REVIEW

The Oxford Brotherhood, by bestselling Argentinian writer Guillermo Martnez, is a stylish thriller set in the halls of knowledge

  • The Oxford Brotherhood, by Guillermo Martnez. Little Brown, $32.99.

The Argentinian novelist and mathematician, Dr Guillermo Martnez, had an international bestseller in 2005 with The Oxford Murders, subsequently filmed with Elijah Wood as the main character, mathematics student "G" and John Hurt as G's supervisor, Professor Arthur Seldom.

Now comes The Oxford Brotherhood, translated by Alberto Manguel, which sees G and Seldom involved in more Oxford murders. The Spanish original, Los Crimenes de Alicia won the Nadal Novel Award in 2019.

The Oxford Murders was set in 1993 and it's now 1994 with G in his second year at Oxford. Seldom invites G to a Merton College meeting of the Lewis Carroll Brotherhood, a group devoted to the work of the Reverend Charles Dodgson, aka Lewis Carroll. The Brotherhood are currently debating "the nature, whether culpable or innocent of his (Carroll's ) feelings for the (Liddell) girls".

Dodgson's relationship with the three young daughters of the Dean of Christ Church, Henry Liddell, especially Alice, who was the inspiration for Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, is well documented.

The Brotherhood are intrigued when a young researcher, Kristin Hill, reveals she has uncovered, in the Lewis Carroll archives, a summary of missing pages from the Dodgson diaries, which could shed devastating new insights on Dodgson's relationship with the girls.

They are dismayed, however, to learn that Kirsten has stolen and refuses to give up the revealing page.

G is sent to retrieve it but before he can, Kirsten is seriously injured and paralysed from a hit-and-run at the Oxford Kidlington roundabout. Was it an accident or a deliberate attempt at murder because of Kirsten's discovery?

Events become curiouser and curiouser, when members of the Brotherhood, which includes a member of the royal family, are sent salacious photographs of Alice Liddell. MI5 become involved as the "Royal Personage" would not be "amused to see himself involved in a scandal of murder and paedophilic photographs".

A dissolute member of the Brotherhood is poisoned, allegedly by another member. Then, an Oxford Times journalist investigating the Brotherhood is also murdered, his severed head found in the River Cherwell, his mouth stuffed with a torn up photograph of a naked young girl.

G and Seldom wonder if two murderers may be involved. Lewis Carroll was renowned for his puzzles, so G will need all of his mathematical logic skills to unlock the secrets of the diary and resolve the murders.

Lewis Carroll and the Alice books provide an authentic backdrop for an entertaining, if decidedly unusual, Oxford murder mystery.

This story Curiouser and curiouser: a stylish Oxford romp first appeared on The Canberra Times.