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AN IMPERFECT SPY by Amanda Cross

AN IMPERFECT SPY

By Amanda Cross

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-345-38917-4
Publisher: Ballantine

 The mystery element, never the strongest feature of Cross's civilized Kate Fansler stories (The Players Come Again, 1990, etc.), has been ebbing away for years. This time, Cross packs Kate downtown to Schuyler Law School (``the worst law school in New York and perhaps the whole United States'') to team-teach a course on women in law and literature--and, as it turns out, to investigate a double homicide without a single mystery. Betty Osborne shot her sleeping husband, Fred, a typically mediocre Schuyler chauvinist bully. Fred's colleagues deny that she was entitled to a battered- wife defense, and Nellie Rosenbusch, the one supporter Betty had among the Schuyler faculty, had a conveniently fatal accident shortly after she won tenure. The accident was caused by a medical condition she'd had for years--but was it aggravated by her colleagues' contempt? Egged on by Schuyler secretary Harriet Furst (an appealing creation who confides that she's really a frustrated academic assuming a new identity in order to spy on the academy from a different vantage point), Kate urges Betty to petition to have her case reopened. She also pushes Nellie's brother to make a stink about Nellie's life and death at Schuyler. But even more important are the waves of student activism she and her husband, law prof Reed Amhearst, leave in their wake. Readers who aren't persuaded by Cross's boldest foray yet into the essayistic novel will be irritated that she's presuming on her genre credentials to trick them into sitting through an urbane, heartfelt course of lectures in the vanguard of '70s feminism. (Doubleday Mystery Book Club/Mystery Guild selections; author tour)