by Stephen Tall on August 18, 2010
Oxford Fall, Veronica Stallwood
An Oxford college fundraiser, reportedly drunk, plunges to his death from the top of the Tower of Grace – how could I not read a detective novel with such an alluring premise?
The weak part of the novel is Stallwood’s irritatingly bland heroine, Kate Ivory, who blithely ignores all warnings, and blunders into danger with all the insouciance of a 1970s’ Dr Who assistant. I ended up half-hoping the murderer would dispatch her: it would at least have made her interesting.
The strong part is the contrivance which shouldn’t have worked: an ongoing conversation between an angel and the victim which gradually reveals his life’s self-serving back-story. It’s funny, compelling and clever: much more entertaining than yet another episode of Ms Ivory Lands Herself in a Frightful Pickle.