What was missing from this mystery: all the above.
At first I was encouraged by the English teacher-as-sleuth, the opening quotes in each chapter from woman authors like Stevie Smith, Virginia Woolf, and Toni Morrison, and a the literary discussion around the edges of the plot. The mystery was pretty standard stuff: a female professor is found dead on the campus of a women’s college, and it’s deemed a suicide until information comes to light making murder a possibility.
Kate Fansler, the aforementioned English teacher, is called in to investigate. Why? I’m not sure. She had a tenuous connection to the victim, Patrice Umphelby, having met her once while waiting for a delayed flight. Kate is also connected to two men writing Patrice’s biography, who have put their project on hold until the circumstances of her death are known. The college brings Kate on board, ostensibly to take part in an academic task force, but really to give her free rein to talk to anyone on staff as part of her investigation.
And talk she does. Most of the “action” involves Kate attending meetings or cocktail parties, and inquiring about Patrice. People are clearly divided — love her or hate her — and they make their opinions known. Two camps emerge, Kate tramps around New York and New England consuming Laphroig whiskey, and then, ta da! With ten pages to go she explains what happened, everyone is very thankful, the end.
This was all way too simple for me. Yes, it was murder, not suicide. Surprise, someone who hated Patrice did it. I could have guessed that early on, but dismissed the notion, expecting the plot to be more complex. There was no suspense involved in nabbing the perpetrator — there was only Kate, quaffing another whiskey, basking in the admiration of those who should have been able to figure this out for themselves.
This is the seventh book in a series, and maybe I’ve missed something by not reading the back story. But I’m probably not going to find out.