Thursday, April 23, 2015

Amanda Cross. The James Joyce Murder (1967)

     Amanda Cross. The James Joyce Murder (1967) This is the second Kate Fansler mystery; she’s not yet known (and recommended) as an amateur sleuth. A publisher has died, his daughter asks Kate to look through his papers, especially the letters from James Joyce. In return, Kate gets a summer in his house in Araby, a small Maine Village. She’s asked to look after her nephew Leo, too. She hires two grad students, Emmett to sort and catalogue the letters, and William to tutor and mentor Leo. A horrible neighbour (|mean-spirited, selfish, interfering, pruriently puritanical) is shot dead when the unloaded gun used by Leo and William for “target practice” turns out to have a bullet in it. Reed Amhearst is visiting Kate, which helps with the legalities as well as the investigation.
     The unravelling of the knot proceeds slowly. Cross writes wonderfully meandering conversations. She assumes that her readers are well-enough educated to enjoy identifying the literary allusions before she gives away their sources. The people are mostly likeable, and well-enough drawn that we intuit back-stories that she doesn’t explicate. A first-rate entertainment. I’d like to see a TV series, but I suspect the intelligence of the talk puts off possible adapters. ***

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