Monday, 10 September 2012

Cambridge


After a summer of disappointing weather, a promising forecast was enough to get me off on a trip down the motorway to a truly fascinating city I''ve only once visited in the past, in the long ago days when one of my brothers-in-law was a student there. Cambridge is not the most accessible place from the north west, but on a very sunny week-end, it was utterly charming and beautiful.

Highlights for my son and me included a river tour on a punt (courtesy of a current undergraduate - it's more than thirty years since I lasted punted and I suspect my technique hasn't improved in the intervening years) and a walk round the superb botanical gardens. We found countless attractive corners, and whilst a couple of days isn't enough to see everything - far from it - we packed a lot into the time available.

Cambridge isn't as well represented in crime fiction as Oxford, and, although I've never attempted a count, I'm sure there are, and have been fewer ex- Cambridge students who have written crime than is the case with Oxford. But this is irrelevant, really, because there are plenty of very good Cambridge-based books. Ostara Publishing (masterminded by Richard Reynolds of Heffers) has published a number of them,and this small press is well worth a look.

Perhaps my favourite Cambridge-based crime novel is a historical mystery, The Anatomy of Ghosts, by Andrew Taylor. Andrew is a gifted writer, one of the finest around, and is confident enough in his own skills to develop a story gradually, eschewing synthetic dramatic tricks that "up the stakes", and relying instead on craft and character (as well as a talent for unorthodoxl plotting) to draw his readers in. This is one of his very best books. Among other first-rate writers who use Cambridge as a setting, I'd highlight the talented and under-estimated Michelle Spring. I've not often mentioned Michelle in this blog, but although far from prolific, she is definitely worth of note.

After Cambridge, we had a fantastic day somewhere else that has occasionally featured in the genre. More of that tomorrow, if time permits....

7 comments:

Margot Kinberg said...

Martin - Oh, such lovely 'photos. I'm glad to hear the weather held up for you and it sounds as though you had a great trip :-).

Marina Sofia said...

I too am a Cambridge fan - it just feels so much smaller and greener than Oxford. I have recently discovered Alison Bruce's DC Goodhew novels, set in Cambridge. And no, it's not Morse-like (not a college in sight, yet!) but a great read.

Martin Edwards said...

Hello Marina, good to hear from you and I've enjoyed taking a look at your own blog.Thanks for mentioning Alison Bruce and among others I should also have mentioned Susannah Gregory, who writes very popular historical mysteries.

Janis Goodmanw said...

There are also Jill Paton Walsh's Imogen Quy novels which are all set in Cambridge and which I would recommenc.

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks, Janis. JPW is indeed a very polished writer.

Nan said...

We went there on our very first trip in 1971, rented a punt, and Tom did the work. We were okay going one way, but on the way back it was a lot of work. I'm going to look into the mysteries set there.

Martin Edwards said...

Hi Na, punting is great fun, but I'm not as confident about it now as I was when I was 19!