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Death on the Cherwell

3.31  ·  Rating details ·  697 ratings  ·  124 reviews
For Miss Cordell, principal of Persephone College, there are two great evils in the world: unladylike behavior among her students and bad publicity for the college. So her prim and cosy world is turned upside down when a secret society of undergraduates meets by the river on a gloomy January afternoon, only to find the drowned body of the college bursar floating in her can ...more
Paperback, British Library Crime Classics, 288 pages
Published June 15th 2014 by The British Library (first published 1935)
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Average rating 3.31  · 
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Nov 26, 2015 rated it liked it
For me this book was like the Curate's Egg - good in parts! I really enjoyed the conversations that the girls had, and also the book was lifted for me when Sally's sister arrived and later when the Burse's niece finally appeared in Oxford after much discussion of her arrival. There were also a couple of stand out sections such as the incident with the poetry book in Blackwell's Bookshop which was very funny. I appreciated the humour of several light-hearted episodes in the book.

But, on the other
Jul 21, 2015 rated it liked it
When undergraduates from Oxford's all-girl Persephone College meet on a cold and dreary January afternoon by the River Cherwell for a certain mysterious confabulation, they are surprised by a canoe floating, apparently empty down the river.

But as it passes close by beneath them they quickly realise that it is not empty and that there is someone lying in it. They pull it ashore only to discover that it is the body of their erstwhile bursar, Miss Myra Denning.

It seems at first as though she had dr
Jan 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
A 1930s murder mystery set in an Oxford women's college. The much-disliked bursar, Miss Denning, has been found dead in a canoe on the river Cherwell, on whose banks the fictional Persephone College stands. The girls who found the body start investigating, sometimes helping and sometimes hindering the police, led by the sensible DI Braydon of Scotland Yard.

This was a lot of fun, although the girls with their secret society and their clambering onto roofs and through windows were more like the F
Aug 13, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: mystery, crime
Obviously, when you read this, you can’t help but compare it to Gaudy Night if you’re a Sayers fan, or at least versed in your Golden Age crime fiction. It’s set at a women’s college in Oxford, after all, though it lacks the maturity and reflection of Sayers’ novel — the characters are mostly undergraduates, and there’s some leaning on stereotypes like the one single foreign student who attends the college (and doesn’t think about time, or tidiness, or anything else in the same way as British st ...more
Brian's Bookshelves
Oct 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020, murder-mystery, blcc
Delightful golden age mystery set in Oxford.
A body found in a canoe on the River Cherwell starts an investigation into the dead woman's past
A group of young students take on the snooping themselves but soon Scotland Yard are called in.
Wonderfully atmospheric with a great plot and puzzle at the centre.
Too many 'detectives' though made it a bit disjointed. We have the four girls who start the story. A local inspector and then Scotland Yard.
Really enjoyed it though 4 stars
Nancy Oakes
Tough call on a star rating here -- I'll opt for like a 3.7 and round up to four stars -- it's a fun story that turned out to be a good mystery with a number of red herrings and many possible suspects.

This book begins with four undergraduate girls who are currently attending Persephone College, Oxford, holding a secret meeting on the roof of a nearby boathouse. They've decided to form their own secret society, the Lode League, the purpose of which is to curse the bursar, the not-much liked Mis
Emma Rose Ribbons
I enjoyed this so much. School-set murder mysteries are one of my pet genres and this was really good, plus it's set in Oxford which is my happy place. The one thing I would have liked for it to have is girl detectives - the beginning of the novel has some of the undergrads investigate for a bit but then a detective takes over and he didn't have much charisma (though he was okay). The introduction to this edition is especially good as it reminds us of the sort of Oxford-set murder mystery tradit ...more
Jul 31, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
Written in 1935 and this is fairly obvious by the style of story telling which does occasional get a bit irritating.
On a January afternoon in Oxford the body of the college bursar of Persephone College is found dead in her canoe by four of the college's students. It is these Persephone girls who suspect foul play and decide to investigate.
A NetGalley Book
*3.5 Stars*
BLCC buddy read with @bookishsteph1 - September 2016
The rating for the charming little mystery is actually 3 and a half stars. The novel had an interesting plot, but the writing style was weaker than the plot.
“To my way of thinking, sir, there’s too many impossibilities in this case, and one or other of them’s got to be proved possible if we’re to get any solution,”
Mar 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is an interesting detective story originally published in the same year as Dorothy L Sayers' 'Gaudy Night' which was also takes place in Oxford. It is set in and around the fictional Persephone College where a dead don is found floating in her canoe along the Cherwell on a cold January afternoon. The four undergraduates who discover her decide to try and find out who murdered her. She appeared to have drowned but as several people remark you can't actually drown in a canoe and to drown in t ...more
Jul 07, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery, historical
"Death on the Cherwell" is a mystery that was originally published in 1935 and is set in Oxford. Four girls from the women's college started investigating the mystery (giving it a cozy mystery feel), but soon Detective-Inspector Braydon arrived from Scotland Yard. He asked the girls to tell him the information they had uncovered, set them to explore potentially useful (and less disruptive) avenues, and pulled various clues together to discover whodunit.

There were many, tangled clues, but it wasn
Apr 05, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: mystery
2 1/2 stars. Well maybe one shouldn't, but I did select the book based on its cover. Charming illustration. Alas, the story was just too dated for me - the writing style, the silliness of the college students, the abrupt way information is revealed. I grew bored with the exhausting details around the timing of who was where along and around the Cherwell around the time of the murder. Sorry, just not for me.
Jenn Estepp
There were so many elements here that are reader catnip for me - Golden Age mystery, all-girl college, Oxford, eccentric gentry, etc. And yet, I found this a wee bit tedious and doubt I'll remember much about it. It just seemed pretty mediocre and boring and I wish it had been better.
The bursar of a women's college in Oxford comes floating down the river - drowned and yet still in her canoe.

A straightforward sort of mystery. It jumped around through quite a few characters though and I was sorry the original amateur detectives gave way to a police detective.
Linda Hill
May 29, 2018 rated it liked it
Persephone Ladies College in Oxford is plunged into scandal when their bursar is found floating down the river in her own canoe – murdered.

My, my. I don’t think I’ve ever been so flummoxed by writing a book review before. I honestly have no real idea what I think to Death on the Cherwell. At times I found it less of a crime thriller and more of a social commentary of a rather elitist society.

Whilst there is a crystal clear description of the college setting, I wasn’t really able to distinguish b
Mavis Doriel Hay

As you can see, I read this on the journey from Geneva to Lancashire (actually, I'd started it in Grenoble - and the book itself had been carted around all summer, including to Australia and back, before that!). It was something of an impulse purchase: I fell in love with the British Library Crime Classics display at Waterstones in Oxford, and found I couldn't get them in the AU Kobo store, so I ended up buying this one in hard copy in Leeds. It's the kind of book I would generally prefer to rea
Colin Mitchell
Mar 31, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: crime
After the first few chapters, this book nearly ended in the charity shop bag as I found it much too much into the "jolly hockey sticks" mode for my taste. With the arrival on the scene of Scotland Yard Detective Inspector Braydon, the investigation into the death of Persephone College Bursar Myra Denning took on a more structured stance and played out in a classic detective mode and increased my enjoyment.

DI Braydon is a classic detective following the clues until he discovers the true story, th
Sep 29, 2019 rated it liked it
The introduction to this edition remarks that the book was originally published the same year as Sayers' "Gaudy Night." But if you think of Sayers' classic, you will realize that this book is not nearly as good by any standard. On its own, it is an enjoyable 1930's read, however, with sassy undergraduates trying to find out what happened to their college's unpopular bursar, who is found drowned in her own canoe. There's also a sympathetic Scotland Yard man, who is quite able to solve the crime, ...more
Aug 14, 2020 rated it liked it
If you’re going to read only one murder mystery written in the 1930s and set in an Oxford women’s college, obviously it should be Dorothy Sayers’ marvelous Gaudy Night. But this one is a pleasant enough diversion, with entertaining characters and a little bit of social commentary. The authorities spend a bit too much time pondering timelines and the murderer is fairly obviously, but the journey not the arrival matters, right?
Oct 10, 2020 rated it liked it
Recommended to CLM by: Cath Russell
A very abrupt ending!
Aarathi Burki
Nov 27, 2018 rated it it was ok
I couldn’t read beyond 5th chapter it was not at all appealing and the characters I found to be too silly and the ladies were all busybody and hard to believe types
Sep 01, 2014 rated it liked it
The British Library has been reprinting lesser-known Golden-Age mysteries in the last several years under its "Crime Classics" imprint, including three by Mavis Doriel Hay, of which _Death on the Cherwell_ is the second (the first is _Murder on the Underground_, and the third is _The Santa Klaus Murder_).

The setting is a women's college at Oxford, where the much-despised Bursar, Myra Denning, is drifting lifeless in her own canoe. She's been drowned and loaded back into the boat, but who could h
Deana Morris
Dec 25, 2015 rated it liked it
My, what strange times and unfathomable morals drive the characters in this 1930s detective mystery set in the dreaming spires of Oxford.

And if all these references to honour and courage were not enough, there's the curiously large amount of time spent establishing timelines and the policemen are all thoughtful and courteous, bright and charming.

Alien though the cultural landscape may be, there are some genuinely comic moments which transcend time - our poet and his Blackwell's bookshop escapade
Jul 28, 2016 rated it liked it
This is another re-released British Library Crime Classic. Death on the Cherwell involves a group of young women, students at an Oxford Women's College, who have formed a secret "club" or group, mainly it seems for the purpose of complaining about the college bursar, Miss Denning. The girls find the bursar dead, at first apparently drowned, but very quickly found to be murdered. They join in investigating the murder with Detective Inspector Wythe. The story ebbs and flows, there are parts that a ...more
Feb 03, 2017 rated it liked it
An enjoyable mystery, but nothing remarkable, in my opinion.
Apr 26, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle, mystery
Murder at a ladies college in Oxford. Persephone College's bursar was an efficient officer of the university but not well-liked by the students. A group of them meet to form a league and at their inaugural meeting discover her body in a canoe on the Cherwell. Rather lightheartedly they decide to investigate -- as do the police.
Aug 05, 2020 rated it it was ok
⭐️⭐️💫 Two and a half stars

Death on the Cherwell is a work of detective fiction written by Mavis Doriel Hay. It was originally published in 1935, but has recently been republished by the British Library Crime Classics- a company who republish out of print or forgotten works of golden age detective fiction to be read and enjoyed by a modern audience.

The book takes place in Oxford at Persephone College. A group of undergraduate students have gathered together for a secret league meeting to discus
Eva Müller
This review can also be found on my blog

Have you ever read a Famous Five, a Three Investigators or any of the other teen detective stories and thought “This was cool, I wish they would get to solve a real murder one day, instead of just hunting smugglers”? Then this book might be for you. Did you ever read any of those stories and think “Who lets these kids do these dangerous things? Why are even the police going ‘hey can you guys help us with that?’ instead of ‘stop what you’re doing, it’s dang
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Mavis Doriel Hay (1894-1979), who in early life lived in north London, was a novelist, who fleetingly lit up the golden age of British crime fiction. She attended St Hilda's, Oxford, around about the same time as Dorothy L Sayers was at Somerville.

She published only three detective novels, 'Murder Underground' (1934), 'Death on the Cherwell' (1935) and 'The Santa Klaus Murder' (1936). All three t

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