SIMON NASH – Unhallowed Murder. Adam Ludlow #5. Geoffrey Bles, UK, hardcover, 1966. Roy Publishers, US, hardcover, 1966. Perennial P758, US, paperback, 1985.

   In 1951, Edmund Crispin and his detective don, Gervase Fen, disappeared from the scene (except for an occasional short story) for more than 25 years. But at least for the early 1960S, their places were more than adequately filled by Simon Nash, a pseudonym of Raymond Chapman, and his detective don Adam Ludlow.

   Indeed, Ludlow is basically a new incarnation of Fen, with the same curiosity, the same humor, the same fund of miscellaneous (but literate) information. But imitation is not necessarily bad, especially when it’s done by a fine stylist and plotmonger like Nash. In short, this, the fifth and apparently final book by Nash, is very good indeed. As the title indicates, the setting is a church, whose vicar proceeds to get murdered. There are plenty of possible motives:

   Is someone after the vicar’s accumulation of rare books (which he absentmindedly hid?) Is it significant that the parish council is planning to throw a working family out of a house to be occupied by the curate? Are the desecrations of the altar the responsibility of a group of Satanists.? Did low churchmen, fearing that the parish is “going over to Rome” commit the murder?

   Much of the book is filled with humorous descriptions of parish life, including the high churchmen of the Guild of Saint Cyprian and Severus (“Ah my friend, when will the sweet savour of incense again be sent up in every parish church throughout the land”) opposed by the League for Confuting and Suppressing the Errors of the Tractarians (“Things haven’t been the same since the Roman hierarchy was restored”).

   The detective problem itself is well-handled, but whether the “Romanizers” or the “zealous heretics” would be more pleased with the solution is a moot point.

– Reprinted from The Poison Pen, Volume 4, Number 2 (April, 1981). Permission granted by Doug Greene.


      The Adam Ludlow series —

Dead of a Counterplot (n.) Bles 1962.
Killed by Scandal (n.) Bles 1962 .
Death Over Deep Water (n.) Bles 1963.
Dead Woman’s Ditch (n.) Bles 1964.
Unhallowed Murder (n.) Bles 1966.