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The Sibyl in Her Grave (Hilary Tamar #4)

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  1,464 Ratings  ·  113 Reviews
Julia Larwood's Aunt Regina needs help. She and two friends pooled their modest resources and invested in equities. Now the tax man demands his due, but they've already spent the money. How can they dig themselves out of the tax hole? Even more to the point: Can the sin of capital gains trigger corporeal loss?
That's one for the sibyl, psychic counselor Isabella del Comino
...more
ebook, 368 pages
Published October 28th 2009 by Dell Publishing Company (first published 2000)
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Sparrow
May 12, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: law types
Recommended to Sparrow by: Elizabeth
Possibly this was my favorite of the Tamar series. It is lovely how this series gets better and better. I had to go back and give them all five stars just because they don't drop off and get terrible by the end. This one has hokum and euphemistic professions and an evilly helpful girl, and finally we meet Julia’s dear Aunt Regina (pronounced . . . well, you know). And, of course, murrrrderrrrr. I listened to half of it on audio, but then I was so impatient to read the rest that I sat down and re ...more
Dorian
Jul 01, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A strange little book that I'd idly picked up years ago and only turned to now. Undoubtedly, this book is not for everyone--as the Alexander Keith's Brewery in Halifax used to say: "Those who like it, like it a lot." Caudwell has a marvelous prose style: it's arch, and mannered, maybe even a little fussy, but never quite precious. Its politics are intriguingly hard to pin down--its a *queer* book in many senses of the term. A parody of the traditional English "cozy," it manages to be quit suspen ...more
Hilary
Jan 10, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It took me some time (living as I do in seclusion) to realise this book existed, it having been some ten years since the author's previous work, and, having found it, I then put off reading it, knowing that there will be no more from this writer. Even though she wrote only four novels, her death was a profound loss, not only in itself but also in that it deprives us forever of learning more of Julia, Selina, Ragwort, Cantrip, Timothy and the eternally mysterious and genderless Professor Hilary T ...more
GraceAnne
Nov 21, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The delectable, lapidary, sly Caudwell. Only four mysteries, but what delights.
Megan
Jun 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The final Hilary Tamar mystery and one of the strongest offerings in the series, despite its more conventional trappings (a strange death in a country village!). I had been hoping for a Ragwort-centric story, since the other three major players had a story that focused quite a bit on them (the first book Julia, the second book Selena, and the third Cantrip) and, like Julia, I have a bit of a hopeless crush on the calm and collected Ragwort. I was still delighted by this installment, however, whi ...more
Janine Southard
A fun little mystery story, but it didn't live up to its hype.

See, a friend of mine (sadly not on Goodreads), has been talking up Sarah Caudwell recently. Well, this is the novel I found first, so it's the one I read. And I suppose it's nice enough, but...

It all felt so contrived. Oh, the OTT "upper-class English speech" (which: I went to the wrong parties at Oxford apparently). Oh, the way everyone knows everyone (e.g., the lawyer you bump into in London happens to have a flat right next to you
...more
Roberta
Aug 08, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery, fiction
I was ... amused.

This is a book I picked up recently at a library sale because I noticed the Edward Gorey dust jacket. This was not my first Sarah Caudwell, since I read Thus Was Adonis Murdered some years ago but hadn't read the rest of her books. Not that I'd avoided them, just that I am more likely to read a British cozy mystery than a send-up of one.

Actually, the nudge/wink regarding building contractors on page 26 and continued on page 56, might be equally true anywhere in the world. Selen
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Jamie Collins
This is the fourth and last book in this wonderfully amusing mystery series featuring an unlikely set of detectives: a group of rather frazzled young English barristers, who are more usually occupied with setting up trust funds or defending clients from accusations of tax evasion. Caudwell was herself a barrister, and these contemporary stories were written around the 1980’s - that’s the twentieth century, not the nineteenth; however the writing is highly stylized like a novel from that earlier ...more
Heather
Mar 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A novel with a truly universal theme: the perfidy of builders. It asks the question that has plagued humanity since the advent of running water: now that the plumber has ripped out all your pipes and left them in your front hall, will you ever see him again?

It also rips out your heart and jumps on top of it a few times, just when you think you're safe.

This is a surprisingly devastating and difficult book. It's sly and funny, like the others, but when I was done I had to go read some absolute tra
...more
Roberta
A modern day send up of the classic English mystery. Very well written in a mannered way that almost tipped over into silliness, but didn't. It reminded me of the .Mapp and Lucia books by E.F. Benson, with strong hints of the pub series by Martha Grimes They all have that same English country village full of eccentrics drinking copious G & Ts.
Nancy
Oct 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
Like the other books in this too short series, implausible coincidences abound, but in the world Sarah Caudwell has created, they seem perfectly normal. Multiple mysterious illnesses and deaths occur. Are they natural or not? If someone is killing people associated with the small village of Parsons Haver, who is it and why? The young barristers of Chancery Bar, along with professor Hilary Tamar share drinks, stories, and speculation over the course of nearly a year in a most entertaining manner. ...more
Moira
Dec 07, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Beckie Weinheimer; kathy erskine
I had never read Sarah Caudwell before, but now I have to read her other books (sadly there are only a few and she is no longer with us). This reads like an old-fashioned cozy, but takes place in modern times. It's charmingly written (if you like the "dear reader" style, which I do!) and it's a very good mystery wiht a lot of twists and turns.
Dana Crouch (Callaway)
Dec 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery, 2013
I picked this up on a whim in the bookstore, and I was more than pleasantly surprised.

The prose and dialogue are exactly how I wish everyone talked all the time. Verbose and precise, much like something from Jane Austen or some other 19th-century British author (so of course it's quite shocking that I liked it so much).

The large cast of characters are unique and interesting, the plot/mystery are intriguing* without being over the top, and the humor is absolutely spot on. It's the epitome of the
...more
Kristen
Nov 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
The final installment in this series is just as delightful as the rest. If I reread these books at some point, I'll probably give them all five stars. In this novel, Caudwell skips the European travel and instead tackles the classic English village. I particularly liked the twist that (view spoiler)

A nice bit of meta-
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Susan
The rumor among mystery fans in the 1990's was that Sarah Caudwell had some kind of plot problem with this book, and until she solved it, she couldn't complete/release the book that her fans were waiting for. We didn't know that she was fatally ill. Yet when this came out, there was a discernible melancholy about the book, for all of the wit and charm that defined her writing. Hilary Tamar becomes involved in various puzzles, including an insider trading episode, the strange death of Julia's aun ...more
tom bomp
Jan 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery, english, fiction
A brilliant ending to a brilliant series. I've been giving the books 4 stars out of some weird feeling that 5stars requires a "literaryness" but I felt that 5stars was deserved for a series that's been my most enjoyable reading in a long while. I'm just sad there's no more. The book is funny, has great dialogue and character writing, is tense, interesting references which aren't confusing if you don't know them, a well written gay relationship, has a bunch of twists but none which seem forced or ...more
Jenn Estepp
The last book in this series - a mere quartet, to my everlasting sadness. And it was my favorite to boot, which makes it all the more tragic. But it's so entertaining and witty and smart and I suspect these books are very re-readable.
Maggie
Jun 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Delightful. Caudwell has a wonderfully acerbic voice.
Anna
Mar 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
De door de vroege dood van mevrouw Caudwell laatste en, denk ik, beste in de serie detectiveromans over professor Hilary Tamar en de vier Londense juristen door wie de professor zich graag omringd weet.

Dit boek focust wat minder op de vier juristen dan de drie eerdere in de serie, en omdat ze vrij karikaturaal zijn is dat voor het verhaal een pluspunt. (Het is denk ik ook het enige boek waarin Oxford-don Hilary geen snedige opmerking maakt over het 'onfortuinlijke' feit dat Michael Cantrip, één
...more
Bryn (Plus Others)
Jun 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
This book does not have the clean lines of a classic mystery, but it is a very enjoyable book nonetheless. I found it a little surprising that (view spoiler) ...more
Ernie
Nov 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
it's poignant, being published posthumously, and eerily prescient in its morbidity, ravens, paranormality, and especially in its unravelling. everyone commenting regrets she only wrote four books. it makes them very precious. the third is a hard act to follow and perhaps daunted her; perhaps she got some flak for writing so scathing a critique of "overseas tax planning." TSIHG takes an equally scathing view of takeovers, but with a softer pedal. she was very smart, clever, witty, principled, and ...more
Elisabeth
Aug 30, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
I still enjoy the characters and the clever writing, the way all the bits come together in the end. However, the resolution was a bit grim for my taste, especially given the light-heartedness of the rest of the book, and the letter-writing format in the first half got tiresome after a while.

I'll read the last one, and I'll probably read the others again, but this one's not a favorite.
Kathy
May 22, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
One of those epistolary novels that include way too much dialogue and detail to be believable, even in an email. Amusing at times, but the characters are never fully realized or even likable enough to make me care what happens to them.
Karen
Jul 22, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Came across this because of the front cover being drawn by Edward Gorey. Great book - engaging story and characters and very witty - I did laugh out loud quite a few times. I will definitely read the rest of the series.
Leesgoodfood
Aug 26, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well...not light and fluffy, but still good reading and not difficult. A nice mix of storytelling with interspersed letters telling the story. And contractors who are remodeling throughout the book...and still aren't done. I will look for others in this series.
Megan
Interestingly mundane. Deliciously ironic.
beatricks
Delightful until unexpectedly a bummer.
Angie
Jun 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Witty prose and clever plotting

Not quite as good as book 3. The Sirens Sang of
Murder, but still clever and enjoyable. I sure wish there were more.
tortoise dreams
Aug 07, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The tax collector is knocking loudly at the door. Has Julia Larwood's beloved Aunt Regina benefited from insider trading? Only noted Scholar Professor Hilary Tamar can save the day!

The fourth and, sadly, final book in Sarah Caudwell's archly humorous take on the cozy English mystery, The Sibyl in Her Grave, ranks right up there with the first three -- winners all. This one is a little easier to read, the language a bit simpler, and the story is more tortuous than before. As usual, half the story
...more
Jane
Aug 24, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I have to admit, I judged this book by the cover. I love Edward Gorey and couldn't resist the cover art. The reviews describe the book as 'hilarious,' but it never reached laugh out loud funny for me, though it did induce quite a few wry smiles and head shakes. I think clever and amusing would be more apt adjectives. A good mystery, told mostly through letters from a main character's aunt, who lives in a quiet village where there's been a suspicious death. The central figure in Caudwell's books ...more
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137082
Sarah Cockburn (1939-2000) wrote under the pen-name Sarah Caudwell. She was a mystery writer. The four books of her "Hilary Tamar" series are her only novels other than The Perfect Murder which she co-wrote with several other novelists, but she also wrote several short crime stories. She was the half-sister of Alexander Cockburn.

Series:
* Hilary Tamar Mystery
More about Sarah Caudwell...

Other Books in the Series

Hilary Tamar (4 books)
  • Thus Was Adonis Murdered (Hilary Tamar, #1)
  • The Shortest Way to Hades (Hilary Tamar, #2)
  • The Sirens Sang of Murder (Hilary Tamar, #3)
“In order to deceive others, it is necessary also to deceive oneself. The actor playing Hamlet must indeed believe that he is the Prince of Denmark, though when he leaves the stage he will usually remember who he really is. On the other hand, when someone's entire life is based on pretense, they will seldom if ever return to reality. That is the secret of successful politicians, evangelists and confidence tricksters—they believe that they are telling the truth, even when they know that they have faked the evidence. Sincerity, my dear Julia, is a quality not to be trusted.” 8 likes
“I should explain — in view of my last letter, you may find it slightly surprising — that Daphne and I are now bosom friends. That is to say, she seems to think we are; and I do not feel that I know her well enough to dispute it.” 6 likes
More quotes…