Murder at the 'Varsity, written by Q. Patrick, and first published in 1933, is also known as Murder at Cambridge. And it has recently been republished under that latter title by that splendid small press, Ostara, in its attractively produced Cambridge Crime series. It's a very welcome reissue, but the fact that the story is set in Cambridge, England, might raise an eyebrow. For was not Q. Patrick (later, Patrick Quentin) an American writer?
The answer is no, not in this particular case. The Patrick/Quentin names concealed, over the years, the identities of no fewer than four different writers, two men and two women. As I understand it, this particular book is the only one that was written by Richard Webb alone. And Webb was an Englishman, and was an undergraduate at Cambridge before moving to the US. It is clear from reading the book that he had a close understanding of Cambridge university life - there is a whiff of authenticity that does not suggest research from a distance.
The story is a pretty good one, too. The narrator, Hilary Fenton, is a native of Philadelphia (where Webb worked after emigrating) and a fellow student who is murdered comes from South Africa (where Webb had worked before moving to the US.) Fenton's attempts to get involved in the sleuthing are compromised by the fact that he has fallen in love with a pretty student who was lurking around the murder scene. Rather foolishly, he does not tell the police all he knows about the victim, and complications ensue.
I thought I'd solved the puzzle, but no - the author had a neat twist up his sleeve. The culprit was genuinely unexpected, and overall I thought Webb got away rather well with some rather unlikely plot manoeuvres. He was a clever writer, as was the better known Hugh Wheeler,with whom he soon began to collaborate. This solo effort does, however, show that Webb was an accomplished detective novelist in his own right. This is an entertaining Golden Age story, on a par with the better known books set in Oxford during the same era.