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The Norfolk Mystery

(The County Guides #1)

2.98  ·  Rating details ·  986 ratings  ·  186 reviews
In 'The Norfolk Mystery', the first in the County Guides series, we meet Swanton Morley. Eccentric, autodidact - the 'People's Professor.'

Morley plans to write a series of guides to the counties of England. He employs a young assistant, Stephen Sefton, veteran of the Spanish Civil War, and together with Morley's daughter, Miriam, they set off through Norfolk, where their s
Hardcover, 324 pages
Published 2013 by Fourth Estate (first published 2011)
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Average rating 2.98  · 
Rating details
 ·  986 ratings  ·  186 reviews

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May 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I have to give this 5 stars. I bought it simply because I'm on holiday in Brancaster, just along the coast from Blakeney where the story is set. It's the first time I've come on holiday here without my Arthur Mee which is hugely frustrating because the main character, the Hercule Poirot, is Swanton Morley, a thinly disguised and very funny caricature of the prolific writer, Arthur Mee. It's set in the late 1930s and has elements of Love in a Cold Climate, Cold Comfort Farm and an Agatha Christie ...more
Jul 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literary
At the moment of writing this, The Norfolk Mystery has a rating of 2.89 *s. Unbelievable. Some might say ri***ulous. Admittedly if you are looking for a fast-paced adrenalin-filled Matthew Reilly novel, then this will not be for you.

But if you want something with depth, insight, genuinely funny & beautifully written then read no further. Go and buy it. Run. Better yet, click (much faster). I have ordered Sansom's entire mobile library series on the promise of The Norfolk Mystery... Can't wait f
BABT 10 episodes

Comic thriller by Ian Sansom. While researching a new book, People's Professor Swanton Morley and his new assistant Stephen Sefton are distracted by a dark discovery. Read by Julian Rhind-Tutt

Blurb: Julian Rhind-Tutt reads Ian Sansom's new comic thriller, The Norfolk Mystery.

It's 1937 and Stephen Sefton is drifting. Just a year earlier, he'd left London in a fever of idealism to fight in the Spanish Civil War. Now he is back, injured both mentally and physically. He has turned i
Oct 13, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I wanted to love this book, and intitally thought I was going to. The main characters are Stephen Sefton and Professor Morley, Sefton being Morley's secretary, and they both began as interesting characters, Sefton particularly being quite deep and thoughtful. Sadly, as the story continued, it became evident that Morley was in fact an annoying know-it-all. The frustration Sefton feels of not knowing what Morley is talking about for most of the time is conveyed to the reader via Morley speaking in ...more
Jul 27, 2013 rated it did not like it
Recommended to Laura by: Bettie
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Maria Thermann
Oct 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
My favourite murder mysteries are nearly all set in the 1920's and 1930's, so when I came across Ian Sansom's book The Norfolk Mystery in one of my local charity shops and read the blurb for it, I simply couldn't resist, I had to read it. And what a hugely enjoyable and entertaining read it's been!

Gently lampooning some of the most famous writers of murder mysteries, including Sherlock Holmes' creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Lord Peter Wimsey's creator Dorothy L. Sayers, Sansom's manages to c
magdalena dyjas
Dec 01, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think the fact that I used to live in Norfolk has influenced my judgement (hence ****) ;) saying that, in my opinion this book deserves more than the average rating it's got on here...
The Norfolk Mystery: A County Guides Mystery by Ian Sansom is a 2013 Witness Impulse publication an imprint of HarperCollins. I was provided a copy of this book by the publisher and Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.
In 1937, Sefton finds himself in financial ruin and accepts a position with a Professor Morley. Morley is working on a history project that will be a guide to every county. While in Norfolk, Morley and Sefton are out exploring the area, taking notes and such when Morley take
Apr 17, 2016 rated it it was ok
After the first chapter I really thought this book was going to be good. Sadly, for me, this was not to be so; it promised much but simply didn't deliver. What it did produce however was something akin to the bastard child of Poirot & Marple in the People's Professor with his overblown eccentricity and constant drifting off into paroxysms of Latin bon mots or airy classical references. His sidekick inhabited the dual dimensions of darkly morose when dwelling on his experiences fighting in the Sp ...more
Jan 20, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
A veritable waste of electrons. Minimal mystery (I was 45% of the way through before there was a corpse, let alone any sort of mystery). The only mystery in this is why I persisted so long. The characters are unengaging; I don't need likeable characters but I do need believable ones. The faux "golden age" set-up is just a lot of throwback attitudes and frankly given the current political climate anything that harks back to 1930s attitudes is distinctly suspect. The appallingly named Swanton Morl ...more
Jon McClintock
Oct 12, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A quirky book

This is the kind of novel that you discover, late, was actually quite good. I enjoy the occasional ebook that prompts me to look up word definitions, for instance, for possibly incorporating into my own repertoire. The professor: Genius or pretentious? Either way, he's a veritable cornucopia of language and obscure trivia. Out of touch with polite society? Then explain now he arrives at the denouement.... Take small bites, reader. It's actually quite ful-filling.
Apr 14, 2015 rated it it was ok
very slow starting book took ages to get to the actual killing, maybe was the author trying to develop the characters as tried to write the book in that style of Christie and sayers but not as good but maybe as the series goes maybe get better with devon.
Jan Edwards
1937 and Spanish war vet Stephen Sefton Polymath is drifting into pain relief addiction and terminal unemployment when he is offered a job as assistant to 'Prof' Morley, polyglot and self made man of the people, as he embarks on the task of recording the history of every county. Beginning with Norfolk.
When they come across the body of a vicar hanged by a rope in the church Sefton and Morley are not permitted to move on by the Police until the investigation is ended (which made no sense when the
Nov 13, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
2019 bk 350. Talk, talk, talk, more talk, talk, talk. This book is written in a style of the golden age of mystery authors, and set in that time period, but in many ways reminds me of the Dr. Watson and Sherlock Holmes books. The narrator is the assistant - a man scarred by war, the Spanish civil war in this case. The man character a man of the people (not the hoi polloi) who is self made as a journalist and a writer of every fact available out there (reminds me of Sherlock and Dr. Isaak Asimov ...more
Nick Duretta
Oct 21, 2019 rated it liked it
The loquaciously obtuse Swanton Morley, whose mind is like a pinball machine constantly richocheting among a thousand topics and whose speech is peppered with nuggets of wisdom in Latin and many other languages, is the main focus of this first installment in the County Guides series. Of secondary interest is his hapless assistant Stephan Sefton and his brash and gutsy daughter Miriam. The mystery, alas, is peripheral to most of the goings-on, and only barely connected to the barrage of quaint an ...more
Feb 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Having spent much of my life and many a happy day lounging in Blakeney enjoying the birds, the sea and pubs I obviously was going to be attracted to this book. This is a slow paced ‘cosy’ but with enough bite to allow more hardcore MM readers to come along and play too.
Great characters that appeal from
The outset, a slow burning plot that draws you in and keeps you there like a fish baited on a hook... good stuff. Enjoyed. Easy pleasing reading.
Jan 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
The narrator of this charming mystery set in the 1930s is Stephen Sefton who finds himself almost at the end of his resources when he sees an advertisement for an assistant to 'Professor' Swanton Morley. The Professor is a journalist and author who writes popular books on almost any subject under the sun. He is intending to write a guide to each of the English counties and needs an assistant to help him with the mammoth undertaking.

On their first trip around Norfolk they come across the body of
Mick Scrimshaw
Sep 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Set in the 1930’s which is a time I know a little about from when I was younger and did more serious reading, I really enjoyed this book. It features two quirky characters that I enjoyed. Sefton Morley, ‘the people’s professor’ who seems to know absolutely everything there is to know about anything and is a real English eccentric, and his less learned and more sensible side-kick Stephen Sefton, just back from fighting in the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War. The story itself is only a ve ...more
Jul 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
It is 1932 and Stephen Sefton has returned to England after fighting in the Spanish Civil War. He is aimless, unemployed and wondering what to do next when he comes across an advert in The Times asking for an assistant for a writer. After a rather bizarre interview, he is employed by the eccentric Swanton Morley; known in the press as "the People's Professor". Self taught and with an exhausting work ethic, Morley intends to write a series of books called "The County Guides" and to complete this ...more
Ami M.
Jan 19, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was okay. Morley was quite a cool character I'll admit, and the last line, I thought, was cheesy but fitting of the overall feel of adventure that the book had tried to capture. However, unlike the last line, the book failed.
Stephen Sefton was possibly the most boring and irrelevant protagonist since Bella from Twilight - and that is saying something. The whole book was a bit muddled as well, not-so-interesting event after not-so-interesting event. And it struck me how easily the people w
John Frankham
Mar 16, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: crime-detective
A curious first crime/mystery novel in a series featuring a journalist/popular writer and his sidekick (the narrator) travelling England to write eclectic county guides. This one Norfolk, and the next one, already published, Devon.

They stumble upon a death by hanging, and hang around to help solve the event. Full of extraneous knowledge spewed out by the protagonist, Morley, which is a bit like Stephen Fry in QI!

It almost smacks of the author wanting a vehicle for exhibiting his knowledge, but i
Feb 18, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery, crime
A very slow start, which I got a little impatient with, followed by a very sedate investigation conducted by the rather pompous and irritating Professor Swanton Morley and his new secretary, Stephen Sefton. The descriptions of Norfolk were enjoyable and I enjoyed the addition of illustrations (though I would have liked the quality to be better). There were lots of places I recognised from holidaying in Norfolk, which was fun. I wasn't entirely convinced by the Professor's sultry daughter.

The int
Anyone reading this book in the hope of getting a good old-fashioned murder mystery is going to be somewhat disappointed. Although the book is set in the 1930's and has the word 'mystery' in the title it is more of a erudite, comic romp through parts of Norfolk.
The protaganist, Swanton Morley, is an irritating journalist and writer and his conversation is littered with classical references and quotations. I found it in turns, entertaining and frustrating. Entertaining in that I enjoyed the clev
Sefton comes back from the Spanish Civil War and is in need of a job and some direction. He accepts a job with Morley who is an eccentric academic writing a series of guides on the English counties. As soon as they start their research they come across a dead body and end up investigating that. I picked this up because it's set in Norfolk which is where my paternal grandfather hailed from and it was fun to see places I know mentioned. But, I found the book didn't flow that well and I was unenamo ...more
Dec 03, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I did not really have as much of a problem with the slow start as some of the other reviewers on this site. I quite enjoyed getting to know Sefton and his know-it-all polyglot self-taught employer. The real problem was that there was no mystery to be solved in this book. Don't bother looking for clues in the long conversations about plants and politics. Similarly, relationships do not go anywhere, and so this ends up being nothing more than an initially pleasant, but ultimately unsatisfying, tri ...more
Feb 23, 2014 rated it did not like it
Shelves: disappointing
When a book has the word 'mystery' in it's title and is listed as a mystery then if no mystery occurs in the first 77 pages one begins to doubt the accuracy of the classification... or minimally, the definition.

While I love Victorian and Regency mysteries (which led me to this selection) the operative word, 'mystery', should bear some relationship to what's written.

Sadly... disappointed.
Candace Kirchner
Decidedly odd

This is different from the usual cozy mysteries I have read, British or American, or even Australian. If you love quirky characters, you'll love Morley and Sefton and the rest of the cast. The plot twist is quirky, too. I hope there really will be one for every county in my future.
Oct 14, 2016 rated it did not like it
I persevered with this book until page 108 (of 321) and then abandoned it. If it was meant to be funny then it wasn't funny enough and if it wasn't meant to be funny then it was too funny. I didn't like all the smart-alec repartit dialogue one bit.
Carey Combe
Mar 12, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned
Enjoyed this only for the (pretty accurate) descriptions of Norfolk. Otherwise did not enjoy this at all. Not funny, not a good story, couldnt care about the characters...
Graham Drysdale
Rather dull to be honest! Nothing much happens!
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Play Book Tag: The Norfolk Mystery by Ian Sansom - 3 stars 2 11 Oct 21, 2019 09:41AM  
Is Professor Morley really Arthur Mee? 1 6 Jan 27, 2015 07:19PM  

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The County Guides (5 books)
  • Death in Devon (The County Guides #2)
  • Westmorland Alone (The County Guides #3)
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