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Swan Song by Edmund Crispin
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Swan Song (original 1947; edition 1981)

by Edmund Crispin

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258344,311 (3.86)18
Member:wisewoman
Title:Swan Song
Authors:Edmund Crispin
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Tags:Mystery

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Swan Song (US: Dead and Dumb) by Edmund Crispin (Author) (1947)

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A thoroughly unpleasant opera singer is found hanged in his dressing room. He also seemed to have ingested a lethal dose of sleeping pills found in a bottle of gin. Although nobody is particularly sorry about the singer's death, Professor Gervase Fen is not convinced it was suicide.

A very funny mystery, which would probably be even more so if I knew anything at all about Wagner's Meistersingers. ( )
  Robertgreaves | May 13, 2014 |
Plenty of the cast and hangers-on of the first post-war production of Wagner's Die Meistersinger had good motives for murdering the lead bass-baritone - and his brother wasn't too fond of him either. But how could any of them possibly have managed to kill him in own dressing room? Gervase Fen investigates.

An excellent locked-room mystery with strong characters, a robust plot and a very ingenious solution. The immediate post-war context is obvious, and the German and Jewish characters add to the story, although the latter is occasionally a bit of an unfortunate caricature. There's a very entertaining scene with some Young Intellectuals discussing Wagner's influence on Hitler, and it gets quite serious on a couple of occasions.

One of the things I like about the Gervase Fen books is that, while they are exceedingly frivolous, they don't trivialise the crimes that take place within them. Crispin goes from silliness to gravity in the blink of an eye and to great effect

There are a lot of literary references - and not only to serious literature: I laughed out loud when the crime writer asking Fen for an interview about his amateur sleuthing comments that she also proposes to interview Mrs Bradley and Albert Campion. ( )
6 vote CatyM | Jul 21, 2010 |
A music mystery. Gervase Fen is certainly no Nero Wolfe. ( )
  tzelman | Mar 6, 2008 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Crispin, EdmundAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Innes, MichaelIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Saarikivi, JukkaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Dedication
To Godfrey Sampson

My dear Godfrey,

You're not, I fancy, an habitual reader of such murderous tales as this, and in the ordinary way I should be decidedly shy of dedicating one of them to you. But a book with a background of Die Meistersinger--well, what else could I do? It was you who first introduced me to that noble work (in the days when the sum of my musical activity consisted in trying to evade piano lessons), and our mutual admiration of it is not the least of the many bonds of friendship between us. Accept the story, then, for the sake of its setting, and as a foretaste of the day when Wagner's masterpiece returns to Covent Garden--without, let us hope, any of the dismal impediments which beset it in the following pages.

Yours as ever,
E.C.
Devon, 1946
First words
There are few creatures more stupid than the average singer.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
UK title Swan Song; US title Dead and Dumb; both in 1947.
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From the book cover:
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Murder at the opera. No one was sorry silver-voiced Edwin Shorthouse was dead. He had set the stage for his own murder by making enemies with every aria he sang. Now not one highbrow creased with care at the gruesome sight of his gin-soaked corpse swinging slowly from a hangman's noose backstage.
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But Gervase Fen, delightful Oxford don and amateur sleuth nonpareil, knew he must crack the conundrum of this locked-dressing-room murder before the killer brought down the curtain on the rest of the cast. And as more dastardly deeds were played out against the backdrop of a grand opera, it was up to fearless Fen to stop the show with a solution to this grand whodunit.
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When an opera company gathers in Oxford for the first post-war production of Wagner's Die Meistersinger their happiness is soon soured by the discovery that Edwin Shorthouse will be singing a leading role. Nearly everyone involved has reason to loathe him but who amongst them has the fiendish ingenuity to kill him in his own locked dressing room?… (more)

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