Book Review: Death on the Cherwell by Mavis Doriel Hay

Death on the Cherwell
by
Mavis Doriel Hay

 Title: Death on the Cherwell by Mavis Doriel Hay
 Rating: 3 stars (๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ)
 Publisher: British Library Crime Classics

The body of Miss Denning, the bursar of Persephone College has been found dead in her canoe floating down a river and this sets off an inquiry into how that happened. She has a head injury and her clothes are wet, though the interior of the canoe is dry. It's sussed quickly that there's friction between her and the students of the college and also two nearby landowners as she was tasked with the acquisition of a tract of land to expand the college. The question of course is if that was what really led to her death.


Inspector Wythe is initially investigating and mostly deals with sorting out the alibis and general minutiae of the women of the college who themselves are investigating the death. Detective Inspector Braydon of Scotland Yard arrives by Chapter 8 and that's really where I felt the book really took off. The group of collegiate investigators recede quite a lot and the police suss out the culprit and to a tidy if slightly disappointing resolution. Given all the characters here, I most enjoyed Draga (very distinct & memorable) and Inspectors Whythe and Braydon. I also liked what was learnt about the deceased Bursar Denning. I think when the focus was on her and the police were involved, the story was stronger. I wasn't much into the lives of Sally and her circle of friends and there wasn't much distinction between them.

I liked this. I have tried more than once to get through Murder Underground by Mavis Doriel Hay (book & audiobook) and have found it didn't engage me so I've relegated it to the rear of my BLCC pile. That book was referenced here as one of the characters is the sister of the character who solves the mystery in that book. I kind of hoped this book would spoil Murder Underground to save me the read but alas, no luck there. 

I will of course, continue with the British Library Crime Classics.

Summary:  For Miss Cordell, principal of Persephone College, there are two great evils to be feared: unladylike behavior among her students, and bad publicity for the college. So her prim and cozy world is turned upside down when a secret society of undergraduates meets by the river on a gloomy January afternoon, only to find the drowned body of the college bursar floating in her canoe.

The police assume that a student prank got out of hand, but the resourceful Persephone girls suspect foul play, and take the investigation into their own hands. Soon they uncover the tangled secrets that led to the bursar's death—and the clues that point to a fellow student.

This classic mystery novel, with its evocative setting in an Oxford women's college, is now republished for the first time since the 1930s, with an introduction by the award-winning crime writer Stephen Booth.

Death on the Cherwell
by
Mavis Doriel Hay



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