My latest entry in Patti Abbott's series, Friday's Forgotten Books, is Sarah Caudwell's Thus Was Adonis Murdered
Sarah Caudwell’s strange career as a crime writer was cut short by her untimely death in 2000. In almost two decades, she produced only four novels, and the last of those – The Sibyl in her Grave was published posthumously, and then initially in the United States but not at first in her native England.
By that time, deplorably, her original publishers seemed to have tired of her agonisingly slow rate of productivity. Yet Caudwell won many devoted admirers with work which seemed, even at the start of her career, to belong to a much earlier age. Her style is eccentric and mannered, with academic and legalistic overtones, but above all it is witty. Her plots are intricate and somewhat contrived. She makes great use of letters as a means of conveying information to the reader. The gender of her series detective, Professor Hilary Tamar, is never revealed. All in all, Caudwell was a one-off, whose passing all lovers of the ingenious whodunit lamented. Thus Was Adonis Murdered introduced Hilary and her friends at 62 New Square in Lincoln’s Inn. It is an intricate story, remarkably told, which earned Caudwell immediate acclaim, and – because the book seemed to belong to another age even when it came out in 1981 – it has worn pretty well. Caudwell is an acquired taste, but for those willing to step into a make-believe world, she offers rich entertainment. Great fun.