Thursday, July 9, 2015

The Crime & the Crystal: Review

Septuagenarian and retired biology professor Andrew Basnett heads south of the equator to Australia for the third novel in Elizabeth Ferrars's series starring the academic amateur sleuth. One of Basnett's former students, Tony Gardiner, and his wife Jan have invited him to spend the Christmas holidays with them at their home in Adelaide. Basnett was initially thrilled to have the chance to see his former pupil and to leave the cold, dreary English winter behind for the warmth of the southern hemisphere. But it immediately becomes clear that something is bothering Tony and that there is a tension between him and his wife. Basnett wonders if perhaps he should shorten his holiday and move on to another former pupil who has invited him to visit after the Christmas festivities are over.

Tony assures Basnett that they don't want him to leave and explains the primary reason for  their unease. Jan was married previously and lives under a cloud of suspicion following her first husband's murder. To all appearances, Jan has an alibi for the critical time and even if that were to prove untrue it would seem that she is physically incapable of moving the body in the way in which the murderer must have done. But still the sergeant responsible for the investigation seems intent on wearing her down with constant questions and proving her responsible somehow.

On Christmas Day most of the likely suspects are gathered for a beachfront party at Jan's sister's house. When Kay [the sister] is killed in similar circumstances on Christmas Day and Jan disappears from the scene, suspicion again is focused on Tony's wife. It's up to Professor Basnett to spot the clues that will lead to the villain of the piece.

The Professor Basnett mysteries comfortable cozies that satisfy the mystery reader without a lot of blood and gore or psychological thrills and tension.  Believable characters are a stock-in-trade for Ferrars and she gives those characters believable motives as well. The plots aren't terribly intricate and the culprit here is easily spotted--though it's a bit more difficult to figure out how they might have managed the first one. I always enjoy a mystery with an academic twist to it and having the good professor as the sleuth provides just enough academic atmosphere to count. A good day's read.

Published in 1985, The Crime and the Crystal counts for the "Amateur Detective" square on the Silver Vintage Bingo care...and gives me my first Silver Bingo (finally!).

1 comment:

fredamans said...

This one sounds really good. I like it's graphic nature! Great review!