The Case of the Gilded Fly (Gervase Fen, #1)
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The Case of the Gilded Fly (Gervase Fen #1)

3.61 of 5 stars 3.61  ·  rating details  ·  850 ratings  ·  104 reviews

Theater companies are notorious hotbeds of intrigue, and few are more intriguing than the company currently in residence at Oxford University. Center-stage is the beautiful, malicious Yseut, a mediocre actress with a stellar talent for destroying men. Rounding out the cast are more than a few of her past and present conquests, and the women who love them. And watching from

Paperback, 205 pages
Published 1971 by Penguin Books (first published 1945)
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There was a long gap in his writing during a time when he was suffering from alcohol problems. Otherwise he enjoyed a quiet life enlivened by music, reading, church-going and bridge, Wikipedia states, adding that he married his secretary two years before his death at age 56.

This very much fits with the sense his writing gives of Montgomery (Crispin was a nom de plume) as a person. He writes very cleverly, and with a sort of academic enthusiasm, but does not seem to understand people very well....more
Tracey, librarian on strike
I've been a Crispin fan, in a subliminal sort of way, for years. I read several – probably picked up at library sales – and quietly reveled in the sharp wit and erudition. And then kind of forgot about them; Crispin has been on my List for a long time, but I've never bestirred myself to finish my collection. So I was tickled when this first book in the series – which I'd never picked up before – became the book-of-the-month at the revived Goodreads English Mysteries Group.

It's been a long time s...more
Where I got the book: purchased used through Amazon. Absolutely marvelous dreadful cover.

Having had a few days to allow this murder mystery to percolate through my brain, I have come to the conclusion that the whole thing is a novel-length p*ss-take of the genre and that the author was laughing up his sleeve at the reader the whole time. Set in Oxford during World War II, the story revolves around a repertory theater group who are putting on--from scratch in one week--a play by a brilliant playw...more
After the joys of The Moving Toyshop I felt it was only fair to start at the beginning of the Gervase Fen sequence. Little did I know that it was not the most exciting of adventures however.

A locked room mystery set backstage of the current Oxford University company in residence whose just so happen to be more than passing acquaintances with resident amateur sleuth and professional English literature lecturer, Gervase Fen.

Aside from the excellent prologue (which felt almost as if it had been tac...more
Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways
Rating: 2.5* of five

The Book Description: Theater companies are notorious hotbeds of intrigue, and few are more intriguing than the company currently in residence at Oxford University. Center-stage is the beautiful, malicious Yseult, a mediocre actress with a stellar talent for destroying men. Rounding out the cast are more than a few of her past and present conquests, and the women who love them. And watching from the wings is Professor Gervase Fen--scholar, wit, and fop extraordinaire--who wou...more

The first novel in the Gervase Fen series and the first of Crispin's novels which I've read, this was the August 2012 group read for the English Mysteries Book Club. Gervase Fen, an Oxford don and gifted amateur detective, solves the murder of an actress apparently hated by all who knew her.

This review, written by my friend Jane and this one written by my friend Tracey, leave me little to say about the novel. Jane and Tracey (as usual) do a great job with their analysis of the strengths and wea...more
The resonance of The Pickwick Papers remains in its transgressions of form and style; it is a comic novel punctuated with ghost stories and finding its finest footing in a debtor's prison. Edmund Crispin achieves a similar success; this is a droll portrait of theatre folk during wartime; one which doesn't flinch nor shirk from low humor or dazzling erudition. I laughed freely and marveled at the elocution. I'm nerdy like that. People around here appear to lack that eloquence.

The actual details o...more
Simon Mcleish
Originally published on my blog here in June 2001.

One of Crispin's best Gervase Fen novels, The Case of the Gilded Fly is about murder in a repertory company in Oxford. Nowadays, the decline in theatregoing has killed off the provincial rep scene which used to be so important to the theatre community, and most British theatres outside London play home to sequences of touring productions of lightweight pieces sold to the public by a star name, usually a TV actor, rather than being the home of the...more
Unfortunately the misogyny in this was really repulsive. The murder victim, an unpopular actress, is killed because she's a bitch and a slut, and there's a lot of vitriol aimed at her. Before she's killed, someone says "Someone's going to kill or mutilate that girl someday, and I for one shan't be sorry" and afterwards everyone angsts about how no one should hang for her. We keep getting told about how she died because of sex and (view spoiler)...more
Verdict: An Oxbridge detective series which actually manages the impossible; being post-modern in a good way.

Scanning my Big List ‘o Books, this title caught my eye. It sounded vaguely fanciful, and though obviously mysterious, was filed under ‘comedy’ rather than ‘crime’. So far so good. A bit of casual Amazon research turned up that it was indeed a mystery, set in Oxford, written by an Englishman. Even better. What cinched the deal, however, was a Goodreads review in which I was promised a tho...more
This book takes place during WW II at Oxford. It has a standard mystery format but is a real vocabulary stretcher. Starting about page 100, I kept track of the words I looked up. They were minatory, jejune, gnomic, cinereous, sempitennal, wahlverwandischaft, poltroonish, panatrope and whilom. The author also uses a lot of Latin and French phrases. Because the amateur detective, Gervase Fen, is an Oxford Professor of Language and Literature, the unusual words and foreign language phrases do not s...more
Mary Ronan Drew
Gervase Fen may be the most eccentric amateur in detective literature. He is a professor of English literature at Oxford and he is one of those folks who are always jiggling their leg or rhythmically moving their shoulder. Can't sit still, Gervase Fen.

In The Case of the Gilded Fly Fen has an opportunity to demonstrate his incisive thinking and forensic imagination when a particularly unpopular second-rate actress is killed in the college rooms below his own one evening when he and his wife, Doll...more
Stuart Douglas
Edmund Crispin is - with Marjory Allingham - the best writer to have a pop at crime fiction in the golden era of British crime in the 1930s and 40s. His Gervase Fen, unlike Allingham's Campion, is a supremely confident, often arrogant man, who makes no attempt to hide either his confidence or his arrogance, but his actions - like Campion's - wholly justify any preening he may do. I like him loads, but this is the first time I've read the first book in the series, The Case of the Gilded Fly.

I read this because I wanted to get into some Golden Age of Detective Fiction classics. This is from 1945 and is the first in a series of books featuring Gervase Fen, Oxford professor of 18thC lit and amateur sleuth. Honestly, I struggled to get through this. I know that the main point of this book was the puzzle rather than the characters but it just wasn't compelling. It had some amusing moments but I was lost on a lot of the more academic references and I could care less about pretty much all...more
I stumbled across this in a secondhand bookshop and was thrilled as I'd never read this one before. Now they are out of print (or at least very hard to get) I thought I'd never manage to track it down. Perhaps my expectations had been raised to high but I didn't enjoy it as much as other Fen stories, such as Glimpses of the Moon which I think is hilarious. This one didn't amuse me as much. Fen himself is as entertaining as every and some of the minor characters were very well done, but some of t...more
Within the first twenty pages I was pretty sure that I wasn't going to like this one - and I didn't. It did get better, but not enough for me to ever pick it up again or suggest to anyone else. There were SO many characters introduced in such a short period of time that it was just confusing. And although a short book, I feel like it took me forever to get through!

I am assuming that Crispin's books get better, but I just couldn't get into this one. Oh well.
when i looked crispin up and realised he wrote this while still an undergraduate, i wasn't surprised. youthful exuberance accounts for the febrile tone and occasional uncertainty of voice, but it's immense amounts of fun none the less, and everyone winds up happy, except those who wind up dead, of course.
An Odd1
"Die for adultery? (line 2720?)
The wren goes to't, and the small gilded fly
Does lecher in my sight.
Let copulation thrive;" - King Lear 4:4

Many quotations, except vital title reference. Gilded-fly Egyptian ring doesn't fit victim Yseult, jammed on quickly after shooting. Oxford 1940 theatre fan investigators arrive by train with 8 others. Lots of premonition "within the week .. three .. died by violence" p16. Can discount sleuths: lit Prof Gervase Fen, his friend Chief Constable Sir Richard Fr...more
The Case of the Gilded Fly is the first of the murder mysteries written byEdmund Crispin (pseudonym of R Bruce Montgomery). That helps explain some of the wobbly writing, although all the pieces that went to create The Moving Toyshop and Holy Disorders are already in place.
“Tell me,” he said, “your opinions on the ethics of murder.”

Nicholas looked at him in silence for a moment. “I believe killing to be an inescapable necessity of the world in which we live, the abominable, sentimental, mob-ru
There have been many reissues of golden age crime novels in recent years, and this is one I was particularly pleased to see.

You see, a couple of years ago I snatched up a selection of Edmund Crispin’s works in elderly green Penguin editions. Pretty books, but unfortunately when I opened the first in the series I discovered that it began at page 25.

The mystery of the missing pages is unsolved, but I have learned to open and check old books now before buying.

Now, back to the book.

I always find it...more
So far, not very impressive. Just a lot of unpleasant people being unpleasant to each other.

There wasn't a sympathetic character among the lot, including the amateur sleuth, an Oxford don, who has all of the arrogant self-assurance of Sherlock Holmes with none of the charm. He has grown on me somewhat, however, after learning more about his family (wife and small children) and his habits, and seeing more of how he goes about solving a crime.

Part of what aggravates about this book is that Profess...more
On the face of it, this is a fairly typical 'locked room' murder mystery, employing one of the standard milieux of detective fiction, the theatrical company. It is, however, expertly constructed and stylishly written and marks the debut of a particularly engaging and memorable sleuth, the overly intellectual, arch and irascible scholar Gervase Fen.

I guessed who dunnit mainly on psychological factors but not the all-important 'how', despite the fact that all the clues were there for me to see. It...more
Arm yourself with some dictionaries: English, French, German, literary terms and references; Bartlett's Familiar Quotations; and the complete works of Shakespeare. Then you will be ready to plunge into this erudite mystery of The Gilded Fly.

The title comes from Act IV, Scene 6 of "King Lear." Lear says, in part, " . . . Die for adultery? No. The wren goes to 't, and the small gilded fly does lecher in my sight . . . " We find this out from detective Gervase Fen on the very last page, or rather...more
The real mystery is why Edmund Crispin's delightful Gervase Fen mysteries aren't more widely available. But because they aren't, when I came across three of them in a bookstore in Grand Marais, Minn., I immediately bought the two I didn't already own. (I had gone into the bookstore with NO intention of buying a book.)
"The Case of the Gilded Fly" is, as you can see, the first in this quirky, literate series by Crispin, whose real name was Bruce Montgomery and whose real profession was composer.
Jan 26, 2013 Donna rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: readers of Christie & Sayers
It's a sweet thing when a mystery reader discovers a new author and detective, so for the last few days I have been enjoying meeting Professor Gervase Fen, a literature scholar and amateur detective. "The Case of the Gilded Fly" is the first book in the Gervase Fen series and author Edmund Crispin gives us a detective well worthy of being categorized with Poirot and Wimsey.

The setting is Oxford during World War II. The characters belong to a repertory theater company. The outsiders are primaril...more
Originally published in the 1940's, this is billed as the first Gervase Fen mystery. It's is in the same style of Dorothy Sayers or Ngaio Marsh's Inspector Alleyn. It has a cast of characters who are privileged, well educated, and often self indulgent. Gervase Fen is a professor of English and Literature at Oxford who happens to also be very good at solving crimes. In some ways he's a pale version of Hercule Poirot--extremely observant, with plenty of little grey cells, and a bit eccentric. Howe...more
This is the initial book in the Gervase Fen series. Professor Fen is an expert in English literature, and is a quirky fellow who is delights in being an amateur investigator. The mystery involves the death of an actress, apparently disliked by many of the cast and crew, in a form of "locked door" mystery that points to suicide. Prof. Fen is quick to find several flaws with this premise and begins poking into the dark secrets and lies. The gilded fly of the title refers to a ring found on the vic...more
The first mystery of Gervase Fen, English Don, set in WWII Oxford amid a repetory theater company. The mystery is unravelled from the vantage of Nigel Blake, visiting Oxford and Fen, but also attempting to interest a young actress. The mystery itself is not as central as the characters and dialogue created here. Fen is eccentric and literary and theatricaly allusions are fairly frequent.
Austen to Zafón
I love vintage mysteries and am partial to fiction written during the war years. I wanted very much to like Edmund Crispin's books (especially since he's written quite a few), but this is the second one I've read and I can't say I thought much of it. As with the last one, I didn't care enough about the characters to mind what happened to them. Instead of witty, I found his writing pretensious, trying too hard to incorporate literary quotes, long words, and pithy Latin epigrams. I lost interest s...more
Jun 15, 2010 Sharakael rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: people who like Agatha Christie
Whenever I started reading a new crime fiction from an author I'd never read before, I always wished it'd be similar to Agatha Christie's works. And for the first time, to my pleasant surprise, that wish actually came true.

If you've read a lot of Agatha Christie's works, the elements in the story would feel familiar. The setting, the era, the first few chapters dedicated only to introducing the characters and their personalities and motives, and how the detective showed up near the middle after...more
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Goodreads Librari...: Incorrect book cover? 3 34 Jan 08, 2013 04:20PM  
English Mysteries...: August 2012 - The Case of the Gilded Fly 109 224 Oct 21, 2012 11:55PM  
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Edmund Crispin was the pseudonym of (Robert) Bruce Montgomery (1921-1978). His first crime novel and musical composition were both accepted for publication while he was still an undergraduate at Oxford. After a brief spell of teaching, he became a full-time writer and composer (particularly of film music. He wrote the music for six of the Carry On films. But he was also well known for his concert...more
More about Edmund Crispin...
The Moving Toyshop (Gervase Fen, #3) Love Lies Bleeding (Gervase Fen, #5) Holy Disorders (Gervase Fen, #2) Swan Song (Gervase Fen, #4) Frequent Hearses (Gervase Fen, #7)

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