Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Words for Murder Perhaps: Review

I had been looking for Edward Candy's (Barbara Alison Boodson Neville, 1925-1993) Words for Murder Perhaps (1971) in used bookshops for a long time before finally giving in and finding it online for my hubby to get me on a gift-giving occasion. It was added to the TBF (To Be Found) list as soon as I read Bones of Contention (back in the mists of time before I kept a good reading log, so I don't really remember it much). When I discovered that she had an academically-inclined book, I knew I just had to have it.

Words is set at Bantwhich University. Gregory Roberts is a mild-mannered academic who teaches in the "Extra-Mural" (aka "adult education") department. He's middle-aged, living with his mother after his marriage dissolved and puttering along teaching little old ladies all about literature. The old dears love his new class, "Crime Fiction, Past and Present," and little realize that a crime wave is about to hit the university.

It all starts when Greg's ex-wife's current husband, who incidentally used to be his friend, disappears and the ex receives an anonymous typewritten note in the mail which seems to be an excerpt from a poetic elegy. She immediately thinks of Greg and assumes he sent it to her. She reports the disappearance to the police as well as her speculations about the note and soon Greg has an Inspector hanging about to see if Roberts is involved in his "rival's" vanishing act. Then a distinguished professor of Egyptology is poisoned and another obscure bit of poetry, an uncomfortably appropriate elegy, is found. More murders follow and the police are sure they are looking for a literary villain...Gregory Roberts just might do for the part. And, if not him, then perhaps the missing man--who also happens to be a bookish sort.

There is also an embryonic romance for Greg--one of the younger members of his class has fallen for the teacher. But will the police arrest him before he has a chance to pursue a relationship? Or will there  be a more sinister ending for Greg?

Candy, to use her pen name, had me guessing--in part because, she didn't quite play fair with the readers, but also because I got it into my head that she had chosen a rather unorthodox villain. But then I changed my mind and couldn't decide who it might really be. Was I right about the unorthodox murderer? Well, you'll have to read it for yourself to find out. The mystery is decent and the characterization is fair. It wasn't quite as interesting as an academic mystery as I anticipated. If you're looking for a light, quick read then this could fit the bill. Not too taxing and I was able to finish it in a day. ★★

++Also posted for the 1971 Crime Classics at Past Offences

*It occurs to me that it appears that I may be damning the book with faint praise. I'm afraid I'm just not as enthusiastic about it as I'd hoped to be--mostly because I had such high hopes for the academic-leanings.


Peggy Ann said...

Bev, I picked up an Edward Candy, Bones of Contention, actually, this last year. Looking forward to it!

fredamans said...

Great review. It sounds like it might be too light of a read for me, but glad you enjoyed it and finally crossed this book off your list.