It's an absolute delight. The first chapter starts by introducing all our main characters and suspects who are all en route to Oxford to take part in the production of an important new play, but are currently stuck on a slow moving train from London. The chapter ends omniously: "And within the week that followed three of these eleven died by violence." The first victim is Yseult Haskell a beautiful but bitchy actress, the former lover of the playwright, and hated by almost the entire cast. When she is found shot not very far from Fen's own college rooms, he is inevitably - and gleefully - on the spot to start investigating. Part of the fun is the constant banter between Fen and his friend Sir Richard Freeman, Chief Constable of Oxford. The latter fancies himself as much of a literary critic (and has actually published three books) as the former believes himself to be a detective. The two love to tell each other how to do their jobs.
P.D. James is a huge fan and highlights Crispin in her recent book Talking About Detective Fiction. She calls the character of Gervase Fen a "true original" who "romps through his cases with infectious joie de vivre in books which are genuinely very funny" and notes that the books, "are always elegantly written with a cast of engaging, witty characters. . . Crispin is a farceur, and the ability successfully to combine this less-than-subtle humour with murder is very rare in detective fiction."