Skip to main content

The Princeton Murders by Ann Waldron

Here is the seventh book I read for the Bibliophilic Books Challenge, which puts me just past the halfway point of the Bibliomaniac level.

This book fits into the challenge in several ways:
The main sleuth is a journalist, and her writing course is featured and the classes described several times; the other teachers are writing or have written books (one is a world-famous author) - two even have motives for murder related to their books; and the students are writing assignments that are part of what drives a section of the story.

Genre: Mystery
Year of publication: 2003
No. in series: 1
Series detective: McLeod Dulane
Type of mystery: Murder, cosy
Type of investigator:A, journalist and lecturer in non-fiction writing at Princeton University
Setting & time: Princeton University campus, New Jersey, USA

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist McLeod Dulane is thrilled to be given a chance to teach journalistic writing at Princeton University, but her enthusiasm wanes somewhat when two of her colleagues at the English Department mysteriously die within a short time of each other, from what could be poisoning. A group of her students, eager for some juicy material to research and write about, set out to discover who could have wanted the men dead, and curious to know the truth, McLeod delves into the investigation with them. But then a definite murder is committed...

This is in many ways quite a good crime novel. While it is the author’s first, there is little firstbookitis to worry about, as Waldron is an experienced writer (of journalism, biographies and children’s books). Her experience as a writer is obvious, which is why it surprised me to see her break one of the principles of good writing, the "show, don’t tell" rule. While I am aware that both have their place and sometimes telling is actually more effective than showing (especially in a fast-paced story), in the particular case I am thinking about, showing would have been so much more effective, and there was plenty of text to do it in. In a novel like this, the reader likes to figure out for herself that there is a sinister undertow in the social interactions of the main characters, and not just be told that the sleuth feels this is so, without further explanations.

Other than this tiny annoyance, Waldron does a good job of telling (and showing) a good story, with nice twists and red herrings and a more plausible investigation and investigators than some other cosies I have read. The characterisations of the faculty members are spot on – they are easily recognised academic types, but most have too much depth to be straight-on stereotypes. Add to this that McLeod is a character I like, and I think I have found an author I want to read more books by.

I did spot the killer even before there was any murder, and as the story wore on I did think the author did protest the character's innocence too much at times (I hope I haven't said too much...), but as I have mentioned before, sometimes it's the revelation of motives and opportunities that is important for the enjoyment of a story and not the whodunnit.

An absorbing and interesting academic mystery. 3+ stars.

Visit Ann Waldron's website


Popular posts from this blog

Book 40: The Martian by Andy Weir, audiobook read by Wil Wheaton

Note : This will be a general scattershot discussion about my thoughts on the book and the movie, and not a cohesive review. When movies are based on books I am interested in reading but haven't yet read, I generally wait to read the book until I have seen the movie, but when a movie is made based on a book I have already read, I try to abstain from rereading the book until I have seen the movie. The reason is simple: I am one of those people who can be reduced to near-incoherent rage when a movie severely alters the perfectly good story line of a beloved book, changes the ending beyond recognition or adds unnecessarily to the story ( The Hobbit , anyone?) without any apparent reason. I don't mind omissions of unnecessary parts so much (I did not, for example, become enraged to find Tom Bombadil missing from The Lord of the Rings ), because one expects that - movies based on books would be TV-series long if they tried to include everything, so the material must be pared down

List love: 10 recommended stories with cross-dressing characters

This trope is almost as old as literature, what with Achilles, Hercules and Athena all cross-dressing in the Greek myths, Thor and Odin disguising themselves as women in the Norse myths, and Arjuna doing the same in the Mahabaratha. In modern times it is most common in romance novels, especially historicals in which a heroine often spends part of the book disguised as a boy, the hero sometimes falling for her while thinking she is a boy. Occasionally a hero will cross-dress, using a female disguise to avoid recognition or to gain access to someplace where he would never be able to go as a man. However, the trope isn’t just found in romances, as may be seen in the list below, in which I recommend stories with a variety of cross-dressing characters. Unfortunately I was only able to dredge up from the depths of my memory two book-length stories I had read in which men cross-dress, so this is mostly a list of women dressed as men. Ghost Riders by Sharyn McCrumb. One of the interwove

Icelandic folk-tale: The Devil Takes a Wife

Stories of people who have made a deal with and then beaten the devil exist all over Christendom and even in literature. Here is a typical one: O nce upon a time there were a mother and daughter who lived together. They were rich and the daughter was considered a great catch and had many suitors, but she accepted no-one and it was the opinion of many that she intended to stay celebrate and serve God, being a very devout  woman. The devil didn’t like this at all and took on the form of a young man and proposed to the girl, intending to seduce her over to his side little by little. He insinuated himself into her good graces and charmed her so thoroughly that she accepted his suit and they were betrothed and eventually married. But when the time came for him to enter the marriage bed the girl was so pure and innocent that he couldn’t go near her. He excused himself by saying that he couldn’t sleep and needed a bath in order to go to sleep. A bath was prepared for him and in he went and