I was browsing a few weeks ago among the fabulous displays done by the Lit staff at the Central Library and happened across a familiar author writing in an unfamiliar genre. Jill Paton Walsh has been one of my top 10 favorite young adult authors ever since Ellin Chu made me read A Parcel of Patterns years ago. Imagine my surprise and delight when I fouund that she’s now writing mysteries for adults.
The Bad Quarto is the latest in her Imogen Quy (rhymes with “why”) series. Imogen is a nurse at St. Agatha’s College, Cambridge University, but moonlights as a part-time sleuth. Devoted mystery readers know that the Universities in England are awash with mystery and intrigue, and in the grand tradition of Dorothy Sayers, St. Agatha’s is no different. This time around, Imogen must unravel the mysterious death of a promising scholar, which becomes tied up with a production of Shakespeare’s “Bad Quarto” version of Hamlet, which which leads her to the daring “night climbers” of Cambridge, and finally to a sad and dangerous young woman.
Imogen is everything we want in a sleuth – single, self-possessed, empathetic, smart, funny, daring — a real Nancy Drew. She handles all the (many) characters throughout the story with aplomb. The story is short, a mere 265 pages, but Paton Walsh packs a lot into that small space — almost too much. There is an over abundance of characters here and I did have some trouble keeping them all straight at times. However, Paton Walsh ties up the ends into a neat little bow, leaving me wanting more of Imogen Quy. I will be looking for her earlier titles now, and waiting for the next in the series.