Vintage Golden Age Mystery
Scavenger Hunt Category: Rope/Hangman’s Noose
Date Finished: February 16, 2016
Oh, it is a joy to read a Edmund Crispin mystery. It is well written, humorous, clever, literary, and well plotted. A very welcome treat. In Swan Song, Gervase Fen is involved with an opera company putting on a production of Wagner’s Die Meistersinger at Oxford. The difficult bass singer is found hung in his dressing room. No one could have been with him at the time of his death, yet Fen and the coroner’s jury are not convinced that it is suicide. Attacks on other characters and another death follow. These serve to cloud the mystery, but in the end it is not very difficult to figure out the solution. That is the only demerit this mystery earns. Fen is a quirky, impolite, hilarious figure. Wouldn’t it be nice to stick him in one of Ngaio Marsh’s dull Alleyn outings.
The cover of this 1981 Avon edition earns many more, however. The same artist did others in Avon’s Crispin reprints, but this one is extraordinarily poor. The cartoonish main figure in these is supposed to be Fen, one assumes. Here at least he is not dressed as Sam Spade, though is he holding a very stiff handkerchief to his face or is that something else? For no reason, two extraneous characters are pictured to the bottom left, while the murder victim, the most dramatic portion of the picture, is so obscured that you have to study it before you can spot the rope. A giant tea cup and bottle of poison fill out the picture. Terrible. Someone’s relative needed a job, I presume.