Monday, 10 September 2012
After a summer of disappointing weather, a promising forecast was enough to get me off on a trip down the motorway to a truly fascinating city I''ve only once visited in the past, in the long ago days when one of my brothers-in-law was a student there. Cambridge is not the most accessible place from the north west, but on a very sunny week-end, it was utterly charming and beautiful.
Highlights for my son and me included a river tour on a punt (courtesy of a current undergraduate - it's more than thirty years since I lasted punted and I suspect my technique hasn't improved in the intervening years) and a walk round the superb botanical gardens. We found countless attractive corners, and whilst a couple of days isn't enough to see everything - far from it - we packed a lot into the time available.
Cambridge isn't as well represented in crime fiction as Oxford, and, although I've never attempted a count, I'm sure there are, and have been fewer ex- Cambridge students who have written crime than is the case with Oxford. But this is irrelevant, really, because there are plenty of very good Cambridge-based books. Ostara Publishing (masterminded by Richard Reynolds of Heffers) has published a number of them,and this small press is well worth a look.
Perhaps my favourite Cambridge-based crime novel is a historical mystery, The Anatomy of Ghosts, by Andrew Taylor. Andrew is a gifted writer, one of the finest around, and is confident enough in his own skills to develop a story gradually, eschewing synthetic dramatic tricks that "up the stakes", and relying instead on craft and character (as well as a talent for unorthodoxl plotting) to draw his readers in. This is one of his very best books. Among other first-rate writers who use Cambridge as a setting, I'd highlight the talented and under-estimated Michelle Spring. I've not often mentioned Michelle in this blog, but although far from prolific, she is definitely worth of note.