Have you ever encountered writing that filled you with joy and envy at the same time?
If you haven’t, read Sarah Caudwell’s mannered mysteries, starting with Thus Was Adonis Murdered (1981). I read Caudwell years ago in paperback, and just today decided to treat myself to the first e-book in the series.
And yes, it’s as wonderful as I remember. The genderless narrator, Oxford don Hilary Tamar, is a delightful combination of hyper-eloquence and hypo-self-awareness.
“On my first day in London I made an early start. Reaching the Public Record Office not much after ten, I soon secured the papers I needed for my research and settled in my place. I became, as is the way of the scholar, so deeply absorbed as to lose all consciousness of my surroundings or of the passage of time. When at last I came to myself, it was almost eleven and I was quite exhausted: I knew I could not prudently continue without refreshment.”
Sarah Caudwell passed away at age 60, having written only four full-length mysteries. Caudwell was a lawyer, the half-sister of Alexander Cockburn, and the daughter of Jean Ross, who reputedly served as Christopher Isherwood’s model for Sally Bowles in his Berlin stories (later adapted into the Oscar-winning musical Cabaret).