RogerBW's Blog

The English School of Murder, Ruth Dudley Edwards 14 November 2018

1990 mystery, third in the Robert Amiss series. Having resigned from the Civil Service on a point of principle, Amiss doesn't have much luck getting a job; an old police friend asks him to look, informally, into a School of English where one of the teachers has died under suspicious circumstances. More deaths follow.

Amiss himself, and his friends, both his girlfriend Rachel and the police with whom he interacts, are great here. Unfortunately the ephemeral characters fall all too easily into stereotypes of hateful foreigners. (Dudley Edwards even has a scene in which Amiss remarks to Rachel just how stereotyped they all are, but that doesn't save them.)

'Carry on. And make it interesting. I want a story of love and hate, greed and retribution, death by moonlight and the downfall of a beautiful woman.'

'I'll lend you a Dornford Yates to take home with you. My story begins with an accident in a language laboratory in a Knightsbridge English school.'

There's obviously something dodgy going on at the school; there are the "tarts and waiters" taking cheap courses in large classes, and the "beautiful people" who are kept completely separate. But is that dodginess serious enough to merit police attention; and is it actually related to the murder?

There are the same dated references to National Service as in the previous book, and an attitude to the Japanese that I haven't met since the 1970s (though it's given to a character who's already unsympathetic).

'I don't think I can shake hands with this one, Pooley. Not after what our lads went through as prisoners-of-war.'

I found this one pretty weak; a mystery needs better ephemeral characters, about whom the reader can being themselves to care at least a little bit, and there's really only one here who reaches that bar. Furthermore, the actual murder puzzle is left too open to be satisfying. There are some excellent moments here, but they're a bit too widely spaced. Series recommended by Gus; followed by Clubbed to Death.

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Previous in series: St Valentine's Day Murders, The | Series: Robert Amiss | Next in series: Clubbed to Death

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