Another of England's ancient and long-respected universities is the setting for an entertaining Golden Age mystery by Q. Patrick. His 1933 book, Murder at Cambridge, follows the adventures of an American undergraduate student at that extremely English university, as he first falls in love at first sight with a young woman student - and then finds himself involved in a murder in which that young lady may have played a critical part. Murder at Cambridge is the subject of today's audio review on the Classic Mysteries podcast, and you can listen to the entire review by clicking here.
In Murder at Cambridge, we meet Hilary Fenton, an American who finds much to like at the university. He enjoys student life, his studies, the occasional escapades and pranks of his fellow students. But one day, sitting in class, he sees an unknown young woman sitting across the lecture hall from him. He immediately falls in love with her (all right, this IS Golden Age fiction, after all!), and tries to learn who she may be.
But before he can do so, he finds the body of another student, a young man who lives on the same stairway at Cambridge as Hilary does. And he thinks he sees the mysterious young woman coming down the stairs from the victim's rooms at what must have been right around the time of the murder.
So Hilary does what any young man (at least of the period) would do: he proceeds to meddle in the investigation, hiding potentially critical evidence and generally being a nuisance. Fortunately for him, and for the course of justice, the police officer in charge, Inspector Horrocks, is nobody's fool. He sees through Hilary's deceptions pretty quickly and still invites the young man to help him investigate. Working together, they must discover the relationship between that mysterious young woman and the victim and the secret that lies hidden at the heart of the murder. There will be a second murder, and the young woman herself will narrowly escape becoming a victim.
While all this is going on, we are given a student's-eye view of Cambridge University life in the early 1930s - perhaps too much so for some tastes. The author even includes a glossary of student terms, in an effort to help readers decipher some of the jargon - though even he cannot make me understand the game of cricket.
A word about the author: "Q. Patrick" was one of several names used by four different writers working together in various combinations between the 1930s and 1950s. Some books appeared under the names of "Patrick Quentin" and "Jonathan Stagge." Murder at Cambridge, though, appears to have been the solo work of Richard Wilson Webb, the only book he wrote without collaborating with another author. It is an entertaining book, and the university setting certainly adds to the reader's enjoyment of a pretty tight mystery. A British publisher, Ostara Publishing, has brought Q. Patrick's Murder at Cambridge back into print as one of a series of mysteries set in that fine old University town. The paperback, I think, is a bit on the pricey side, but there is also an edition for the Amazon Kindle which is available for less than half the price of the paper copy.
Murder at Cambridge is another entry in the My Reader's Block Vintage Mystery Reading Challenge. Its setting makes it a natural for the category called "Jolly Old England."
I would be remiss if I did not tell you that I came to Murder in Cambridge through a post by mystery writer Martin Edwards, on his excellent blog, "Do You Write Under Your Own Name," which you will find linked from my blogroll on the right. His review includes more information about "Q. Patrick," and I commend the article to you.