Monday, October 6, 2014

Mystery Monday: A Nice Derangement of Epitaphs

Time for a Classic Mystery!

Title: A Nice Derangement of Epitaphs
Author: Ellis Peters (Edith Pargeter)
Publisher: My edition: Warner Books, 1992, 196 pages. Originally published 1965 by Collins.
Source: Been on my bookshelf for ages; yes, I've read it before.

This is the 4th book about Detective Inspector George Felse. He and his family (wife Bunty and 18-year-old son Dominic) are vacationing in Cornwall and get caught up in the local excitement--the opening of the grave of 18th-Century local squire and  poet (and smuggler, if not pirate) in search of his lost poetry. What they find--and don't find--in the grave sets off a series of events that draw in not only George, but also Dominic.

I'm very fond of Peters' writing. Many people know about her 12th-Century monk, Brother Cadfael. Fewer know the Felse family, but they are well worth investigating if you can get your hands on the books (I think they've all gone out of print).  Bunty tends to get short shrift (in apology, Peters wrote The Grass-Widow's Tale, which is Bunty's own adventure and mystery to solve on her own), but Dom is usually in it up to his neck, and this book is no exception; the book is as much his story as anyone's.

Peters knows how to put a story together, with the right mix of the unexpected and solid police work, mystery and human nature. Her tone in these books, however, I suspect is not for everyone. There is a certain quality (which I am having trouble defining or describing. Wonder, maybe) which give the books an almost mystical air, even when firmly anchored in the real world. Or maybe the coast of Cornwall is a bit removed from the real world in any case. I think that Peters' biggest weakness is the tenderness with which she treats lovers and the young. I have the feeling she never had children, because the children she writes are just a little too amazing, and can always be trusted to be on the side of the angels, even if full of mischief. Maybe she was just writing in a more innocent time. For all that, I love both the characters and the writer.

For fans of classic British whodunnits and the precursors of the cozy genre. It doesn't hurt if you like a bit of word play, as the title suggests.

Full Disclosure: I checked A Nice Derangement of Epitaphs out of my library, and received nothing from the writer or publisher in exchange for my honest review.  The opinions expressed are my own and those of no one else.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."


  1. I must try this - I've never read any Ellis Peters. The trouble with you, working in a library, is you keep making me add even more books to my already ridiculously long to-read list. And then there are the bookclub books...

    1. I know about Ellis Peters long before the library--she was one of the first mystery writers I read, because my parents were reading the Brother Cadfael books. She's good!


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