Thrills, Suspense and Laughter: The Case of the Gilded Fly by Edmund Crispin

Detective thrillers are supposed to be grim affairs, with detectives on the heels of criminals trying to get away (literally) with murder. There is supposed to be action, tension and suspense.

And humour. And laughter.

Oh yes, you read that right. Humour in the thriller format exists. And if you do not believe us, just go right ahead and read Edmund Crispin’s books. Start with The Case of the Gilded Fly. The book marks the first appearance of Oxford Professor, Gervase Fen, perhaps the most hilarious detective in the history of crime fiction. But do not for a moment think he is a bad detective. No, the man may not be as dramatic as Sherlock Holmes (we think Fen is just a little more…classy), but he is wonderful at spotting clues and connecting the dots. And for good measure, he is very witty and has a way with words.

Just as Crispin has a way of narrating incidents. The Gilded Fly is a relatively small book (250-odd pages, you will get through it in a few days easily) and revolves around a double murder before the staging of an important play in Oxford. The police initially suspect suicide, but of course, Fen insists it is murder. And is involved because the first crime occurs close to his own office.  What follows are a fair number of twists and turns involving new and former friends and lovers, and a climax that is actually surprising.

The book is set in the early part of the Twentieth Century but is still incredibly fresh to read, simply because Crispin writes so well. Some might find the language old-fashioned but it will grow on you and once Fen arrives on the scene, you will have a fair but to smile about. Mind you, Crispin is not flippant. He does make some telling observations about life and human nature.  A very easy book to read, The Gilded Fly starts a little slowly, but picks up pace and we are reasonably sure you will fly through the second half in a day. Ever wondered what would happen if you blended the plotting of Agatha Christie with the humour PG Wodehouse? We reckon the result would be something like Edmund Crispin. And The Gilded Fly is a great way to get acquainted with him. And realise that suspense can be hilarious.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *