This is the third mystery in the Porter Girl series set in, as the author describes it, “the ancient and esoteric Old College.” The first-person voice is that of the Assistant Head Porter (a position the author once held) and the story is a fun-filled adventure with wildly colorful characters (almost neon) and lots McGuffins. My kind of mystery.
This time out, Porter Girl – I’ll call her PG – faces two terrible events: the discovery of the bodies of two young men, one of them an Old College student, at the bottom of Old College’s garden and a complete lack of biscuits in the Porter’s Hall, with only three tea bags left. Of the two, PG is taking the latter most seriously.
A new Bursar, Dexter Sinistrov, has been hired by Old College, and he is a riveting personage. His first priority was to cut the catering budget, although judiciously so that the cuts affect the Porters’ food heavily. The author knows how to create a slimy character. Sporting a bizarre haircut (shorn at the back but sweep of black hair over his forehead), he sneaks around old college in shiny, pointed shoes and he clearly has it in for PG. The Dean, whom we’ve met before and an excitable personage with a gigantic imagination, thinks the Bursar is a Russian Spy. Coming to investigate the deaths in this cloistered academic enclave is the formidable DCI Thompson, who is constantly at odds with the Dean. Things escalate when a young woman student dies under similar circumstance to those in the College, but on the other side of Old College’s garden wall.
PG is faced with confronting the Bursar about the lack of biscuits and tea, dealing with the Dean and his proposed investigation, assisting DCI Thompson in his work, and recruiting some students she knows to discover more about the victims. The Head Porter is mysteriously absent for most of the duration, so PG is faced with running the College from the Poster’s Hall as well.
What I enjoy so much of this series (I’ve read them all) is PG’s character and voice. She is snarky, smart, observant, and never averse to adventure. Her voice is wonderful and fun, much like the author herself. The plot is tightly imagined, the characters pop, and the dialog crisp and academic. I am smitten with these mysteries and you will be, too!
About the author
Adapted from Amazon: Adventurer. Puzzle-solver. Expert tea-maker. Lucy Brazier started writing to entertain herself during childhood as the internet did not yet exist. Later on, she had a punt at writing to entertain other people and pulled it off rather well.
From an interview with the author Dan Alatorre: Her books derive from the fact that on a whim, she applied for the role of Deputy Head Porter at one of the most prestigious Colleges of Cambridge University. She didn’t expect to get the job, but when it was offered, she thought it churlish to refuse and became the first female Deputy Head Porter in the College’s 600 year history. She believes she was absolutely the worst Deputy Head Porter the College had ever seen, and she hung up her bowler hat after a year. But her experiences inspired her blog and the Porter Girl series of fictional adventures (Porter Girl: Keeper of the Keys, Porter Girl: The Dark Lord).
You can find Lucy Brazier
On twitter: @portergirl100