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Thus Was Adonis Murdered (1981)

by Sarah Caudwell

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Hilary Tamar (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
9593216,667 (3.99)116
When her personal copy of the current Finance Act is found a few metres away from a body, young barrister Julia Larwood finds herself caught up in a complex fight against the Inland Revenue. Set to have a vacation away from her home life and the tax man, Julia takes a trip with her art-loving boyfriend. However, all is not what it seems. Could he in fact be an employee of the establishment she has been trying to escape from? And how did her romantic luxurious holiday end in murder?… (more)
  1. 60
    Rumpole of the Bailey by John Mortimer (GeraniumCat)
    GeraniumCat: Anyone who enjoys Sarah Caudwell's legal mysteries should also like Horace Rumpole, and vice versa. They share much of the same humour, a delicious set of English eccentrics and a similar fascination with the intricacies of the legal system.
  2. 30
    Still Life by Louise Penny (wandering_star)
    wandering_star: Both these mystery series are excellent examples of the quirky/cosy end of the spectrum, with extremely engaging characters, an ironic wit and good twisty mysteries.
  3. 20
    Death at the President's Lodging by Michael Innes (themulhern)
    themulhern: Both are whitty, erudite, and English, and the first detective novels of their respective authors.
  4. 10
    Death's Bright Angel by Janet Neel (themulhern)
    themulhern: Both are about a milieu, the Civil Service and Conveyancing respectively. Sarah Cauldwell's book is probably much cleverer, and is also funnier and queerer.
  5. 00
    Cut to the Quick by Kate Ross (mambo_taxi)
    mambo_taxi: Both books fall into the "just plain fun and delightful" category. Significant edge in favor of Caudwell's humor, slight advantage to Ross for building the better mystery.
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» See also 116 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 32 (next | show all)
Professor Hilary Tamar, Don of Oxford specializing in the history of law, is friendly with the young barristers at 62 New Square, Lincoln’s Inn: flighty Julia, mellifluous Selina, angelic Ragwort, sardonic Cantrip (he in possession of the unfortunate degree from, sadly, Cambridge) and slightly older Timothy Shepherd. When Julia finds herself in a spot while in Venice - the “spot” being a suspicion that she is a murderer - her stalwart companions leap to her defence - well, as long as the leap isn’t too far past a local pub or three - and Hilary is there to both guide them and capture the events for posterity…. I ran across the four novels in this series back in the mid-1990s (although they were published in the 1980s), but had not re-read any of them for a long, long time. The writing style takes a little getting used to - it’s a very English upper-class style, wherein the characters are constantly pointing out each other’s faults while apparently heaping effusive amounts of praise on each other - but once one makes the effort, it’s utterly hilarious. (An example, early on; Hilary writes: “On my first day in London, I made an early start. Reaching the Public Record Office not much after ten, I soon secured the papers needed for my research and settled in my place. I became, as is the way of the scholar, so deeply absorbed as to lose all consciousness of my surroundings or of the passage of time. When at last I came to myself, it was almost eleven and I was quite exhausted….”). Often compared to the Rumpole of the Bailey series, this set is updated to the more-or-less modern world of the 1980s, with mentions of fluid sexuality abounding, and the results are quite delicious. Ms. Caudwell died of cancer in 2000; otherwise, one could envisage this series continuing on into the present day with no loss of enjoyment; I’m looking forward to re-reading Book Two already! Recommended. ( )
  thefirstalicat | May 1, 2021 |
Dithery professor solves murder of tourist in Venice, freeing her friend, the main suspect.
  ritaer | Jan 20, 2021 |
A murder mystery set between London and Venice in the very early 1980s. I've heard people rave about the Hilary Tamar series for years, but sadly wasn't particularly enamoured with this, the first installment. It's perfectly competent (albeit with an underwhelming ending) but also quite arch and artificial. The characters mug and spout banter with all the subtlety of a community theatre production of something by Wilde or Wodehouse. ( )
  siriaeve | Sep 26, 2020 |
This is the first of Caudwell's four crime novels. They are famous in the annals of crime-fiction because we never discover whether her narrator and amateur sleuth, Oxford law professor Hilary Tamar, is a man or a woman. The professor solves crimes together with former student Michael and four of his junior barrister colleagues at Lincoln's Inn.

In this first book, one of the young barristers, the notoriously accident-prone Julia, becomes a suspect in a murder inquiry during a holiday in Venice, and her friends are busy trying to clear her name, leading to a scenario that looks like a sort of cross between Donna Leon and John Mortimer (except that Leon's Venetian detective didn't appear on the scene until ten years after this). But the style is very much Caudwell's own, with most of the work done through witty dialogue between Tamar and the young lawyers that is rather in the tradition of P.G. Wodehouse and Evelyn Waugh, without ever reading like a direct pastiche. The non-dialogue parts of the text are mostly in the form of long, and also very funny, letters between the characters (we have to believe that letters posted in Venice would arrive in London the next day, rather implausible given the state of both British and Italian public services in the late 1970s!). Lots of jokes about chancery law and the art world, lots of LGBT plot interest, and a running gag that any unfamiliar American expressions, criminal slang, or other vulgarity must be "Cambridge idiom". I really don't know how I've gone forty years without finding out about these books! ( )
  thorold | Jun 8, 2020 |
This book sports a dry humour that's a lot of fun to read. The self-important unreliable narrator is incredibly well done, and makes for an unusual and fun narrative arc. I'm not a big fan of mysteries, so I wasn't all that interested in who murdered whom, and more with the snark in the meantime (which, I suppose, is just as intended). At times, the intentional tediousness of the narrator grated a bit, because I had been dealing with people who were somewhat similar while reading the book – which also made me appreciate the dry meta commentary a lot. ( )
  _rixx_ | May 24, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 32 (next | show all)
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Sarah Caudwellprimary authorall editionscalculated
Cox, PaulCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gorey, EdwardCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Haddon, EvaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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To J.G.F.C.G.
for all the letters I've failed to write you
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Scholarship asks, thank God, no recompense but Truth.
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'Furthermore,' I added, 'it is no use your implying, Selena, that your part in the enterprise was a merely negative one. If you tell me that Julia could have managed to purchase a travel ticket, find her passport, pack her suitcase and catch an aeroplane, all without the aid of some competent adult, I shall be obliged to disbelieve you.'
It is about an hour and a half since you left me at the airport. Things, since you left, have not gone well with me: they have taken me from a place where there was gin to a place where there is no gin, and from a place where I could smoke to a place where I cannot smoke. That is to say, from the departure lounge to the aeroplane.
'Julia did very well,' said Selena, 'not to fall into the lagoon. How beastly of that woman to suggest she'd had too much to drink.'

'Most uncharitable,' said Ragwort. 'Julia, as we all know, needs no assistance from alcohol to make her trip over things.'
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When her personal copy of the current Finance Act is found a few metres away from a body, young barrister Julia Larwood finds herself caught up in a complex fight against the Inland Revenue. Set to have a vacation away from her home life and the tax man, Julia takes a trip with her art-loving boyfriend. However, all is not what it seems. Could he in fact be an employee of the establishment she has been trying to escape from? And how did her romantic luxurious holiday end in murder?

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Book description
Androgynous barrister Hilary Tamar's colleague, Julia Larwood (young, brilliant and disorganized) is in deep trouble with the Inland Revenue. Julia goes on holiday to Venice, seeking romance; she also finds a dead body.
Haiku summary
She visits Venice
Accused of murder. Uffa!
Such gay holidays!
(pickupsticks)

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