"Typical", William Dougal thought, "How bloody inconvenient".
He was standing just inside the door of his supervisor's room in the
history department. Three yards away, a corpulent, tweed-covered shape sprawled on the oatmeal carpet to the right of the desk. The eyes and the tongue protruded from its bloated face towards Dougal in the doorway. No doubt about it -- the life had been sucked out of Dr Gumper.
Dougal soon realises that Gumper, far from having died from a heart attack as he first assumes, has been garrotted. Now most people in that situation would call the police, but Dougal, basically, can't be bothered. The thought of going into the office, trying to explain it all to the secretaries, and in the process missing his girlfriend Amanda's Boeuf Strogonoff, seems far too much trouble. This proves to be a really bad decision, and soon he and Amanda find themselves caught up in a hunt for a hugely valuable cache of missing diamonds which takes them to a remote Cathedral in Norfolk, an even remoter village church, to Cambridge, and finally to a burnt-out manor house on the shores of a Suffolk estuary. Pursued by two highly professional crooks and urged on by the suave, untrustworthy James Hanbury, they follow clues supposedly embedded in a page of medieval script (the Caroline Miniscule of the title), in the process getting themselves deeper and deeper into lies, deceit and worse.
This is a truly delightful book, originally published in 1985 and the first of many by that talented and versatile crime writer Andrew Taylor. While this is clearly a crime novel, as several crimes take place during the course of it, it's unusual in that while the protagonists Dougal and Amanda are immensely sympathetic characters, they act in ways that can only be described as reprehensible. When it was first published, the New York Times Book Review thought it had
"a rather shocking amorality", and you can see what they meant. But that is exactly what is so likeable about it.