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The Sibyl In Her Grave (2001)

The Sibyl in Her Grave (2001)
Rating
4.13 of 5 Votes: 1
ISBN
0440234824 (ISBN13: 9780440234821)
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English
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The Sibyl In Her Grave (2001)
The Sibyl In Her Grave (2001)

About book: I picked this up on a whim in the bookstore, and I was more than pleasantly surprised.The prose and dialogue are exactly how I wish everyone talked all the time. Verbose and precise, much like something from Jane Austen or some other 19th-century British author (so of course it's quite shocking that I liked it so much).The large cast of characters are unique and interesting, the plot/mystery are intriguing* without being over the top, and the humor is absolutely spot on. It's the epitome of the kind of British humor that I love: dry, absurd, and generally light hearted. I laughed out loud probably more than a dozen times, which is pretty good for a book of average length.Perhaps the most unique aspect of this novel is the narrator, Hilary Tamar. The author very skillfully does not reveal the gender of the narrator, but she does so in a way that does not make you aware of it. In fact, I would probably have not even noticed it had I not read on the back cover that Hilary's sex is ambiguous. I didn't automatically assign a gender in my mind either. This is something I haven't seen done before, and Caudwell did a great job of it, so I was impressed.I would definitely say that this book isn't for everyone, but if it's the kind of thing you like, you will probably like it very much.Now I'm off to try to stop myself from buying the rest of them all at once, as it's too close to Christmas.*I am probably easier to please than most when it comes to a mystery plot. I don't put extra effort into trying to figure things out, as I just like to enjoy the read. That being said, I thought that this particular mystery was complicated enough to be interesting and not easily guessable, but it wasn't so convoluted that it seemed far fetched. Basically, what a good mystery should be.

This is the fourth and last book in this wonderfully amusing mystery series featuring an unlikely set of detectives: a group of rather frazzled young English barristers, who are more usually occupied with setting up trust funds or defending clients from accusations of tax evasion. Caudwell was herself a barrister, and these contemporary stories were written around the 1980’s - that’s the twentieth century, not the nineteenth; however the writing is highly stylized like a novel from that earlier age, and that’s half the reason these are so much fun to read.The mystery begins when Julia’s aunt writes asking for tax advice (all the books are partially epistolary) and Julia's investigation leads to a case involving insider trading, blackmail and possibly murder. The plot is full of coincidences, but if you can overlook that then it’s pretty entertaining.The author deals lightly with gender and sexuality. The reader may never even notice that the narrator’s gender is never revealed: in the prologue to this last book Professor Tamar coyly objects to requests for "details of a personal and sometimes even intimate nature".I admit to being a little disappointed with the reveal at the end: (view spoiler)[It’s hard to believe the mild-mannered minister resorts to such extreme measures to get rid of the annoying girl, instead of just putting his foot down and forbidding her to come near him. (hide spoiler)]
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Reviews
Kristen
The final installment in this series is just as delightful as the rest. If I reread these books at some point, I'll probably give them all five stars. In this novel, Caudwell skips the European travel and instead tackles the classic English village. I particularly liked the twist that (view spoiler)[all the people and events that seemed sinister ended up being perfectly harmless, while the killer was all along the person who was the most inept and well-meaning. (hide spoiler)]
Roberta
I was ... amused. This is a book I picked up recently at a library sale because I noticed the Edward Gorey dust jacket. This was not my first Sarah Caudwell, since I read Thus Was Adonis Murdered some years ago but hadn't read the rest of her books. Not that I'd avoided them, just that I am more likely to read a British cozy mystery than a send-up of one.Actually, the nudge/wink regarding building contractors on page 26 and continued on page 56, might be equally true anywhere in the world. Selena says: And now the plumber's rung up to say that his van's broken down and he can't be here before midday. and the electrician's rung up to say that he has an emergency in High Barnet and can't be here until the afternoon. and the carpenter's rung up to say that he has a family bereavement and can't be here at all. Hilary, do you think men in the building trade always behave like this?" To which Hilary replies: "I'm sure it's most unusual." What was unusual, from all I had ever heard of such matters, was not their failure to arrive but their telephoning to give notice of it... I know little of law or psychic counseling but I do know genealogy. On page 117 Regina asks Julia (in a letter written on paper with what? a quill?) to look up Jeremiah Arkwright in the probate records in London to see if he had any children. What British woman of a certain age and class can't find this information without asking for help? It seems like everyone knows everyone. But no one knows the Arkwrights? Besides that, dates on letters indicate that the story is set in 1999. And there are no computers closer than London?
Janine Southard
A fun little mystery story, but it didn't live up to its hype.See, a friend of mine (sadly not on Goodreads), has been talking up Sarah Caudwell recently. Well, this is the novel I found first, so it's the one I read. And I suppose it's nice enough, but...It all felt so contrived. Oh, the OTT "upper-class English speech" (which: I went to the wrong parties at Oxford apparently). Oh, the way everyone knows everyone (e.g., the lawyer you bump into in London happens to have a flat right next to yours in Cannes during the holidays). You have to take the book with more than a single grain of salt, and you have to be in the mood for writing that strives to sound witty.Not that it isn't witty. I giggled over TSiHG a few times. Just...contrived.Solidly 3 stars.
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