What’s Her Majesty’s Government to do when the Harani ambassador deliberately runs over a young couple in the West End – a hit ordered by the dictator of Haran’s appalling, but diplomatically-privileged, teenaged son?
How can a Foreign Secretary cope when a painting worth millions, belonging to an unfriendly nation, is stolen and replaced by a fake?
There’s only one thing to do: call in Felix Culpepper: tutor in Classics at St Wygefortis’, the dimmest college in Cambridge; and Assassin-by-Appointment to the British Establishment. From the Lebanon to Arizona he boils, burns, buried alive and flays, all for the good of the state, aided by his undergraduate minions – mostly the dregs of the national aristocracy, although there’s one more promising youth, Count Róbert Zseni de Mérföldkő, reading history at Pembroke College. (We all know how he got in.)
Quintember, illustrated by the Countess of Verulam, is the first in a series of six novels tracing the misdemeanours of Culpepper; the next installment is due out in March.
Richard Major, author of Quintember, was a module leader and mentor at the Milestone Institute from 2013 to 2016. Since leaving Milestone his life has been, of course, nothing but decline; he has followed his diplomat wife, and their two children, to the interior of Africa, where he sits pining for Budapest in the sun and listlessly writing sequels. Before 2013, his life was a long preparation: he studied history and literature at Magdalen College, Oxford, and after earning is doctorate taught there and at universities in Italy, New York, Australia, India and Slovenia before reaching Hungary (where he lectured at the Corvinus and Károli University).
On the tower above the college you would have observed all the sluggish life of St Wygefortis’ acted out beneath you. Thus you would have seen undergraduates slouch into the Porter’s Lodge and out again, loitering with cigarettes and joints in cobbly Gehenna Court, the oldest portion of College, which Acheron overhangs, looking down into it as into a well.
You would have seen bedders come and go with their buckets. Would have seen workmen come and go with ladders, which are their excuse for doing nothing. Would have seen traffic in and out of the Library, which stands to the north of Chapel and Hall; but not much.
You lift your eyes from St Wygefortis’, and are relieved to see undergraduates from other, better colleges, whipping along Emmanuel Road on their bicycles, distorted by your perspective to two slashes of black. You cast your gaze further, looking north to Jesus College, west to Christ’s, south to Emmanuel, east to nothing at all, the tremendous nothingness of East Anglian mud-flats, North Sea, half-tamed steppe of the Germanies, Russia, the Urals. Returning, you regard Cambridge spread out below you, sweet as an apple in the still quiet air of the Indian summer.
Suddenly the doors of Hall open again and you see people once more, well-lunched, disgorging themselves down the steps. Some undergraduates hesitate, retrieve bags of books, pass through the Lodge, presumably to lecture-rooms. Most frankly go back to their rooms in twos or threes, for the wines of Wygy’s are quite remarkable…. (extract from the Quintember)
There were one or two points where I laughed so loud that Quintember almost fell or flew from my hands – not so much unputdownable as unnotpickupagainable.
– James McMahonOxford
Fast-paced and witty and full of suspense, with a wonderfully weird College, and a really delightfully idiosyncratic hero.
– Professor Charles MoseleyCambridge University
If there is a book with more erudition, violence and wit in it, it has yet to cross our desk. With an intellectual vanity that rivals Holmes, more self-esteem than Bond and a blood-steeped amorality that out-Ripleys Hannibal Lecter, Culpepper is the ideal hero for our debased days.– IndieBooks