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Mystery Monday Review – The Seven of Calvary

The Seven of Calvary by Anthony Boucher 

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)

 

This 1937 mystery fits the criteria for genre of academic mystery: set at a university, professor as detective, international cast, cultured dialogue, learned digressions, and mild gibes at profs’ manners and ways.

Though this was the author’s first mystery, he takes pleasure is satirizing the conventions of the Golden Age mystery. For instance, the professor-detective, like Nero Wolfe, never stirs out of this room to investigate the crime. In fact, he has a graduate student be his Archie Goodwin, getting out and talking to persons of interest. The grad student narrates the story in an arch and faux-sophisticated tone, very much like Michael Innes in the Thirties. In an outrageous post-modern technique, the grad student and Boucher (rhymes with “voucher,” by the way) meet over chow to confirm with each other that fair-play has been the byword, that clues needed to solve the mystery have indeed be given to the reader.

The story moves steadily through plenty of action. Boucher misdirects too but the long-time mystery reader, while alert to being fooled, will not be cheated out of a good surprise either. It’s impressive that Boucher developed such a crackerjack story his first time out. This book well deserves its classic status. Although he did not return to a campus setting, he wrote many more mysteries and short stories. For many years he was the mystery reviewer for the New York Times. He has a convention of mystery fandom named after him, Bouchercon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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