Six thousand literature teachers and grad students convene in Chicago for the annual Modern Language Association convention, then watch their numbers diminish alarmingly as the entire Wellesley hiring committee is poisoned (one fatality) and detestable deconstructionist Michael Alcott (U. of Arizona) is pushed over an atrium ledge while craning to see Jacques Derrida--with more victims still to be scheduled. Homicide cop Boaz Dixon, feeling unaccountably lost amid the tide of academics, recruits nontenured Nancy Cook (Yale) to give him an extended orientation on the profession's woes, punctuated by broad caricatures of luminaries from Camille Paglia to Harold Bloom. Unfortunatley, the prospect of further homicides among such a babbling, social-climbing, power-hungry ship of fools turns out to be much less fun than it sounds. Amateurish brainwork, far-fetched conclusions, sophomoric gossip- -not unlike the MLA itself. Fans of David Lodge's satires and Robert Barnard's academic mysteries will regret pseudonymous Jones's missed opportunities.