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The Sibyl in Her Grave Hardcover – Aug 1 2004


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 314 pages
  • Publisher: ISIS Publishing (August 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0753169916
  • ISBN-13: 978-0753169919
  • Shipping Weight: 789 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)


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First Sentence
THE TWO MEN struggling on the floor of the Clerks' Room differed widely in appearance: one young, of slender build, dressed in cotton and denim, with honey-coloured hair worn rather long and a pleasing delicacy of feature; the other perhaps in his sixties, tending to plumpness, wearing a pinstriped suit, with the round, pink face face of a bad-tempered baby and very little hair at all. Read the first page
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Sadly, this will be the last book featuring the adventures of Selena, Julia, Cantrip, Ragwort and their former Oxford tutor Hilary Tamar, as Sarah Caudwell died in 2000. Last is not least, though, as Caudwell again provides her readers with hilarious characters, suspicious situations, and just enough British tax law to keep things interesting.
This installment centers on Julia Larwood's aunt Regina, who lives in the innocent-sounding town of Parsons Haver, West Sussex. This being Caudwell and not Christie, however, the town is populated with the same kind of oddball, interesting characters the rest of her books are (for instance: the town's newest resident is a psychic who keeps a flock of ravens and a vulture in her drawing room). Regina needs advice from Julia on a tax question; she and some friends have made quite a bit of money investing in shares in different companies and they are now being asked to pay a large capital gains tax. Strangely, their investment plan was identical to that of someone apparently involved in insider dealing at the bank of one of Selena's clients. But what is the connection? That's what this band of amateur sleuths sets out to discover.
As in Caudwell's other books, much of the action is explained through correspondence, in this case mostly letters from Regina to Julia, although other characters do take up the pen. The device works well; it allows the reader to see the story from several first-person perspectives at the same time and to get a better understanding of each of the characters who write. The book isn't all letters and no action, of course; several trips are made to Parsons Haver, Regina comes to London, and action on the bank connections sends characters to locations ranging from Cannes to Scotland. Stones fly through windows, ..
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By A Customer on Jan. 2 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
As a student of literature I spend most of my time reading literature from the British canon--learned, sometimes difficult, prose. When I'm on vacation, I want to read something fun--not that Jane Austen isn't delightful. I cannot, however, suspend my constant need for intelligent prose.
Sarah Caudwell is a kind of Austenian mystery writer (a comparison others have made, I think). She satisfies the need for good writing, while satisfying the desire for entertainment. Implausible plot? Of course, but no less plausible than the coincidences sprikled throughout Pride and Prejudice.
The novel starts slowly, but once the characters and events get moving (albeit, postally) the mind of any mystery lover will be astir with conjecture. So much fun! The last novel I read during my winter vacation and completely gratifying.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
The point of Sarah Caudwell's meysteries was never the plot, or the plausibility. The novels are full of majestic letters no one would ever really write, wonderful characters who would never have the careers they have, and intriguing conversations that could never really happen. The pleasure of reading one of these books is, however, all the things that could never really happen.
It's hard to know how to help someone decide whether they would like this book (or the other three the author wrote before she died last year). I'd say that if you like Wodehouse, you will probably like this (but I hate Wodehouse myself). People who like Benson's Lucia books will likely enjoy these. And, oddly, if you are one of the people who loves Pamela Dean's _Tam_Lin_, you will no doubt find these mysteries engaging.
The books are full of improbable plots, which at least don't fall apart until you reflect on them later. The plots are as tangled as a pile of extra-long spaghetti, which makes it all the more fun when the professor untangles them. If you want realism, look elsewhere. If you want beautiful lanugage, interesting characters and acerbic humor, and you are willing to take that wrapped up in a mystery, you'll love these books.
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By A Customer on Aug. 24 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This was the first Sarah Caudwell novel I've read. Perhaps I should have started the series from the beginning, but I found myself unable to overcome my sense of implausability in this novel. I was surprised that the characters all wrote such long, frequent, and detailed letters - I was even more surprised that Hilary Tamar was allowed to read them all. I didn't like the main character because I didn't know anything about him or her, except that he or she talked a little too much in the manner of Sherlock Holmes. I enjoyed the various developments to the plot, until the point that the blame for three successful and several more attempted apparent murders took place. I felt that Ms. Caudwell took the expression "always the person you least suspect" far too literally. Couldn't the person at least BE a suspect? I'm sorry to be offending any Caudwell fans, and I'm very sorry to hear that she passed away, but I found the amount of coincidence truly excessive, the main character unlikeable, and, in short, I found that the best thing about the novel was the front cover (which was excellent.)
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
There are only four of these entertaining mysteries, published infrequently from 1981 until the author's death at the age of 60 in 2000 (her real last name was Cockburn, which is interesting given her abiding interest in sexual practices). A pity, because they have their own unique style, if somewhat reminiscent of Christie's bright young things Tommy and Tuppence, or even Dornford Yates. One has to make allowance for the dubious sexual habits of many of the various characters, although that adds to the humor; it is not even certain whether Hilary Tamar is a man or a woman (my opinion is that he is an old poof who is too discrete and reticent ever to have indulged in anything carnal -- good old Uncle Hil). The tone is generally of Wodehousian comedy and complexity (a well-made drawing-room play), with touches of a nice satiric wit, often laugh-out-loud funny. Nearly everybody in these books is intelligent and well-spoken, glibly verbose, even the villains, making these books a pleasure to read as 'escapism' though hardly profound -- as long as you appreciate this sort of thing. Plots are complex, though not of the 'locked-room' type, the typical comedy of errors where there are lots of coincidences, suspects all having their own agendas in diverting sub-plots, and happening to be involved in a crucial way in the events. The last one has an incredible (but fine) spaghetti plot involving multiple poisonings, where actual murder keeps getting pushed up and shot down until the final revelation -- a Mozart symphony of plotting.Read more ›
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