Long before Prof. Beth Austin (English/Midwestern Univ.) was born, her mother Laurie shared the fourth floor of the University of Chicago’s Dallworthy Hall with a truly toxic group of young ladies. Dewey Conner, daughter of famously vicious columnist Cob Conner, had attracted a group of hangers-on of both sexes who never should have been graduated from nursery school—from brilliant Louise Hallman to prickly Em Greenberg to luscious Jill Jansen to Abe Lowenstein, Laurie’s beau (and another’s), to a drop-in lover who called himself Evil. All the usual jealousies concerning school, clothes, and men were brought to a boil by a series of petty thefts, and finally by Dewey’s departure under a cloud of suspicion. But instead of breathing a sigh of relief, Dall Hall should have been bracing for murder. Now that she’s pried the story out of her mother, Beth (The George Eliot Murders, 1995, etc.) is naturally determined to solve the mystery, even if it means neglecting her work, traipsing around asking pointed questions (which the suspects unfailingly answer fully and frankly), and sitting through dozens of memories of Bleak House, which, though not particularly relevant to the riddle at hand, emerges as strikingly more modern than does the world in which an unchivalrous male “deserted my mother to neck with Jill.” Dickens-lovers will be disappointed, and everybody else deeply bored.