Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Review: Death without Tenure By Joanne Dobson

Author: Joanne Dobson
Publisher-Format: Poisoned Pen Press (2010), 230 pages,
 also Blackstone Audio, 7 hr, 30 min
Narrator: Christine Williams
Subject:  Life in academia
Setting: Small college town, Massachusetts
Series: Karen Pelletier Mysteries
Genre: amateur detective
Source: public library audio download
Recommended? Oh yes......

 A new series for me to celebrate March Mysteries - an informal group that has formed over in our 75er challenge on LibraryThing.  I saw this one as I was browsing the download library, it sounded interesting, it was available, and I needed something meaty but not too heavy to listen to while swimming.  Since I joined this new pool, I've been working out almost everyday, and going through 2-3 audio books a week.

Karen Pelletier, professor of American Literature at Enfield College in Massachusetts is up for the only open tenure spot in the department.  She has worked her entire academic career toward this goal and has her tenure package ready to submit when she learns that the head of the department has announced that he favors her colleague Joe Lone Wolf (who does not even have his Ph.D!!!) because he wants the department to reflect my ethic diversity.  When Lone Wolf  is found murdered, suspicion falls on Karen.

In the meantime, her lover, a state police detective, is not available to shield her from the nastiness of the current investigator, because he is serving with the National Guard in Iraq.  Her daughter is off traipsing the world in Katmandu, and like any good parent, Karen is concerned about her safety.  When the police get particularly obnoxious, and don't seem to believe anything she tries to tells them, Karen sets off to clear her name and solve the murder.

The plot is fairly linear, there aren't any red herrings, but there are lots of suspects.  As is often the case with amateur detective stories, I find myself having to suspend belief---would real people REALLY ignore common sense and the advice to get a lawyer and let the police handle things, and are the police REALLY that incompetent? The ending is particularly mind stretching, but satisfactory.

  I certainly will be looking for at least one more of this series.  I enjoyed the portrayal of the pomposity of  the literature faculty as much as the mystery itself.  It made me quite happy that I settled for being a math major!


  1. Academia is a fertile field for mysteries. There is so much going on behind the scenes and some of the real academic characters are such, well, characters that the setting can be hilarious or mysterious or both. I'm putting this on my list.

  2. "Recommended? Oh yes....."
    ok, but I do have a problem where they ignore common sense and the police are really dumb.
    but if you say so...


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