Written the year I was born, Miss Pym Disposes is an academic cozy to be treasured. I curled up with the book each evening, savored the storytelling, and was drawn more and more into the extensive cast of vividly-drawn characters. I came to understand their individual responses to the injustices at Leys College. With Lucy Pym as my window on academic affairs, I soon wanted the beautiful Nut Tart to marry Richard, I wanted the hardworking Inneses to be proud of their difficult daughter, Mary, and I wanted Miss Pym to flee back to London rather than face her sad duty of telling on a murderer. I didn’t mind that the murder didn’t happen until nearly the end of the book, because I knew a murder was coming. Whose, I couldn’t guess. And the murderer I couldn’t guess. Like Miss Pym, I got it wrong. I identified with Lucy Pym’s increasing agony as an observer of injustice who suddenly holds the key piece of a deadly puzzle in her hand. Will she or won’t she tell?
As I undertake a scene in Prague for book two, I have firmly in mind Anne Faigen’s portrayal in Frame Work of the city’s history and its compelling reminders of the Holocaust. Faigen brings the city alive with warmly interesting characters, notably an art history professor who explores the city with a keen eye and an awareness of its controversial past. I’m so grateful I read the book before visiting Prague last fall. I added scenes from the book as stops on my walking tours of the city and was richly rewarded!
I focus on academic mysteries in my blog entries. These are not formal book reviews, simply my thoughts as an author and avid reader of traditional mysteries. Often, something about the way characters are drawn or the way settings are introduced motivates me to freshen my style, broaden my skills, or simply admire a master of the craft. If you have a favorite academic mystery, whether it’s recent or long ago, please share.
From the Golden Age of Mystery, Catherine Aird’s Parting Breath was a gentle deceiver for me. A classic cozy. I enjoyed getting to know the all-too-human Inspector Sloan and all the players at the University of Calleshire, where students are clever adventurers and faculty are so specialized they fall short of genuine conversation. I loved the English Professor who’d been at it long enough to be suspicious of the murderer from the start (because he didn’t act like what he professed to be) and who endured disappointment and deception by focusing on her own scholarly path. Red herrings everywhere! I think Catherine Aird must have enjoyed writing this whodunit, and I’d like to take that delight in deception, puzzlement, and storytelling into my current WIP.