But then again, maybe Fate has other plans for Fen. On the evening of his arrival, he spots a large naked lunatic running in the middle of the road, before the man disappears. Before long, a suspicious accident occurs, a man is murdered, a blackmailer seems to be on the loose, Fen meets a real-life poltergeist, and there’s something about a non-doing pig in there as well. Look, it’s an Edmund Crispin novel; the only thing it’s really missing is a judge who bases his verdicts on the advice received from a lunatic in a box. More specifically, all this madness occurs in the novel Buried for Pleasure.
Edmund Crispin is one of the most delightful mystery authors to ever pick up a pen. The man was mischievous, and he took it out in the form of fiction. The Gervase Fen novels are uproariously funny, full of mad twists and turns and all sorts of things that can only sound ridiculous if summed up straightforwardly. This book is no exception. (Don’t even get me started on the invisible corpse.)
The highlight of the novel, from a comedic point of view, is the political satire. Not only is it funny, it’s still pretty relevant for modern day. Although Fen knows absolutely nothing about the issues in this election, he gives such vague and evasive answers that he sounds just like a “proper” politician would – explaining that all this comes from being a Professor of English. I was laughing out loud when, near the end, Fen tells the parable of three foxes named Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and how they represent the way English politics work.
The best thing about a Crispin novel is that, as funny as it is, it’s still a good detective story. There are plenty of good moments in deduction in this book, and by the end everything is drawn together and makes sense. It’s a good solution, it fits the facts, and when it’s explained to you at the end it gives you that satisfying feeling of knowing that you could have deduced everything for yourself.
Overall, Buried for Pleasure is a delight. It’s well-plotted, delightfully funny, and the story elements are outrageous. At times I stared at the page and wondered whether Mel Brooks was trying to pull a prank on me, especially when the poltergeist showed up. It’s all in good fun, in the spirit of what John Dickson Carr called “The Grandest Game in the World”. I can recommend Buried for Pleasure as a solid entry in the Gervase Fen series, especially if you like outrageous, unpredictable plots. And I plead guilty as charged on that score.