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The Sirens Sang of Murder (1989)

by Sarah Caudwell

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Hilary Tamar (3)

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6681226,396 (4.11)43
Whilst on a trip to the sunny Channel Islands to find the heir to a lucrative tax law case, young barrister Michael Cantrip finds himself in over his head. Peculiar things begin to occur on the mysterious and isolated islands with something - or somebody -- bumping off members of his legal team. With the help of his mentor, amateur investigator Hilary Tamar, Cantrip, must find a safe passage back to the Lincoln's Inn Chambers.… (more)

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Showing 1-5 of 12 (next | show all)
An enjoyable murder mystery set in the Channel Islands, with lawyers and beneficiaries and rich people's money. My favorite bits are the telexes from Cantrip as he pursues a lead and the names of some of the characters, like Justice Heltapay. This is my first foray into the Hilary Tamar series, and I'm glad to find out, by happy accident, that I have another of Ms. Caudwell's books on the shelf. ( )
  ReadMeAnother | Sep 8, 2021 |
The third Hilary Tamar novel finds barrister Michael Cantrip requested to assist in a tax law case on the Channel Islands, despite the fact that he has no tax law experience to mention; but a short, all-expense-paid holiday suits him just fine. Once there, however, he learns that one person formerly attached to the particular case had died by accident some six months earlier, and when a second person dies under peculiar circumstances, he’s not quite sure how to proceed. Having been able to apprise his fellow barristers at 62 New Square and, of course, Professor Hilary Tamar of Oxford, by sending copious telexes about the strange events, it is only a matter of time before Hilary starts investigating, hopeful of solving the case before another member of the legal team dies…. I am really pleased to be able to re-read these hilarious novels, three written in the 1980s and the final one in 2000, the year of the author’s untimely death from cancer; they can easily be read as an update of John Mortimer (for the legal aspect) or even Wodehouse (for the comedy of manners), although they are set in a time now some 40 years ago. Perhaps one can read each novel separately, but I think reading them in order would give the reader more pleasure overall; recommended! ( )
  thefirstalicat | May 5, 2021 |
Professor Hilary Tamar and the young barristers are faced with two suspicious deaths within a group of tax professionals handling a complex trust case referred to as "the Daffodil settlement", which of course gives us the opportunity for a few exotic location scenes in the Cayman Islands, Monaco and the Channel Islands. Writing in 1989, Caudwell's preferred epistolary technique hasn't yet been able to benefit from the invention of email, but she cleverly gets a Telex machine installed at 62, New Court, which provides her characters the opportunity to communicate in writing without the need to allow for postal delays.

Another innovation is an irresponsible visiting uncle straight out of P.G. Wodehouse, who provides his share of laughs for us, as well as allowing Caudwell her silliest dénouement scene yet. The name "Daffodil" should also put us on our guard that this story is full of ironic references to old-style British academic detective stories (such as those of Professor Tamar's Oxford colleague, Michael Innes), including a Clue of a type no-one has got away with since about 1930 (a pen bearing the initials of its owner), a Shakespeare parallel, a complete set of Biggles books, and a motive of considerable antiquity.

Very entertaining, and probably full of hidden in-jokes for tax lawyers as well. ( )
1 vote thorold | Jul 19, 2020 |
A deliciously witty and devious tale of murder and tax law featuring a group of good natured young lawyers and their mentor, Hilary Tamar, and Oxford scholar of unspecified gender. I was captivated years ago by an adaptation of one of her books on Radio 4. Wonderful, precise, captivating language. Delightful and funny ( )
  Nigel_Quinlan | Oct 21, 2015 |
Amusing but unsatisfying. ( )
1 vote themulhern | Nov 23, 2014 |
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Caudwell, Sarahprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Cox, PaulCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gorey, EdwardCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Haddon, EvaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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To Billee, for putting up with the writing of it
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There will be much disappointment, I fear, among my fellow scholars. (prologue)
"No, no, let me go or I'll scream," cried the lovely Eliane, her beautiful eyes filling with tears and her bosom heaving under the delicate silk of her blouse as she struggled to free herself from the vile embrace of the brutal Barristers' Clerk.
"My client," said Julia, "a simple, innocent property developer, had entered into a perfectly straightforward transaction which happened to involve a bank in Amsterdam and one or two companies in the Netherlands Antilles and which therefore happened to result in his having no tax to pay. Or rather, that's how it would have resulted if the case hadn't come before Welladay, who considers it the duty of every citizen to arrange his affairs in such a way as to maximize his liabilities to the Inland Revenue, and of his professional advisers to assist him in achieving that result."
The chagrin of a woman displaced in her lover's affections is as nothing compared with that of a barrister superseded in the favour of a leading firm of solicitors.
Despite every effort to attribute the desire of Miss Clementine Derwent for Cantrip's presence in Jersey to some proper and decorous motive, Ragwort had been unable to think of any.
"A girl in Clementine's position," continued Julia, "would no doubt reflect that there are two kinds of young men. On the one hand, there are those, such as yourself, my dear Ragwort, to whom the least one could offer would be the devotion of a lifetime and a profoundly spiritual regard almost untainted by the grossness of carnality. From the pursuit of young men of that kind Clementine is plainly debarred by her existing obligations. On the other hand, there are young men who might be persuaded to settle for something less. Young men - how shall I put it? - young men of obliging disposition. It is pretty generally known, I believe, that Cantrip is one of the latter sort."
"She accordingly made a bet with Cantrip that she could successfully defend her virtue against the most vigorous and determined attack on it."

"That," said Ragwort, "was the ostensible contract. In substance, I fear, it was neither more nor less than a sordid and degrading bargain for the provision of services of a most personal nature for the sum of five pounds - a sum, I should have thought, which even Cantrip would consider humiliatingly modest."
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Whilst on a trip to the sunny Channel Islands to find the heir to a lucrative tax law case, young barrister Michael Cantrip finds himself in over his head. Peculiar things begin to occur on the mysterious and isolated islands with something - or somebody -- bumping off members of his legal team. With the help of his mentor, amateur investigator Hilary Tamar, Cantrip, must find a safe passage back to the Lincoln's Inn Chambers.

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Haiku summary
British barristers
Advise tax dodgers. But Sark!,
Here comes the witch hunt.

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