Monday, 30 March 2009

The Oxford Murders


I’ve always been fascinated by the number of crime stories that are set in Oxford. Many, many more than are set in English cities more obviously associated with real-life crime. When I was a student, I used to haunt the Paperback Bookshop on Broad Street, opposite my college, and I well remember a display of books by a new local author – to which, it has to be said, nobody else seemed to pay a great deal of attention. His name was Colin Dexter and now, of course, he is one of the great names of the genre. Sadly, the Paperback Bookshop is no more, though I did have the very real pleasure of seeing some of my own books on its shelves on my last visit prior to its demise (I prefer not to think that their decision to stock my work was connected with financial calamity!)

On a visit to the city eighteen months ago, I read The Oxford Murders by Guillermo Martinez – even writers from Argentina, it seems, love to use the city as a crime scene - and very much enjoyed it. It’s a literary detective story of considerable appeal. Now I’ve seen the film, which boasts an excellent cast including Elijah Wood as the student (named Martin) at the heart of the story, John Hurt as a mathematician with a philosophical bent who is his hero, Anna Massey as his landlady (and the first murder victim) and Leonor Watling and Julie Cox as the women who fall, more at less at first sight, for lucky old Martin. Jim Carter plays the investigating cop with his usual gusto.

I had mixed feelings about the film. It’s a very difficult book to adapt for the big screen, I think, and although the movie is at times visually stunning, the script is verbose and I wasn’t entirely convinced by some of the acting, which struck me as being at times over-the-top. Worth watching, yes, but a good example of material that suits prose better than a theatrical experience.

4 comments:

Dorte H said...

The last time I visited Oxford was c 12 years ago (together with a colleague and 24 Danish students). I found one of Inspector Morse´s favourite pubs, checked that they served evening meals, and persuaded my horde of young people it would be interesting to try it out in the evening. But what happened: when we entered the pub, they had put up a sign that the cook was ill so no food for us.

maxine said...

I have to say I really hated this film. However, I saw it on a transatlantic flight, during which the in-flight entertainment system broke down. So I only saw the first third. However, on the flight home, the same menu of movies was playing, so I watched the rest. I fully admit that the circumstances were not the best - tiny screen, overnight flight, probably heavily cut - but I am afraid it was just illogical, particularly the denouement, as well as unconvincing and unbelievable (that maths lecture! honestly!). I am fully prepared to believe the book is much better, but reluctant to put that to the test on the basis of the film experience and the very many sillinesses in it. I am not quite sure what Elijah Wood, John Hurt etc were doing there. (making money?)

Martin Edwards said...

Maxine, I did enjoy the book - which also had the merit of being short and snappy, without quite the OTT aspects of the movie.
Dorte - Oxford is one of my favourite places in the world and I'm hoping to have the chance to visit it a good deal more regularly in future.

seanag said...

I thought the book was promising but it let me down a bit in the end. Still, I do plan on reading the next one. I'm sorry to say that at the moment I can't quite remember what the problem was. I think I just found the mystery itself a little flat.