THE ANATOMY OF GHOSTS by Andrew Taylor
It's the late eighteenth century, and bookseller John Holdsworth has fallen on sad, hard times, with bankrupcty, the death of his child and the suicide of his wife, both by drowning. To help the crazed son of a possible patron he must find the truth of the ghost of a drowned woman which has been sighted in Jerusalem College, Cambridge. But this is the time when the Enlightenment has reached some minds but not many institutions: the Master is dying, the rich students are debauched and ignorant, poor students are servants to the point of accepting money to write essays, debts will land you in prison and sex is a commodity which can kill. (Did I mention that there's a satirical streak too?)
Why I enjoyed it:
Here is the enclosed world of the classical detective story: its hierarchies and tensions, the limited circle of suspects, the reasons for innocent people to lie, the stranger in town - or in this case, in College. So in one sense it's a classically-built 'varsity crime novel: if you know your Sayers, Morse, Imogen Quy, or C P Snow, then it's fun watching the same conflicts and dynamics, snobberies, self-deceptions and fears refracted and reflected in a gilded, filthy, time-spotted roccoco looking-glass. And yet that's only a small part of it;
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