Flavian's Fortune: A Psychological Thriller


196 pages
ISBN 0-919095-75-5




Reviewed by Les Harding

Les Harding is author of The Voyages of Lesser Men: Thumbnail Sketches
in Canadian Exploration.


Alastair Macdonald, who teaches English at Memorial University, is better known as a poet and scholar than as a novelist. In Flavian’s Fortune he writes in a very different style, giving us a mystery story set in the ivy-covered towers of England’s universities, and at the castle of a peculiar Scottish laird.

The characters are all one-dimensional and none is particularly likeable. The first part of the story is narrated by the supercilious Flavian Fortescue, and the second part by Winnie Walker, an Oxford philosopher/thriller writer. Flavian is an insufferable upper-class English snob who lectures at a red-brick university and hates it. He is so obnoxious that the reader will find him tiresome after the first chapter. Flavian comes to loathe his middle-class, rich wife. He plots to kill her and inherit her fortune. Flavian is such a creep that it is hard to believe that his wife would have stayed with him all this time. It is also difficult to understand why Winnie Walker begins to suspect Flavian of murderous intentions.

On one level Flavian’s Fortune is an excellent satire of university life. Some of the author’s scenes in the common room are priceless. As a thriller, however, the book leaves something to be desired. Theme is not much suspense or originality, and the conclusion is quite weak. It is interesting, however, to watch Flavian apply a scholar’s mind to the planning of a murder.


Macdonald, Alastair, “Flavian's Fortune: A Psychological Thriller,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 21, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/35862.