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Holy Disorders

(Gervase Fen #2)

3.69  ·  Rating details ·  1,092 ratings  ·  105 reviews
Oxford don and part-time detective Gervase Fen is in the town of Tolnbridge where he is happily bounding around with a butterfly net until the cathedral organist is murdered, giving Fen the chance to play sleuth. Tracking down the culprit pleases Fen immensely. Did the victim fall afoul of German spies or local witches, practicing centuries?
Paperback, 261 pages
Published March 1st 2006 by Felony & Mayhem (first published 1945)
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3.69  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,092 ratings  ·  105 reviews

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Jeffrey Keeten
Jan 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ww2, british-mystery
”’Oh, one more thing--very important. Was there any trace of poison or bullets or knife-thrusts or anything at the autopsy? It is over by now, I suppose?’

‘Nothing of the kind.’

‘Splendid. That suits me admirably.’

‘What a pity,’ said the Inspector with heavy irony, ‘that you’ve nothing much to find out. You must tell me when you make an arrest.’

‘Ah,’ Fen was pensive. ‘There’s the rub. Means, motive, opportunity, all settled. The only trouble is that I haven’t at the moment the least idea who did i
May 21, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
The plot is nonsensical and the characters largely unpleasant. As usual with Crispin, the main attraction is the prose.

Vocabulary enhancement:

oeillade: an amorous or suggestive glance
autology: the study of oneself
preceptor: a teacher responsible to uphold a certain law or tradition (plus learning that Anglicans still have this as a clerical position)
Feb 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
Holy Disorders is the second Gervase Fen novel, following on from The Case of the Gilded Fly and published in 1945. This is very much Britain in Wartime, although some parts of normal life go on as usual - including the cathedral services at Tolnbridge, where Fen is on holiday from his job as Professor of English at Oxford. When the current organist at the cathedral is attacked, Fen invites Geoffrey Vintner, composer and organist, to take over. Vintner, a mild mannered bachelor, also finds himse ...more
Like Wodehouse, Edmund Crispin's novels seem so blissfully effortless that it is only on re-reading that the craft becomes apparent. I was thrilled to find this old friend on Audible and I have thoroughly enjoyed the performance given by the narrator. In Holy Disorders, Crispin uses comedy as the velvet glove to conceal the iron fist of the plot: it is 1939 after all, and everyone is keeping an eye out for enemy agents. But given that the Devon cathedral town is chiefly known for witchburning, p ...more
Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all)
Hard to believe this is the same author and main character as in The Moving Toyshop. This book has none of the lightness of touch or wit that I so enjoyed in the first Fen mystery. Fen calls his friend to a cathedral town help out playing organ for the services (though what Fen is doing there at all is never really explained), and said friend is dogged by anonymous letters, falling trunks and mystery men--and that's just on the journey out. There are far too many minor characters, adding to the ...more
Sep 02, 2017 rated it liked it
World War II is underway, and the organist of the cathedral in a British town has gone mad. In this case, the choir has nothing to do with it.
Criminal doings appear to be afoot, and Gervase Fen, Oxford don and amateur detective, is on the case -- although he was really only in town on a search for interesting insects. He summons an acquaintance named Geoffrey Vintner to fill in for the organist and gets him hopelessly entangled in the sordid affair, which eventually includes two murders, numerou
Jan C
Aug 18, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery, 2019
The second Gervase Fen book and the second book of Crispin's that I've read. I've enjoyed them both. Gervase is on some sort of scientific trip to Tolnbridge, for some kind of investigation or experimentation on insects there. He sends an emergency message for help to his friend Geoffrey - he needs a butterfly net. Between the time that Geoffrey goes to the department store and arrives in Tolnbridge he has been attacked several times and meets a new friend, Fielding, who handily stepped in to de ...more
Mar 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: vintage-mystery
This is my favorite of the Crispin novels. He is an outstanding writer and deserves to be better known than he is.
Sep 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
A masterclass in English and so wonderfully written. It does plod along a little at times and at others I found I needed a dictionary at hand, but a decent read of the country in wartime.

And a whodunnit which when arrives at the 'who' offers footnotes and references to the appropriate page for reminders. And it was certainly needed!
Nov 21, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Despite the title, this is a straight mystery with Crispin’s perfect ear for just the right word or phrase. I find his writing is like poetry, passages stick in my mind - “overzealous bee...dilatory swarm’ – to be rolled over my tongue at leisure.

“..his taxi burrowed its way through the traffic outside Waterloo Station like an overzealous bee barging to the front of a dilatory swarm.”
Dec 20, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mystery
Holy Disorders has almost overtaken The Moving Toyshop as my favourite Edmund Crispin story. It has, of course, Crispin’s brilliant wit that can leave me gasping with laughter and a hapless young composer at the centre of the mayhem. But it is the setting makes this Golden Age murder mystery special.

Edmund Crispin (in real life Bruce Montgomery) was an organist at St. John's College, Oxford and a composer in his own right. His description of the organ in his fictional south coast cathedral town,
May 20, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: mystery
I thought this would be a win for me because I really enjoyed the other book I've read by him, The Moving Toyshop. That book is quirky and witty with lots of English wordplay and a murder that involves an entire store disappearing and reappearing overnight. This one started out great, following Geoffrey Vintner who is ordered by his friend, Oxford professor and self-important detective Gervaise Fen, to come to a village outside of London to substitute for a church organist who was nearly murdere ...more
Mar 04, 2013 rated it liked it
Oxford don, Gervase Fen, is eccentric, sarcastic, absent-minded, childish and vain--as well as utterly delightful. Edmund Crispin, the pseudonym of Robert Bruce Montgomery, first began to write mystery stories featuring Gervase Fen because of a bet. The rumor is that Gervase Fen is based on Oxford professor, W.E. Moore and this book, like Crispin's others, is full of references to English literature, poetry, and music. Set in the World War II era, there is a murder of a cathedral organist and Fe ...more
Jul 24, 2009 rated it really liked it
An Oxford professor Gervase Fen amateur detective mystery. Fen is an eccentric character given to outbursts and sarcasm directed at those who are unable to follow his reasoning and interpreting of clues. This story involves two murders, one of which appears to have been impossible, and quite a cast of characters who are associated with the Church of England. In some ways, a fun read while the Fen character can get on your nerves.
Jan 25, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: mystery
Can't say I liked this one. It lacked a lot of the humour which is a Crispin trademark and I found the motivations of the murder implausible. Still, it had its moments. Even ordinary Crispin is a good read.
Eustacia Tan
Sep 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nlb-ereads
3.5 stars, rounded up to 4

I heard that Edmund Crispin was one of the Golden Age mystery writers and knew that I had to try at least one of his books. The only one the NLB has (that wasn’t an audiobook) was Holy Disorders. After reading it, I have to say it was fun, but a little confusing.

Holy Disorders starts when Geoffry Vinter (a composer) is summoned by his friend and amateur detective Gervase Fen to bring a butterfly net to Tolnbridge. On the way, he gets attacked three times and rescued by
Feb 24, 2019 rated it liked it
If you are troubled by reading British English as opposed to American English, don't read this book. If you find the distance between the second decade of the 21st century and 1945 to create a difficulty in understanding, don't read this book. If you find a book laced heavily with quotations from Shakespeare, Virgil, Poe, Lewis Carroll, and numerous others (which are not placed within quotation marks), don't read this book. If you are made uncomfortable by reading the second book in a series wit ...more
Jan 06, 2019 rated it liked it
A play-fair whodunnit from the golden age of them (1945). The detective, Gervase Fen, is a professor of English at Oxford, and is not charming: he loudly declares his sidekicks to be stupid when they don't equal his reasoning powers (neither did I), he usually irritates everyone in the room, and he is full of eccentric mannerisms. The best thing is that he often drops a bon mot, and then looking around complacently for admiration, finds that nobody was listening. Perfect. There is some slapstick ...more
Jan 26, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2017
Holy Disorders's beginning was reminiscent of a Hitchcock film: a man on the run from unknown attackers who pursue him from the moment he leaves for London's Victoria Station to his disembarcation at Tolnbridge, where he is to provide a butterfly net to neophyte entomologist, amateur detective, and Languages and Literature professor Gervase Fen. Fun to read for history, English and American literature references, dialogue and setting, but as a mystery Holy Disorders has its flaws: murder culprit ...more
S Dizzy
Jan 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love the crisp, sometimes witty descriptions - "Coffee was in the drawing room. There rose to meet them as they came in, Garbin and Spitshuker still engaged in surreptitious altercation, a little old man of phenomenal thinness, with a sharp nose, small beady eyes which never for more than a moment held your own, and a crown of sparse and wispy white hair - Sir John Dallow, Chancellor of the Cathedral. In speech he alternatively gabbled and drawled. His mannerisms were at once like and unlike S ...more
Aug 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Just a few things to note:

1. I think it's interesting that another reviewer comments that the characters are largely unpleasant, as is often the case with Crispin. I find the opposite. They're usually middle-class caricatures that, I suppose, might be quite annoying if you came across them in real life, but on the page I find them quite funny and likeable.

2. This novel sits comfortably between The Gilded Fly and Th Moving Toyshop in both chronology and quality. It's a marked step-up from the for
It's a comparison I've made before, but reading Edmund Crispin is like crossing Agatha Christie with P G Wodehouse in the best way. The mystery - and it's solving - are sort of by-the-way; really the author is having fun with situations and characters, and throwing out apt quotations that the audience is expected to catch, and enjoy.
I will say the chapter 'Two Canons' where they meet a possible suspect who owns a pet raven made me guffaw in the the end of the interview, Fen recommen
Nov 04, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
With unending musical and literary references, the dialogue is amusing. There is one laugh-out-loud section in which protagonists recite a poem unknown to the butt of the joke. If I included a spoiler, you would understand how that is funny. You will just have to take my word for it. Here are a couple of random quotes. Someone bargaining with the final judgment wanted to take "a front seat at the celestial entertainment." Another character biting off more than he could chew had a "sail ... too b ...more
Lauren LaTulip
Feb 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Argh, so torn about this book, written in 1945! On one hand, so much screwball comedy and offhand humour that I'll be laughing for a month. On the other hand, definitely misogynistic, though quite hard on most of the men too. Detective fiction featuring an impossibly ill mannered brilliant professor from Oxford, usually featuring a likeable young male sidekick. This one has spies, religion, music and witchcraft stirred up together. Likeable, but...
Sep 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery
If you've seen my other reviews you'll have heard this before but - the primary villain was obvious from the start in spite of Crispin's attempts at obfuscation. I don't hold that against him though as his writing is a delight, the setting and characters are right up my alley, and I never read for the plot in any case. All in all, jolly good fun.
Shay Lynn
Edmund Crispin Books Are Either ...

... very good or unreadable. This is one of the latter: convoluted and mercilessly arch. I make it a rule to abandon any book as soon as I find myself needing to make notes to keep all the characters straight. That's supposed to be the author's job.
Jan 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Slightly wacky and fun. A great retreat from the grim news of the day. Even though this one is marked Gervase Fen #2, Fen makes a reference to upcoming events that take place AFTER this novel but concern the events of Fen #1. I think you can read them in either order but the copyrights are the same year, so perhaps 2 should come first. Following all this?
Anna Katharine
A little dark, with odd touches of the paranormal, but engaging, self-deprecating, and dripping with literary and other cultural references from the period. There are a lot of passing Anglican/Episcopal and musical references, so if you move in either of those worlds, you'll feel like an insider.
Adam Thomas
Wonderfully written, but not so wonderfully plotted: too many diversions and a slightly complicated solution.
Oct 28, 2017 rated it liked it
Why is Gervase Fen hardly in Gervase Fen mysteries? I call for more. This one was well written just not as interesting.
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Edmund Crispin was the pseudonym of (Robert) Bruce Montgomery (1921-1978). His first crime novel and musical composition were both accepted for publication while he was still an undergraduate at Oxford. After a brief spell of teaching, he became a full-time writer and composer (particularly of film music. He wrote the music for six of the Carry On films. But he was also well known for his concert ...more

Other books in the series

Gervase Fen (1 - 10 of 11 books)
  • The Case of the Gilded Fly (Gervase Fen, #1)
  • The Moving Toyshop (Gervase Fen, #3)
  • Swan Song (Gervase Fen, #4)
  • Love Lies Bleeding (Gervase Fen, #5)
  • Buried for Pleasure (Gervase Fen, #6)
  • Frequent Hearses (Gervase Fen, #7)
  • The Long Divorce (Gervase Fen, #8)
  • Beware of the Trains (Gervase Fen, #9)
  • The Glimpses of the Moon (Gervase Fen, #10)
  • Fen Country:  Twenty-Six Stories Featuring Gervase Fen (Gervase Fen, #11)
“Intellect stood aside and informed him of this fact.” 1 likes
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