The hardcover introduction to Winston Sherman—the perennially also-ran at the mystery writers' awards dinner. This time out, Sherman—with the help of innumerable arch and cutesy sidekicks- -must deduce who killed bestselling author Imogen Vail during the annual event, and how her death ties in with that of Gilbert McKelvie on a bench in Central Park a bit earlier. Agents, editors, publishers, et al., traipse across Sherman's path as he tries to: keep his foster son out of jail for having tailed McKelvie; identify the voice of the anonymous phone caller who's threatening him; and deal with the political infighting among members of Perfidy, a group of mystery-practitioner malcontents. Eventually, in a clichÇd denouement, Sherman gathers everyone together in his drafty old house and Explains All, then reorganizes the English faculty at Clinton College so that he can teach something livelier than Remedial Vocabulary. Disconcerting shifts in tone, from wryly satirical to wildly daffy to (attempted) semi-hard-boiled realism, but skewed toward the cornball comedic, which includes a bumbling eccentric detective, a plot that wanders off into left field and seldom finds its way back, and heavy-handedness throughout.
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