(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Edmund Crispin’s Gervase Fen mysteries are among the wittiest and most literate entries in the genre. Carrying on in the tradition of Dorothy L. Sayers and Agatha Christie, Crispin’s novels fall into that category of British murder mystery in which an amateur sleuth correctly ferrets out the killer from a small group of suspects, baffling the police with his deductive powers. The hallmarks of Crispin’s style are its humor and its playful artifice; he is a writer less concerned with realism than with imaginatively entertaining his readers, and his books are well written, wickedly amusing, and laced with erudite literary references, courtesy of Professor Fen, who sees murder as a grand intellectual diversion. Although psychological motivations figure importantly in his plots, Crispin’s stories are not so much explorations of human nature as cleverly constructed jigsaw puzzles, full of unexpected twists and farfetched conclusions.


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Aird, Catherine. “Gervase Fen and the Teacake School.” In Murder Ink: The Mystery Reader’s Companion, edited by Dilys Winn. New York: Workman, 1977. An analysis of Crispin’s most famous character and the British literary tradition in which he fits.

DeMarr, Mary Jean. “Edmund Crispin.” In Twelve Englishmen of Mystery, edited by Earl F. Bargainnier. Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green University Popular Press, 1984. Critical overview of Crispin’s life and work discussing his distinctive contributions to the history of the British detective novel.

“Edmund Crispin.” In Modern Mystery Writers, edited and with an introduction by Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea House, 1995. Critical, scholarly essay on Crispin, his cultural significance and ideological investments.

Nover, Peter, ed. The Great Good Place? A Collection of Essays on American and British College Mystery Novels. New York: P. Lang, 1999. Compilation of essays focused on crime fiction set at college campuses or feature academic characters. Provides context for the character of Gervase Fen.

Routley, Erik. The Puritan Pleasures of the Detective Story: A Personal Monograph. London: Gollancz, 1972. Idiosyncratic but useful discussion of crime fiction in terms of nominally puritanical ideology. Sheds light on Crispin’s work.

Sarjeant, William A. S. “Edmund Crispin: A Memorial and Appreciation.” The Poisoned Pen 3 (May/June, 1980): 3-10. Homage to Crispin provides a brief survey of his work and its significance.