"[Malice] works like a leaven; it stirs, and swells, and changes all that surrounds it. If you seek to pin it down in law, it may well elude you. Who can separate the leaven from the lump when once it has been mixed? But if you learn to know it by its smell, you find it easily."
So states one of the characters in Robertson Davies's novel Leaven of Malice, first published in Canada by Clarke, Irwin and Company, Limited, in 1954. The story takes place in the fictional Canadian town of Salerton, beginning as a mysterious someone places an announcement in the local newspaper stating that a Miss Pearl Veronica Vambrace would wed Solomon Bridgetower on the following November 31st. The problem is that Miss Vambrace and Mr. Bridgetower are not engaged, and her father, Professor Vambrace, has a feud going with the Bridgetower family. Professor Vambrace tries to sue the newspaper for libel, which sets in motion a humorous chain of events in the small town. I thought the story was unnecessarily complicated and the characters were too messed-up to attract any empathy. When I finished reading, I did not feel that I had gained anything, not even a few hours' entertainment, from the book.
This is one of the three books of the "Salerton Trilogy"; the others are Tempest-Tost and A Mixture of Frailties.