Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Long Divorce by Edmund Crispen: a Review

On his way to the village of Cotten Abbas, Mr. Datchery encounters Penelope Rolt, a very pleasant teen age girl. She tells him about the problem of the anonymous letters which are being sent to the residents of Cotten Abbas. She also tells him that she is in love with the village schoolmaster, Peter Robi, and that Peter is a student of psychology and has been trying to locate the letter writer. Her father certainly does not approve of Penelope's seeing Peter Robi. Following this conversation, Mr. Datchery arrives in Cotten Abbas, and takes a room at The Marlborough Head which is run by Mr. Mogridge. By the way, if the name Mr. Datchery seems familiar, think back to The Mystery of Edwin Drood.

Dr. Helen Downing is a young physician who has purchased her first practice in Cotten Abbas, and is having a hard time of it. People in this small village find it difficult to accept a woman physician. Also, there is a very personable male physician, George Sims, in the village to offer competition. Helen's debts are beginning to pile up. She has made a good friend in Miss Beatrice Keats-Madderly, but Miss Keats-Madderly went to Dr. Sims when she needed medical treatment. Helen had received an anonymous letter, but paid no attention to it. It was a great shock to her when her friend, Miss Keats-Madderly committed suicide apparently because of one of these letters. The letter was found burned and unreadable in the fireplace.

Mr. Datchery had been making his way around the village, and meeting the residents, and finding out about the village hostilities. The new residents of the village were upper middle class, and wished to keep the village a show place of quaint and historic life with no unpleasant additions such the mill which Harry Rolt, Penelope's father, had built. He openly disliked and was disliked by the residents. Datchery also attended the services at the chapel which was headed by Amos Weaver, the village butcher. The chapel was looked down upon by the residents who preferred the Church of England services.

Murder came to the village when Peter Robi's body was found one Sunday morning. Inspector Casby and Constable Burns were in charge of the investigation of this crime. Helen Downing became the chief suspect in this murder and of having been involved in causing the suicide of Miss Keats-Madderly. This was very unfortunate for Inspector Casby because he and Helen had just become engaged.

The reader of Edmund Crispen mysteries has realized by this time that Dr. Datchery is really Oxford professor Gervaise Fen. Colonel Babbington, the chief constable, had requested Fen to come to Cotton Abbas to investigate the anonymous letters. Fen finds the writer and the murderer. with the assistance of Lavender, the cat.

I really enjoyed this book. It is well written, and the characters are well developed. I must admit that I do not know what the title has to do with the book.  It was written in 1951, and has been reissued.

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