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A Question of Proof

(Nigel Strangeways #1)

3.71  ·  Rating details ·  481 ratings  ·  66 reviews

The annual Sports Day at respected public school Sudeley Hall ends in tragedy when the headmaster's obnoxious nephew is found strangled in a haystack. The boy was despised by staff and students alike, but English master Michael Evans, who was seen sharing a kiss with the headmaster's beautiful young wife earlier that day, soon becomes a prime suspec
Paperback, 276 pages
Published May 3rd 2012 by Vintage (first published 1935)
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3.71  · 
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 ·  481 ratings  ·  66 reviews

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Jeffrey Keeten
”I think I know who the murderer is. But I doubt if I can ever prove it. A question of proof--that a good title for a detective story, if you ever write one--and I’ve not got enough proof to fill an acorn.”

 photo CecilDayLewis_zpsb2f089b3.jpg
Nigel Strangeways or Cecil Day-Lewis?

Nigel Strangeways has been summoned by his friend Michael Evans to a small preparatory school to sort out the rather sordid strangling of one of the students. The student is the obnoxious nephew of the headmaster Reverend Percival Vale and due to the unpl
Description: The faculty and student body at Sudeley are shocked but scarcely saddened when the headmaster’s obnoxious nephew, Algernon Wyvern-Wemyss, is found dead in a haystack on Sports Day.

But when the young English master, Michael Evans, becomes a suspect in the case, he’s greatly relieved when his clever friend Nigel Strangeways, who is beginning to make a name for himself as a private inquiry agent, shows up to lend a hand to the local constabulary.

Strangeways immediately wins over the
Mar 23, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the first Nigel Strangeways mystery by the late English Poet Laureate Nicholas Blake (Cecil Day-Lewis). Set in a 1935 prep school, this is a very interesting read and very much a Golden Age mystery novel. When the Headmaster's obnoxious nephew is killed Nigel's friend, a teacher at the school who has been having an affair with the Head's wife, is suspected of the murder. He calls in his friend, Nigel Strangeways, a Private Inquiry Agent and nephew of the Assistant Commissioner.

Cecil Day-
Mary Ronan Drew
Jan 30, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Cecil Day Lewis, the father of the actor, Daniel Day-Lewis, was eventually a successful poet and became Poet Laureate of England. But in his youth he needed to make more money than he was bringing in writing poems so he decided to write some murder mysteries. As he wanted to be taken serious as a literary figure he used a pseudonym, Nicholas Blake.

A Question of Proof is the first of the 16 Nicholas Strangeways mysteries. Published in 1935 it is in the classic detective story mode. Strangeways is
Feb 04, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting little mystery. Starts poorly (Initially I found it difficult to keep up with and identify all the different characters), but soon improves and is worth staying with.

Somewhat dated in its style and containing more references to classic literature and quotations than anything I’ve read recently (suitably reminded of the many gaps in my literary knowledge), but that is also its attraction.

Couple of clever twists in there too!
Moonlight Reader
Available for free through KU.

I like Nigel Strangeways. This is my second of the series in a couple of weeks and I find Blake's writing to be very engaging - it is less wooden that many of the GA writers. The mysteries are complicated, but sensible. He's not so good as Christie or Sayers, but is very enjoyable nonetheless.

The third book in the Strangeways series is not available on KU, and the kindle book is an overpriced $8.89, so I'll be skipping it. The fourth book, The Beast Must Die, is fea
Sep 21, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mysteries
This 1938 mystery, set in an English boys' school, introduces Nigel Strangeways. I had a fun afternoon reading this and could not figure out who the murderer was or what the motive was. I even went back to earlier parts and reread them looking for clues that Strangeways says are there.

I look forward to reading some more of this series, especially since I own some :)
Veronica Morfi
DNF at page 66.

The language is to hard to get through and it takes forever for me to read a few pages. Also, there are so many characters that it's hard to keep track of them. Finally, the main investigator Nigel Strangeways still hasn't showed up. So, I am done!
Kirsten #EnoughIsEnough
An engaging example of the Golden Age mystery. No English country house here. This time it is a boys' prep school. O, damn-ed are you for harboring repressed male emotions. No wonder there aren't more murders.

And because it is a boys' school - and the boys are upper class and the policeman aren't, Nigel Strangeways comes in as he knows how these places operate and is able to get the boys to talk. And - he is a strangely inoffensive man, so the killer underestimates him until it is too late.

Diane Challenor
After reaching the end of book one, I've decided it was a little toooo old fashioned for me to continue with the series, that said, I enjoyed this cozy mystery read. Old fashioned it may be, but sometimes that's all I need; spending a few calm hours where my mind isn't expected to work too hard is a pleasure. I've heard there are 19 in this series.
I decided to read the Blake book as my first entry into JNCL's Read Your Own Library Challenge. I'm in for the basic--Running Behind--level. Just committed to reading one book from my own library per month. I chose it because I was in the mood for a vintage mystery (written in 1935) and one that had an academic setting. I do love me a good academic mystery.

A Question of Proof is the first mystery in Blake's (aka Cecil Day-Lewis, England's Poet Laureate from 1968-72) series starring the charming
Nov 10, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: british, crime
Rather pedestrian schoolyard murder mystery...
Mike Finn
An amusing, unconventional Golden Age detective story that's stronger on descriptive language and acute observation than on plot.
I picked up "A Question Of Proof after reading a discussion on Themis' blog where it emerged that Nicholas Blake and C Day Lewis were the same man.

I couldn't pass up on the opportunity to read a detective story by a Poet Laureate, so I listened to the audiobook sample.I was captured by the delicious language, slightly archaic to the modern ear but razor-sharp, and the
Jun 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is the first book in the Nigel Strangeways series and here, unlike Malice In Wonderland Malice in Wonderland, we get a lot more of Strangeways' personality, and he is central to the story. It is funny, tongue in cheek, and also unintentionally so when 1930's culture and attitudes seem quite alien, e.g. here a thirteen-year-old is strangled but there's not much urgency and no one seems that bothered or disturbed by it. The English Boarding school setting also took a bit of getting used to, w ...more
A Question of Proof is a quintessential Golden Age mystery complete with boys' boarding school, upper class eccentric detective, man torn between love and honor, and pivotal cricket match. While parts of it were a little rough, I thought there was a lot of potential in the character development and writing style. (Blake was actually Cecil Day-Lewis, who went on to be British Poet Laureate.) Blake has some perceptive observations, including distinguishing Superintendent Armstrong as a masterful t ...more
Despite what Nigel Strangeways says, this is not a good name for a mystery. But as a mystery, it's OK, though Nigel holds back info so that one more person dies. This is early, breezy Nigel, and the story moves quickly and keeps one guessing. Psychology and understanding of women both suspect, but still.

Better titles (and books): The Beast Must Die, Head of a Traveler, The Smiler With the Knife.
Interesting for its historic significance as written by Cecil Day-Lewis as Nicholas Blake, and that he introduces us to Nigel Strangeways, but not a great book. I like the next one better.
May 25, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: borrowed
In 1935 poet Cecil Day-Lewis published his first work of detective fiction, under the name Nicholas Blake. I must assume that the writing was lucrative or enjoyable, or maybe even both, as he went on to write another nineteen over a period of more than thirty years.

And that first book was entitled “A Question of Proof”, allowing me to use the potentially tricky letter Q in my Crime Fiction Alphabet to see just what a former Poet Laureate might have brought to the golden age of crime writing.

Of c
David Kilner
May 29, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 02, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great scene setting in the common room of Sudeley Hall preparatory school where all the main participants are introduced. Thereafter it is dramatic action with one of the pupils found strangled in a haycastle. But not just any haycastle, one used by two of the protaginists for a secret assignment.

The police begin investigating and it is soon obvious that they need some other brain to assist their investigations. And Nigel Strangeways is called in.

The action races along in this beautifully writte
Jan 21, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The first of the Nigel Strangeways mysteries by Nicholas Blake (actually C. Day-Lewis). It was written in 1935, is set in a boys' school (such as Day-Lewis actually taught in at the time), and shows its age; but there is a lot of pleasure in seeing what kinds of behavior were considered natural, and what kinds needed explaining nearly 80 years ago. The mystery is a first-rate puzzle, and the logic of the sleuth is (as far as I can tell) impeccable. Needless to say, I didn't solve the mystery, bu ...more
Nov 29, 2013 rated it liked it
If you're in the mood for some golden-age British boy's school murder, you could do worse than this Nigel Strangeways mystery. Some fancy-pants writing (Nicholas Blake was the pseudonym of poet laureate Cecil Day-Lewis, Daniel Day-Lewis' papa), a heap of period charm, a good twisty whodunnit, and a lot of tea drinking, oh and a game called "chubb chubb" - maybe could've done with more female characters, but I'd defo read more in this series. Forgettable but cute.
Nov 03, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery, 2009
An entertaining book. The author, who was C. Day Lewis, Poet Laureate of Britain and father of the incredibly handsome Daniel Day-Lewis, wrote a series of detective novels with Nicholas Strangeways as the lead. This book is the first of the series. The writing is far superior to that in Georgette Heyers' contemporaneous books, but without as much silly fun. Worth a look for mystery fans seeking something new.
Roddy Williams
'The faculty and student body at Sudeley are shocked but scarcely saddened when the headmaster’s obnoxious nephew, Algernon Wyvern-Wemyss, is found dead in a haystack on Sports Day.

But when the young English master, Michael Evans, becomes a suspect in the case, he’s greatly relieved when his clever friend Nigel Strangeways, who is beginning to make a name for himself as a private inquiry agent, shows up to lend a hand to the local constabulary.

Strangeways immediately wins over the students and
Jun 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: crime-classic
During Sports Day at a small prep school, one of the pupils is found strangled in a haystack. The boy was the headmaster's nephew and generally unpopular, but no one can explain his death or where he had been during the day. Superintendent Armstrong suspects Michael Evans, one of the masters, who has been conducting a secret romance with the headmaster's wife, but Evans calls in his friend, private investigator Nigel Strangeways, to investigate on behalf of the school, and to clear his name.

A gr
Aug 27, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle, mystery, library
Kindle Unlimited Free Trial | Took a bit to get into, but quite enjoyable from then on. | While reading an Edmund Crispin novel, I saw a reference to Nicholas Blake, and looked into the author. Glad I did! The character introductions were worse than useless; every member of the school staff crammed into one paragraph with a couple descriptive words for each, after which I'm supposed to remember who's who? I don't think so. And the weird habit of writing a page or two in present tense, only to sw ...more
Barbara Monajem
Oct 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This entertaining mystery was first published in the 1930s. I liked several things about it - the boy's school environment, especially some of the boys, the omniscient narrator (a method that isn't popular nowadays but which can be a lot of fun), the main character, Nigel Strangeways, the literary references (many of which I can't identify without looking them up -- and there are probably many I don't even recognize as references), and of course the clues and the solution. I have been reading a ...more
I enjoyed this mystery much better than I thought I would. Nicholas Blake’s writing is wryly humorous which does not let the book become mundane. I do hate the mushy romance in it, and I feel people being suspected of murder will not blurt out romantic dialogues as though they were automatons! But I am naturally repelled by any romance in my mystery, so this reflects my own pet peeve more than anything else.
May 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
How have I never read this author before? Blake is a natural fit for any fan of Christie, Sayers, or Marsh. This particular story is set at a boarding school, good for anyone who likes school-set mysteries, like "Miss Pym Disposes" or "Death of an Old Girl", or even university-set mysteries like "Gaudy Night", "Parting Breath", or the Gervase Fen mysteries. I really liked this and can't wait to read the rest of the Nigel Strangeways books!
Dec 20, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ku
This is the first Nigel Strangeways story. When a student was murdered in a private school, Nigel's friend (who is a teacher there) asked Nigel to help. He is, of course, an amateur private investigator. At this early stage of his career, the book focuses more on Nigel's psycho analysis of the murderer's motive rather than hard core logical deduction. Nevertheless, it is an interesting read with quite a few surprises.
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Nicholas Blake is the pseudonym of poet Cecil Day-Lewis C. Day Lewis who was born in Ireland in 1904. He was the son of the Reverend Frank Cecil Day-Lewis and his wife Kathleen (nee Squires). His mother died in 1906 and he and his father moved to London where he was brought up by his father with the help of an aunt.

He spent his holidays in Wrexford and regarded himself very much as anglo-irish, al

Other books in the series

Nigel Strangeways (1 - 10 of 16 books)
  • Thou Shell of Death (Nigel Strangeways, #2)
  • There's Trouble Brewing (Nigel Strangeways, #3)
  • The Beast Must Die (Nigel Strangeways, #4)
  • The Smiler With the Knife (Nigel Strangeways, #5)
  • Murder with Malice (Nigel Strangeways, #6)
  • The Corpse in the Snowman (Nigel Strangeways, #7)
  • Minute for Murder (Nigel Strangeways, #8)
  • Head of a Traveler (Nigel Strangeways, #9)
  • The Dreadful Hollow (Nigel Strangeways, #10)
  • The Whisper in the Gloom (Nigel Strangeways, #11)
“Poor devil! None of us can have the remotest idea of the agony it is to be despised and rejected of men. A cancer in the soul and then madness. The feeling of there being a curtain, more invisible than gauze, stronger than iron, between one’s self and one’s fellow man. To cry out of the abyss and to know that there will be no answer, that one is buried alive.” 0 likes
“A question of proof. That's a good title for a detective story, if you ever write one.” 0 likes
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