I really, really enjoyed this book! By now you are aware that I am a major Anglophile, love anything English especially an English mystery. This is a fun read (can a murder be fun, oh my!) I truly enjoyed Bergdorf Blondes by Plum Sykes as well as her articles in Vogue. Her writings are witty, intelligent, well researched (she didn’t have to do much research on this book, she attended Oxford University, I’ve longed to go for a summer term to study the Stately Homes and Gardens of England, alas, probably not in the cards!!!)
The story takes place in 1985, I love that she references to the Sloane Rangers, the fashion designers and looks of the time along with references to Dallas and Dynasty (one of the characters is an American heiress in her first term at Oxford), etc. and also dots the book with footnotes explaining terminology used on campus and general English phraseology that might not be familiar to a reader that either hasn’t visited the UK or is too young to know about the mid-1980’s. I found this quite charming and a bit amusing. The rules and regulations at Oxford play into the plot and how few women were there at that time and how they were accepted. Our protagonist, Ursula Flowerbutton, (don’t you absolutely adore the name…) along with her new friend, American exchange student, Nancy Feingold, learn very quickly the ins and outs of life at the University. Nancy comes complete with a smashing wardrobe which is totally foreign to Ursula who comes from a small village and has lived with two grandmothers after her parents died when she was quite young. The young ladies are invited to masses of drinks parties, black and white tie dinners etc. and after one of the set is found murdered (she is found by Ursula), they set out to unravel the mystery and may end up murdered as well. Ursula aspires to become a reporter on the famous student newspaper, Cherwell and has taken on an assignment to write about the murder and solve the crime. We find lots of intrigue with all the male students (bar a couple) divinely handsome and their tutor a dishy (copy from the flap of the book!) cad, the females are either gorgeous or frumpy but most seem to be looking for Mr. Right, or in Nancy’s case an Earl! There is, of course, the local police involved (no sign of Scotland Yard here) but they aren’t major to the list of characters. Lots of talk about tea and I also loved Nancy’s reaction to Marmite on toast…it is indeed an acquired taste and it’s truly wonderful when the major hunk/lover in the book, Wentworth Wychwood, takes Ursula to breakfast and she orders the “fry-up”, he is quite shocked (but actually thinks it amusing) that she is having the traditional English breakfast since no other girl he has taken to breakfast has more than toast and then doesn’t touch it! No surprise here…I love a great fry-up myself, why just have toast!
I’m not going to go further into the plot…you won’t read spoilers here, read it and let me know your thoughts. It most certainly isn’t War and Peace, but an enjoyable summer read and it is the first of a series…I simply adore a good series, don’t you!