Inspector Humbleby and Others
A study of one recurrent policeman and notes on other notable characters from the case-files of Gervase Fen.
Humbleby was one of Scotland Yard's finest, a man who at least twice, according to Crispin, refused promotion as this would mean less involvement in crime resolution. In his first encounter with Fen, during the affair at Sanford Angelorum (Buried For Pleasure), he emerged as a sane, intelligent man with a sense of humour and a liking for cheroots, yet surely not one willing to indulge in literary whimsy. We can only assume that Fen made a profound impression on the Inspector, for when they next met at Long Fulton (Frequent Hearses), he had sprouted a willingness to indulge in such matters. He opined for example, that Henry James (the writing one, not the villain from Holy Disorders) should be prescribed as a sedative for childbirth. On the other hand, his recollection of Popes Ode to the Memory of an Unfortunate Lady is very hazy, perhaps an indication that his studies were still incomplete. Nevertheless, he was cultured enough to appreciate the paintings and sculptures at Lanthorn House, and to hazard guesses as to their creators. It is easy to see why they got on well, and Humblebys learning clearly was the basis for their mutually beneficial friendship.
For Fen, it presented the opportunity to become something of a consultant, with Humbleby presenting him with several cases that he himself had found beyond him. For Humbleby, the relationship with Fen enabled him receive the kudos for solving these difficult cases. The question that must be asked is: how come Humbleby, allegedly so gifted, needed Fen's help so often?
If Mr Crispin is to be believed, the Inspector was far from being the type of Scotland Yard bumbler so reviled by Sherlock Holmes. Why then did he come to rely so much on Fen? Was it that Fen and Crispin, in order to be allowed document the cases, were forced to portray Humbleby as much more able than he in fact was?
One further point: what was Humbleby's age? In Buried For Pleasure, he
is described as between 50 and 60. Yet, in what seems to be the second last case recorded
by Crispin, The Mischief Done, Humbleby is still in harness. As already
demonstrated, and from the evidence gathered by Mr
Pat Brennan, it seems this case took place in 1962, which would imply that
Humbleby was at least 65 years old and possible as old as 75, with the likelihood being
about 70. How can this be? Did Scotland Yard make an exception for the Inspector? If so,
it seems as if Crispin's claims for Humbleby's value to the police were not exaggerated.
The alternative is that Humbleby's stagnation at the rank of Inspector prematurely aged
him and that Fen's impressions of his age at the time of Buried For Pleasure were
Again, what follows is a personal selection of the most memorable characters from Mr Crispins accounts of Fen. Once more, the selection is taken almost exclusively from the longer stories.
Babington, Colonel: Chief Constable, valiantly trying to quit smoking, who summons Fen to Cotton Abbas (LD)
Bale, Tatty: Large-bosomed, well-dressed spinster. (GM)
Bale, Titty: Flat-chested, dowdily dressed spinster. (GM)
Beaver, Mr: Owner of the Fish Inn, who is carrying out his own campaign of destruction (or renovation, as he sees it) on the tavern (BP)
Blake, Nigel: Journalist who had studied under Fen. Becomes involved with Helen Haskell, sister of deserved murder victim Yseult. (GF)
Burges, Rev Mr: The Rector 63" giant with a face like a monkey who proclaims a strong anti-Popishness but is still friendly with Fr. Hattrick and is about to visit his Holiness. (GM)
Bussy, Det. Insp: Contemporary of Fens, calling himself Major Rawdon Crawley, obviously reckoning nobody had read Thackeray. Got himself killed, having spotted the somewhat obvious lead to the killer of Mrs Lambert (BP)
Cadogan, Richard: Poet, aged 37 at time of MT. Feared middle-age and longed for adventure, a longing that died as the events of that case unravelled themselves. (MT) Later, Adam Langley mentions that someone named Cadogan has done the Libretto on Charles Shorthouse's latest masterpiece. Could this be Richard? (SS)
Capstick, Supt: FH
Casby, Insp: Tall, dark, handsome and scarred. Marries Helen Downing and is literate enough to spot Fens masquerade as Mr Datchery (LD)
Carstairs, Sally: One of the beneficiaries of Miss Tardys will, and the nicest one (MT)
Cordrey, Insp: (GF)
Crane, Madge: Egotistical actress whose evil catches up with her (FH)
Downing, Dr Helen: Struggling village doctor, who has a friend in Oxford who, fortunately for her, is a friend of Fens. Having been several years in the village, she is proposed to twice within 2 days, and luckily takes the right option Casby (LD)
Ellis: : Tortoise with a reluctance to hibernate. (GM)
Elphinstone: : Escaped lunatic who alternates running around naked with believing hes Woodrow Wilson. (BP)
Etherege, Mr: Schoolmaster with a somewhat individualistic outlook on life (LLB)
Fielding, Henry: Not the author of Tom Jones. Plump, pink man who rescues Geoffrey Vintner and accompanies him to Tolnbridge, dreaming of action and the Secret Service. (HD)
Freeman, Sir Richard: Chief Constable of Oxford, who wants nothing more than to discuss literature with Fen at all times, however inappropriate. Published 3 books of Lit. Crit. on Shakespeare, Blake and Chaucer. (MT, GF, SS)
Gregson: : Cambridge don who fantasises about women in films and their availability, but who is far too shy to take positive steps to prove or disprove his theories (FH)
Hagberd: : Workaholic Australian madman who dissects the unspeakable and already dead Routh (GM)
Harding, Elizabeth: Journalist married to Adam Langley, who attempts to interview Fen as part of a series on the great detectives. Her other targets include Sir Henry Merrivale, Mrs Bradley, Albert Campion. (SS)
Hattrick, Fr.: R.C. priest who always runs and who writes books on Charles I as F.X. Christopher
Herbert, Myra: Barmaid of the Fish Inn, a sociable soul who refuses to barter her virtue for chickens (BP)
Hoskins, Mr: Student who successfully woos women by sweets, last seen in deep conversation with Sally Carstairs. His amoratory prowess is not to be denied. In the course of Moving Toyshop he is seen wooing Janice and Miriam, for his own pleasure, and his success with Sally can only lead to speculation on the outcome of that final conversation. (MT)
Jones, Jack: Pools winning innkeeper who never gets out of bed (GM)
Judd, Mr: Crime novelist, discovered by Fen engaged in trying out strange manoeuvres with a gun and a string. Later, despite his shyness, turns into one of Fens most enthusiastic supporters, partially driven on by the conviction (inspired by Fen) that the beautiful blonde, Jacqueline, is besotted with him (BP)
Langley, Adam: Opera singer who marries Elizabeth Harding and thus incurs the vengeance of Edwin Shorthouse (SS)
Lavender: : Marmalade cat scarcely able to take a step without knocking something over. Also prone to seeing Martians in strange places. A combination of these attributes led to him foiling a murderer in a getaway attempt (LD)
Ling, Det Supt: Who smokes a pipe, or several, and who lost his head. (GM)
Major, The: Retired army man much addicted to TV commercial ditties. And, despite his cavalry background, afeared of horses, until he at last falls from one in GM.
Mathematics, Regius Professor of: Lewis Carroll quoting colleague of Fens, who steals things (HD)
McCartney, Dermot: Black (anglicised) sci-fi author. (GM)
Merrion, Diana: Taxi driver who becomes betrothed to the young Lord of the Manor (BP)
Merrythought, Mr: Old bloodhound, subject to homicidal fits, who takes a liking to Fen and plays a crucial role in LLB
Mills, Reverend: Thought of by Fen as Dark Satanic Mills, thanks to his saturnine looks, is the resigned if unwilling host to a poltergeist (BP)
Mudge, Inspector: (SS)
Murdoch, Elspeth: 16 year old who helps find her missing friend Brenda Boyce, and who has followed all of Fens cases. (LLB)
Padmore, J.G.: Journalist specialising in getting expelled from African countries, working diligently on a book on the Routh affair, in the hope of proving his abilities as a crime reporter, and thus making himself indispensable to his paper. His efforts are in vain, however, and hes assigned to Africa again. (GM)
Pig, Non-doing: Myra Herberts faithful porcine friend, whos final return to her aids in the capture of a murderer. His faithfulness proves his undoing, as he is finally buried beneath the ruins of the Fish Inn. (BP)
Plumstead, Peter: Hiker who ends up marrying Daphne Savage (LLB)
Primrose, Sid: Butler at Lanthorn House, thoroughly nasty, likeable and senile (FH)
Rankine, D.C.: Hard talking and unbearably informative detective in GM.
Rashmole, Dr: Police doctor who is appalling cheerful in face of grim death and is prone to horrible little puns (SS)
Rouncey, Mr: Lachrymose reporter, who is made cry by drink (FH)
Rubi, Peter: Stereotypical Swiss research student, who pokes his inquisitive nose where he shouldnt (LD)
Savage, Daphne: A friend of Sally Carstairs of MT fame, she marries Peter Plumstead (LLB)
Shorthouse, Charles: Composer, referred to by his mistress as The Master. Had contemplated killing his brother, Edwin, but someone beat him to it. Admires Lily Christine III so much he offers to buy her from Fen (SS)
Snerd, Bartholemew: Unscrupulous private investigator (FH)
Stagge, Supt: Nature has arranged his features into a look of permanent surprise (LLB)
Stripey: : Oversexed cat in GM.
Taverner, Mr: Carpenter and self-righteous lay preacher who incurs Fens wrath (LLB)
Thouless, Broderick: Film music composer who specialises in monster themes. (GM)
Vintner, Geoffrey: Somewhere over 40, was at college with Fen. Falls for Frances Butler but comes to regret it and to hanker back to his unemotional and uneventful life (HD)
Warner, Robert: Playwright and genius, clearly admired by Fen, even after he commits a murder. But then he commits a second one (GF)
Watkyn, Captain: Political agent, with a very pragmatic approach. His accounting errors earns Fens disqualification from election, and thus his heartfelt thanks. Last seen wandering off with Myra Herbert (BP)
Weems, Mr: Teacher of fittingly Machiavellian aspect who agrees to help in Fens schemes (LLB)
Widger, Det Insp: Hard pressed policeman in GM.
Wilkes, Deaf and aged don, one of the few of Fens colleagues not in awe of him. Finds pleasure in sitting on Fens knee but equally happy to look after the pretty Sally Carstairs. Steals a bike to help chase Dr Havering. His ready agreement to guard Sally stunned Fen into silence. (MT) Wilkes owns a monkey enclosure. He proves himself as testy and rude as Fen, and seems deafer than ever, though is probably a pose of convenience. (GF) Cheerfully lied to Fen about Charles Shorthouses whereabouts just to confuse Fen. Steals Fens whisky. (SS). Last heard of as having run his bicycle (hopefully not another stolen one) over the toe of Helen Downings friend Alice, and broken it. (LD)
Wolfe, Supt: BP