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Death on the Cherwell
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Death on the Cherwell

3.32  ·  Rating details ·  605 ratings  ·  102 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 3.32  · 
Rating details
 ·  605 ratings  ·  102 reviews

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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.

Aug 13, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: crime, mystery
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
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
*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.
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: historical, mystery
"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,
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
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 real
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
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
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.
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
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 fi
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
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
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 Black
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.
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.
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
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
Linda Brue
Sep 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
DEATH ON THE CHERWELL, Mavis Doriel Hay, 1935
With an introduction by Stephen Booth. Set in Persephone College, a women's college at Oxford, this is a grand golden age story that I thoroughly enjoyed. Several first-year students have met on the roof of the college's boathouse to form a secret society of sorts, designed to express their dislike of the college bursar, Myra Denning (who seems to be rather universally disliked by the entire student body, as well as the staff). They have hardly
This was fun, perhaps because I'm a sucker for books set in colleges - especially Oxford ones. It grabbed me from the second paragraph, which so beautifully describes new college students - past and present:

"Undergraduates, especially those in their first year, are not, of course, quite sane or quite adult. It is sometimes considered that they are not quite human. Emerging excitedly from the ignominious status of schoolgirl or schoolboy, and as yet unsteadied by the ballast responsib
I bought this book purely because I lived on the Cherwell for a bit, and it was featured in a local Oxford books display in the Oxford Waterstones.

It was a fine golden age detective yarn, although I found when I finished I couldn't help comparing it unfavourably to later books, especially a particular Sayers (although probably not the one you'd think). It was all too clear how the genre has progressed since. The end was also fairly abrupt, and I couldn't help wanting to know the fall
Sep 15, 2019 rated it liked it
The Domestic Bursar of Persephone College was not liked - but who would want to murder her? The undergraduates who find her body are determined to find out.

This is no Gaudy Night of course, but it is a competent Golden Age mystery. Instead of a closed pool of suspects all members of the college, we are introduced to an array of people at odds with the victim from a misogynist old landlord to an excitable Balkan undergraduate, as they are investigated by the police and by our plucky h
Leila Mota
Nov 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is the second book I read from this author, and the last one in a sequence of 'crime classics' published by the British Library. As I've been saying about these classics, they're mostly delightful in their naiveté and, at the same time, ingenuity. The first one, I believe, is due to the time when it was written. By then there were no CSI experts or advanced technology to ascertain that a single hair was from A, B or X. Also there wasn't that pesky need to get warrants, for instance. That's ...more
Lucy Barnhouse
Jun 19, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: mysteries
I found this a very enjoyable read, but not primarily for the whodunit. The plot of the whodunit relies on intricate time schemes of the kind spoofed by Dorothy L. Sayers and others, and is somewhat dated in its denouement. However! The book itself, I thought, was a pleasure. Oxford is recognizably, sempiternally itself, while the social mores and slang of its undergrads are unmistakably of the world between the wars, and both of these things I find charming, rather than insufferable. The author ...more
Hilary Tesh
Mar 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is one of those cosy crime books in which you can guess the culprit, because it’s obvious who isn’t! Nonetheless, it’s an enjoyable story (and my favourite of the three mysteries written by the author), particularly if Oxford is in any way familiar, because the action moves between real and recognisable re-named places in the city. Whilst the death of Persephone Colleges Bursar is solved by the likeable Scotland Yard detective, he is assisted by a group of enthusiastic women undergraduates, ...more
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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
“women were not permitted to be members of the university and become eligible for degrees until 1920—four” 0 likes
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