Review: Sweet Death, Kind Death, by Amanda Cross

Here’s what I like in a mystery:  well-developed characters, suspense, and a complex plot that requires the sleuth to prove their skill or intellect.

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.

4 thoughts on “Review: Sweet Death, Kind Death, by Amanda Cross

  1. Oh, I’m sorry to hear this one didn’t work for you! I read the first in the series earlier this year and thoroughly enjoyed it. It was an unusual mystery, but I loved the character of Kate so much. I have the second one in my pile to read soon.

    • Well if we all liked the same things, the world would be boring, right? I wonder if the earlier books are better? In any case, I’m glad you are enjoying them.

  2. I really enjoy these for their bookishness but I admit that I turn to them when I really need just exactly what they offer, which isn’t what I’m looking for on an average reading day; they are go-to reading when sick abed, for instance. But part of that could be my affinity for their actual author, too, because I admit that I wish they were “more” of all of the things you describe.

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