they were my legal sisters. My sisters-in-law, if you would. Bah dum tsss. Thank you folks, I’m here all week. Anyway, they are so wonderful. Instead of hilarious Shakespeare jokes, like the first book had, this book has some impressive Homer references. I wouldn’t really say they’re Homer jokes, but it’s possible I’m missing some of the hilarity, not being the Homer scholar that I wish I was. It’s more like Homer wit. Like the firs ...more
Ivonne Rovira
Jan 07, 2014 Ivonne Rovira rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Edmund Crispin fans
Oxford don Hilary Tamar is summoned by former students -- all barristers in offices in Lincoln’s Inn, 63 New Square -- to investigate the case of the drowning death of the woman who stood in the way of her beautiful cousin, Camilla Galloway, saving 3 million on a 5 million estate. Julia, one of Tamar’s former students, thinks her client, whiny Cousin Deidre, was murdered; however, Tamar is loath to agree. However, when more and more mishaps pile up, Tamar reconsiders and flies out to the Greek i ...more
The funniest moment was drugged Selena letting go of all inhibitions and reading her Jane Austen in the middle of an orgy. And this struck a chord: "There are days in which Julia does not open letters. She is overcome, as I understand it, by a sort of superstitious dread, in which she is persuaded that letters bode her no good: they will be from the Gas Board, and demand money; or from the Inland Revenue, and demand accounts; or from some much value friend, and demand an answer. If a letter arri ...more
Jul 23, 2007 Litza rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm not usually a big murder-mystery reader, but Caudwell's are irresistible and I only wish she'd written more of them. The plots are tangled in a satisfying way, and in this case the story was bound up with arcane aspects of British inheritance law and Greek translation. At the same time, the characters are loopy and the events are farcical, with an utterly British humor about everything.
Sep 27, 2014 Nancy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm hooked on Sarah Caudwell's Hilary Tamar series. At first I thought the cast of characters were hopelessly silly, but I have fallen for them. A loose group of attorneys and professors who all seem less mature than college students keep stumbling into murders in England and abroad. The coincidences are improbably and the liberties they take with their work schedules are excessive, but I have fallen for them and look forward to the rest of the series.

Oh yes, this one is about estate law. Of co
Jun 02, 2013 Catharine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Discovered this writer, in real life a lawyer, tax adviser, crossword adept and chronic pipe smoker, purely by chance. A fun mix of John Mortimer, Agatha Christie and P.G. Wodehouse. Addictive, but sadly there are only four in the series...
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I have read hundreds (maybe thousands!) of mysteries. It has become a personal challenge to me to try to identify the killer as soon as possible in the book. Without wanting to sound conceited, I do usually figure it out well before the end. This book, surprisingly, is a mystery, albeit an almost tongue-in-cheek one that sounds as it it could have been written by P.G. Wodehouse! Yes, I nailed the murderer fairly early on, but I must admit that the author nearly made me doubt myself with her trea ...more
Linda Fraley
Nov 24, 2016 Linda Fraley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love all the Sarah Caldwell books too. She had training as a barrister. Her mysteries are funnier than PD James though.
Nov 25, 2016 Leslie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fun Fun Fun.
Oct 12, 2011 Bev rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One side-note before I begin: I either didn't realize when I bought it or had quite forgotten that this book qualifies for my loosely-defined sub-genre of academic mysteries. How delightful to have that surprise in store when I settled down to read!

What a fun, witty, twisty little mystery! It's all about an inheritance worth five million pounds and someone who thinks that's five million good reasons to commit a murder. You have dear old Sir James who had six children and who came up with an nift
Nov 07, 2010 Ashley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This wickedly funny, cleverly crafted British mystery is one of four murder mysteries (alas, only four, as far as I can tell) written in the 1980s by Sarah Caudwell, a barrister-turned-author. My favorite of the four is The Sirens Sang of Murder, probably because it was the first I read. The Shortest Way to Hades and Thus Was Adonis Murdered are also excellent. The Sybil in Her Grave does not at all live up to the other three, which is a shame considering the author's limited canon.

All feature a
May 07, 2012 Megan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"I am an historian--my profession largely consists of speaking ill of the dead."
Another clever mystery, but oh gosh, there was an extended cricket scene. The sport of cricket is utterly incomprehensible to me, and I'm surprised I didn't throw the book out amid the lengthier passages detailing bowls and overs and runs. (I think the author went on to make fun of the inclusion of the excessive cricket descriptions, but I couldn't summon up a sense of humor about that. Cricket! One of the worst thin
tortoise dreams
Jun 27, 2016 tortoise dreams rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A client of one of the barristers at New Square has died accidentally, or did she? Professor Hilary Tamar investigates once again, and must travel to Greece where danger awaits.

Book Review: Sarah Caudwell's The Shortest Way to Hades, the second in her Hilary Tamar series, is another cleverly written mystery, blending humor, law, heirs, London, friendship, cricket, Greece, wills, and much, much more. If you enjoyed Caudwell's first book (Thus was Adonis Murdered) you can't help but enjoy this, it
Margaret Barnes
Sarah Caudwell was a Chancery Barrister and Tax Specialist who wrote a four novels before she died at the age of 60 in 2000. The book is described as a legal whodunit. The story revolves around a large estate which is held in trust. for the young heiress Camilla Galloway. The family agree to support the application to vary the trust in order to avoid a tax liability, except for cousin Deidre who demands a small fortune for her signature. Deidre has an accident and the young London barristers han ...more
Dec 03, 2012 Su rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Another hilarious and well-crafted mystery novel from Sarah Caudwell! As with "Thus Was Adonis Murdered," we have an element of the travelogue (this time amidst the lush Greek islands) and the satirical pomposity of Professor Tamar (our gender-ambiguous Oxford Don and our armchair detective) and the smart, sassy, sardonic group of young barristers he associates with bantering amusingly throughout the unfolding of the mystery. This time, it involves a very large and glamorous bunch of heirs vying ...more
tom bomp
Aug 11, 2014 tom bomp rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery, fiction
Pretty funny mystery, on par with the first in the series (although I agree Julia makes a more interesting voice than Selena). Only a few jokes are laugh out loud funny but it consistently kept a smile on my face - as others have said, it's pretty dry humour but I like that. Sometimes it goes into tangents about the English legal system or Homer or cricket but it's never too hard to follow and for me that's part of the charm. Also continues the same refreshing attitude to sex and sexuality as in ...more
Aug 21, 2015 Kay rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Between the painstaking devotion to detail in the descriptions of inheritance law at the beginning and the cricket game near the end (which I wished I had a glossary for!), this is such a lively series of land and sea adventures (Ionian Sea!) that I, as an American reader, had to settle in with a big cup of tea to keep my brain sharp in the forest of vocabulary and syntax -- and the involved family-rancor story. Intriguing, read to the end. Learned about a world I didn't know. AND, I learned abo ...more
Mar 08, 2012 Sarah rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the fourth and last of Sarah Caudwell's hilarious, awesome tax lawyer mysteries for me (though I guess the second in the series -- I found no need to read them in order). The plot was redonkulous (sp?) as usual but also really great, not that I remember what happened. The books are great overall and I particularly enjoy the nerdy legal plot points, not to mention the odd culture of practicing law in the U.K., which frankly seems much more enjoyable than practicing in the U.S. Either that ...more
Jul 21, 2012 Drianne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
The second of the Hilary Tamar books. A little less compelling than the first, but good nonetheless. Again, the mystery was solvable. The characters were fun (I adored Selena and Julia at the orgy and then esp. Julia with Rowena later), although there were many parts I found slow (and no, I do not like descriptions of cricket matches; I do not understand them).

I am not sure, however, why Caudwell thinks that Classicists deny any historicity in Homer? That is certainly not true. However, Classici
Aug 24, 2014 April rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love all of Sarah Caudwell's books. I have been waiting to savor this one, and it did not disappoint. Few writers are better with that British sly humor and sarcasm involving word play than Caudwell. In this novel, our intrepid historian is asked to examine a basic inheritance of a 5-million pound estate in which it appears that the wrong girl (the mean, ugly one inheriting a small stipend) gets murdered. The attractive, friendly heiress does not get murdered, which puzzles Hilary deeply, unti ...more
Sep 24, 2011 Texbritreader rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mysteries
This was an extremely entertaining mystery: witty, erudite, clever and original. The main sleuth, Professor Hilary Tamar, a legal academic of uncertain gender, is amusing and unusual - given to avoiding work and cadging free meals & wine from the group of young barristers who she/he advises.

The plot was lively and there were plenty of colorful Greek settings, in addition to the usual upper crust English society background and the less usual Inns of Court in London. I enjoyed the legal backg
Oct 29, 2012 Colleen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This witty murder mystery has some of the campy fun of Bertie Wooster & Jeeves, with the charm of a Dorothy Sayers mystery thrown in.

You will either love it or hate it. If you don't like (or understand) dry British humor, don't bother. It is intelligent and witty with lots of literary references thrown in. Written in a delightful prose style with a few laugh out loud passages thrown in.

There are only 4 Caudwell mysteries as she died in 2000 of cancer at the age of 61. I will eventually get
Jul 01, 2012 Sherry rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery, comedy, 2012
I enjoyed this book, but it was a slow read. Caudwell's pace is slow but rich. Each page is filled with a wonderful wit. The characters are all so specifically drawn. It's interesting for a mystery to have such a pace. The set-up: a family wishes to avoid three million pounds in taxes on a five million pound estate by supporting Camilla, the beautiful heiress. That is all but unattractive, dreary Diedre, her cousin who demands a small fortune for her signature. Diedre turns up dead. Hillary Tama ...more
I've read one of this series (Thus Was Adonis Murdered) and was beyond delighted. I'm going to go back to the beginning.)

Hmm. I had the impression this was the first book, but it apparently isn't. In any case, this was a delightful, funny, witty, clever read. I'm not entirely sure why Caudwell makes such a point of disguising her protagonist's gender. Professor Hilary Tamar is carefully never referred to in any gender-specific way. It does have interesting effects, but it is also a bit distracti
Jamie Collins
This isn’t as laugh-out-loud funny as the first book, but it’s still very amusing. Our narrator, Oxford professor Hilary Tamar (whose gender is never revealed, which I didn’t even notice until I read other people’s commentary on the series) and the gang of young barristers of Lincoln’s Inn are solving another murder mystery, this one involving a multi-million dollar trust fund and an heiress with lots of relatives.

The book is again partially epistolary, and the letters are my favorite part. I lo
Mar 17, 2016 Heather rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
So relieved to see SC getting the old gang back together again. I was afraid she'd send the narrator / detective off to a different setting with different sidekicks. Part of the joke, in a way, in these books is that the detective is actually the least interesting character. S/he gets a few good lines, but compared to Cantrip, Ragwort, and co. is much less fully realized. Which, I realized, is the point. But at first, I was afraid that SC hadn't realized it. One can never quite trust authors to ...more
Mar 29, 2011 Leslie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
The drawback of Hades is that it is not narrated by either of my favorite "voices" in the Caudwellverse ... and Selena is just not as amusing as either Julia or Cantrip.

Hades might present the best puzzle of the four books, though, and the reverence shown to classical Greek texts is satisfying, if you're of a geeky literary persuasion.

Oh, and there are some hilarious orgies. So it has that, as well. With one gal getting drunk/bored and reading Jane Austen aloud to the lecherous participants.

Jan 16, 2012 Beth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Cool, ironic, and cognitive. Not saying you like Sarah Cauldwell’s four mysteries is like saying you don’t like brandy because it isn’t beer. It’s not everyone’s drink, but if you do like brandy, this is the best on offer. Each of her four books share a number of ingredients: classical allusions (e.g. her titles), a thorough knowledge of the law, and a delight in puzzles. Her characters (who occupy all four novels) are witty, sexy in a cool way, and smart.
Stacey Franklin
In theory, I should like this-a mystery with VERY dry humor- but the writing, in addition to being verbose & stilted, was peppered w/ passages of legal language in legalese. This, for me, had the effect of distancing the reader from the action & the characters. I kind of didn't care what happened, or really if I ever finished the book at all. At one point, I chose to do laundry instead...not good. So, sadly I have to give it a 2.
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Sarah Cockburn (1939-2000) wrote under the pen-name Sarah Caudwell. She was a mystery writer. The four books of her "Hilary Tamar" series are her only novels other than The Perfect Murder which she co-wrote with several other novelists, but she also wrote several short crime stories. She was the half-sister of Alexander Cockburn.

* Hilary Tamar Mystery
More about Sarah Caudwell...

Other Books in the Series

Hilary Tamar (4 books)
  • Thus Was Adonis Murdered (Hilary Tamar, #1)
  • The Sirens Sang of Murder (Hilary Tamar, #3)
  • The Sibyl in Her Grave (Hilary Tamar, #4)

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“You will be interested to hear, Hilary, that it [the drug] had a most remarkable effect — even on Selena after a very modest quantity. She cast off all conventional restraints and devoted herself without shame to the pleasure of the moment."

I asked for particulars of this uncharacteristic conduct.

"She took from her handbag a paperback edition of Pride and Prejudice and sat on the sofa reading it, declining all offers of conversation.”
“The suggestion had been made by some of my colleagues that I should participate in the marking of the summer examinations which in Oxford we refer to as Schools. Much as I was honoured by the proposal, I had felt obliged to decline: who am I to sit in judgement on the young? Moreover, the marking of examination scripts is among the most tedious of occupations. I had accordingly explained that the demands of scholarship – that is to say, of my researches into the concept of causa in the early Common Law – precluded any other commitment of my time and energies.” 0 likes
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