Love Lies Bleeding (Edmund Crispin)

  • By Edmund Crispin
  • First published: UK: Gollancz, 1948; US: Lippincott, 1948

Rating: 4 out of 5.

‘Oh, Gervase, if you must write a detective-story—and far too many dons write them as it is—why not use the events of the week-end?’

‘My dear fellow, no one could possibly make a detective story out of them…’

This is another masterpiece by Crispin, who has by now adopted his own style — the prose more sophisticated and serious than before, fewer references to other writers of detective stories, and an interest in rural life — here, depicted to a marvel, as is the school setting. The plot is first-class: complicated twists and turns without incoherency, interesting clues, and a surprising killer with a very ingenious (and very apt, considering the setting) alibi. Characters — and dogs (with homicidal tendencies) — are excellent, the scene in the woods is tense and atmospheric without being either hammy or melodramatic, and the Shakespeare manuscript, Love’s Labours Won, is handled in an original way. Unfortunately, well, let’s just say — Love’s Labours Lost.

Fen, writing a detective story, is a friend of the Headmaster’s, invited to present prizes at the Speech Day. Crispin’s tendency for Fen stumbling into crimes is getting more and more far-fetched — but, as Crispin pointed out in The Moving Toyshop, Fen is a fictional character.

Contemporary reviews

New Statesman (Ralph Partridge, 12th June 1948): With Love Lies Bleeding Edmund Crispin establishes himself as our leading exponent of “Third Programme” detection: he is not ashamed to address his readers on the assumption that they are his equals in education and intelligence.  Miss Dorothy L. Sayers and Michael Innes have already passed that way, but where are they now?  Miss Sayers has long been an extinct volcano in detection, and Michael Innes prefers to put on a sophisticated turn in Saturday Night Music Hall.  Nicholas Blake, for all his brilliant qualifications, never quite succeeds in doffing the academic gown and mortar-board before lecturing the class.  But Edmund Crispin is mercifully free from condescension.  The scene in Love Lies Bleeding is a boys’ public school in the Midlands, where on the eve of Speech Day murder takes toll of the Masters’ Common Room.  The plot relies for mystification on purely logical counterpoint, with red herrings rigorously excluded.  The characters carry a certain conviction; the style is light and amusing; and Professor Fen’s interludes with a comic bloodhound add even a spice of farce.  There is one flaw, however, in the motive: the murderer would never have been able to derive any benefit from his crimes without revealing his identity.