Small, conservative Hartley Gorman College in Pecan City, Tex., has a new, staunchly feminist dean--Dr. Gwendolyn Partridge. She has added respected researcher-writer Dr. Eric Holt, with his somewhat radical agenda, to the English faculty headed by low- keyed, likable Dr. Carl Burns. Carl's wait-and-see response to Holt's far-out curriculum keeps a civil veneer on matters until Professor Tom Henderson falls to his death from an office window and macho Police Chief Boss Napier pronounces it murder. Carl, who's solved other campus mysteries (Dying Voices, 1989, etc.) sets out to explore Holt's shrouded past and Henderson's well-known partiality to pretty students. He gets some help from attractive new librarian Elaine Tanner, which doesn't endear him to Chief Napier, who finds her appealing, too. The San Diego State yearbook that Carl finds on Henderson's desk leads to an interesting discovery, but it's a quote from Shakespeare that puts the final pieces in place for one of the genre's most laid-back sleuths. The puzzle's solution is mildly surprising but hardly enough to rescue this sleepy tale of backwoods academia. Crider has some witty, well-aimed barbs for the pompous edicts of the politically correct, which help alleviate the torpor of this good-natured but uncompelling story.