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A Piece of Justice: An Imogen Quy Mystery [Paperback]

Jill Paton Walsh
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

July 15 1995
Biography is usually a safe profession. Even rather sedate. But more than one biographer has found that writing about the late great mathematician Gideon Summerfield leads to a hasty retreat. Or something more deadly...Imogen Quy, the coolly competent college nurse at St. Agatha's College, Cambridge, first notices the pattern when her enthusiastic lodger Fran becomes the latest Summerfield biographer. Before she realises how deadly the Summerfield secret is, Fran's life is in danger. And Imogen may be next...
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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From Publishers Weekly

Brisk and neatly plotted, the second Imogen Quy mystery (after The Wyndham Case) relies heavily on the skills of its engaging amateur sleuth, school nurse at St. Agatha's College, Cambridge. Imogen's lodger, graduate student Frances Bullion, has just undertaken to ghostwrite a study of Gideon Summerfield, a relatively obscure mathematician. Always kind, loyal and compassionate (but relentlessly nosy), Imogen agrees to help and soon discovers that the three previous Summerfield biographers are all either missing or dead. Summerfield's vituperative widow hounds Frances and demands the return of her husband's papers, and Imogen is threatened by thugs. What could a bookish mathematician have in his background to inspire such malevolence? Imogen checks with her well-placed contacts (a local detective and the wife of St. Agatha's director of studies) and eventually goes off on a horrific but edifying trip to Wales. A warm circle of friends in a quilting group inadvertently provides some clues to a mystery as intricate and finely constructed as one of the hand-sewn quilts so central to the story.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

Imogen Quy (rhymes with "why" ) returns after successfully solving The Wyndham Case (1993) for her employer, St. Agatha's College, Cambridge University, where she works as the college nurse. Like the first in the series, this rather gentle story is ever so cozy--murders, yes, but no obvious blood, gore, or violence. Imogen's tenant/friend Fran, a struggling graduate student, gets an unexpected windfall by way of her adviser, who turns over to her the job of writing a biography of a deceased mathematician, formerly of St. Agatha's. All rather boring, if truth be told, since the deceased led a seemingly uninteresting life--except for the fact that, of the three other people who have tried to write his biography, two have disappeared and one is dead. A clever plot and the likable Imogen are the main features here, along with Walsh's rather good send-up of academicians and their pretensions. An excellent mystery in the very English tradition. Stuart Miller --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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5.0 out of 5 stars Piecing out quilts and mysteries - Imogen Quy May 17 2003
Format:Paperback
"When I take a full view and circle of myself without this reasonable moderator, and equal piece of justice, death, I do conceive myself the miserablest person extant. Were there not another life that I hope for, all the vanities of this world should not entreat a moment's breath from me. Could the devil work my belief to imagine I could never die, I would not outlive that very thought."
- Sir Thomas Browne, _Religio Medici_, part I, section 38 (one of Lord Peter Wimsey's favourite books)
After reading _Thrones, Dominations_ and learning that she was continuing Sayers' Lord Peter Wimsey stories in _A Presumption of Death_, I was curious to see what Walsh's writing is like taken alone, free of my existing opinions about Lord Peter. _A Piece of Justice_ is Walsh's second Imogen Quy (rhymes with 'why') mystery, thus also serving as an independent check on Walsh's handling of series characters.
Starting on the library's copy one weekend afternoon, I set it aside somewhere about chapter 12 - because I only had about an hour to get back there and check out _The Wyndham Case_ before I'd miss my chance for another week. :) The books can be read out of order without missing anything crucial to understanding the characters in _A Piece of Justice_ or spoiling _The Wyndham Case_.
What impresses me most about Walsh's writing in the Quy books is that nothing goes to waste - the writing is watertight. Anything that happens serves to provide clues or illuminate character - and just as the reader might dismiss an incident as only one or the other, Walsh may turn the tables.
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Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Piecing out quilts and mysteries - Imogen Quy May 17 2003
By Michele L. Worley - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
"When I take a full view and circle of myself without this reasonable moderator, and equal piece of justice, death, I do conceive myself the miserablest person extant. Were there not another life that I hope for, all the vanities of this world should not entreat a moment's breath from me. Could the devil work my belief to imagine I could never die, I would not outlive that very thought."
- Sir Thomas Browne, RELIGIO MEDICI, part I, section 38 (one of Lord Peter Wimsey's favourite books)

After reading THRONES, DOMINATIONS and learning that she was continuing Sayers' Lord Peter Wimsey stories in A PRESUMPTION OF DEATH, I was curious to see what Walsh's writing is like taken alone, free of my existing opinions about Lord Peter. A PIECE OF JUSTICE is Walsh's second Imogen Quy (rhymes with 'why') mystery, thus also serving as an independent check on Walsh's handling of series characters.

Starting on the library's copy one weekend afternoon, I set it aside somewhere about chapter 12 - because I only had about an hour to get back there and check out THE WYNDHAM CASE before I'd miss my chance for another week. :) The books can be read out of order without missing anything crucial to understanding the characters in A PIECE OF JUSTICE or spoiling THE WYNDHAM CASE.

What impresses me most about Walsh's writing in the Quy books is that nothing goes to waste - the writing is watertight. Anything that happens serves to provide clues or illuminate character - and just as the reader might dismiss an incident as only one or the other, Walsh may turn the tables. As a consequence of this storytelling style, on the other hand, the landscape is *not* littered with standard red-herring tools such as characters who exist only to divert reader suspicion from the real culprit(s) - like the extra 2 or 3 board members of a firm hiring Nero Wolfe, or the non-entity sibling who's quietly pruned from the cast list in a BBC adaptation of a Marple novel. The lack of clutter strengthens the story, although it entails working without a safety net in terms of misdirection on the puzzle side. As I favour story over puzzle aspects in mysteries, that doesn't bother me.

Imogen works part-time as school nurse at St. Agatha's College, Cambridge. As a member of the Newnham Quilter's Club, her inquisitive mind turns naturally to the love of patterns that run across the entire surface of a finished work - she is, of course, among the few who love designing the quilts the group works on, rather than just following through a pattern laid down by others. (Throughout JUSTICE, Walsh provides a recurring pattern herself, concerning traditional activities that may entail little formal recognition, but are vital to well-being or comfort: crafts rather than arts.)

When Imogen's favourite lodger - Fran, a starving grad student - lands ghost-writing work from Professor Maverack, her advisor (in Cambridge-speak, he's supervising her), on a biography of the late Gideon Summerfield, Imogen isn't happy with the patterns that emerge from the research Fran has been handed. Just how many researchers have been handling this material - and what happened to them?

Janet Summerfield, the widow, craves acclaim for Gideon; she *wants* the biography to be written, and provided much of the raw data. She's eager to talk about him - but why is she so hostile when biographers want to talk to *her*?

And frankly, who other than Mrs. Summerfield would care about "the great Gideon's" life, posthumous Waymark prize in mathematics notwithstanding? Maverack didn't want to write the biography himself because Summerfield seemed boring - so he says - and the publishers insisted on using his name for fear the book wouldn't make money otherwise.
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Depth, intellectual tickle and more-pretty damn good mystery Aug. 3 2004
By KatPanama - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Remarkably delightful however low-key academic mystery set in Cambridge where our sleuth is the college nurse at St. Agatha's. It's a short book but packed with fascination. For example, I'm not intense about quilts nor fabrics but found both to be fascinating and of intellectual quality as well. Not the mention the theory and practice of biography. There's much in this mystery to tickle, provoke and appreciate.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent mystery full of twists and turns Dec 5 1998
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
There are no new plots. Walsh not only acknowledges this truism, she makes it the theme of her novel. Patterns repeat in quilts and in biographies, but we are saved from boredom by the differences in color and fabric, and by the twists that individual personalities impose on old stories. As the patterns repeat in this novel, the reader soon learns to watch for those twists. The general outlines of the original crime seem clear from the start, but Walsh pulls together all the threads (pardon the pun) with a master's touch. As she plays with the reoccurring themes, the author also repeats ideas that appear in other works. I noted oblique references to at least three other great mystery novels with plots tied to the British University system; there are probably more. After reading this book, I can understand why Walsh was chosen to complete Dorothy L. Sayers's Thrones, Dominations. Don't be fooled by the slenderness of A Piece of Justice. This book has more substance than many volumes three times its size.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Her ability to combine academia and quilting is unique. Feb. 10 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio Cassette
Jill Paton Walsh has a way of drawing you into a mystery that you need to read to the end in order to piece together all the details. As a quilt lover, I enjoyed the way she worked quilting and the mathematics of quilting as well as the artistry into her underlying story. And you can't help but feeling you know an Imogene Quy somewhere - either past or present. Worth picking up and reading.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful story! March 9 1998
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Although I have not yet read "Thrones, Dominations," I have read "A Piece of Justice," and I have not been so impressed by a mystery (original, classy!) since finishing all of Sayers' work. Paton Walsh is a great mystery writer in her own right -- give this one a try!
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