Wednesday, June 15, 2011
The James Joyce Murder is the second in Amanda Cross' series featuring English professor turned amateur sleuth, Kate Fansler. Any bibliophile with a penchant for mysteries has to love a series with an English professor as the heroine!
Here, Kate sets out to spend the summer in the Berkshires, sorting the papers of a recently deceased eminent publisher, famous for his correspondence with modern greats, including James Joyce. Her chaotic household – the subject of much gossip in the rural community – includes an unruly young nephew, his tutor, Kate's assistant, her District Attorney boyfriend, and a couple of weekend guests.
The mystery is clever enough, even if it lacks many twists and turns. The fun of the book is its effervescent tone, literary subject matter, and witty dialog. In addition to literature, the characters spend a lot of time discussing who is and isn't a virgin, which seems even more dated than the book's 1967 publishing date. That may be part of why it is easy to imagine a movie version featuring Katherine Hepburn as Kate and Gregory Peck as her D.A. boyfriend.
Today's readers need to tolerate vintage kitsch to enjoy the book. But for those who do, The James Joyce Murder is a lot of fun.