Not even the engagement of Rosalie Norman, the administrative assistant at Joanne Kilbourn’s political science department in Regina, Saskatchewan, can stem the pitched battles among the staff. Kevin Coyle, whose life has been shredded by a sexual harassment suit, interrupts a luncheon in Rosalie’s honor to tell Joanne that the body of her new colleague Ariel Warren has been found, stabbed in the back, in a basement archive of the library. Soon enough, the Red Riding Hoods, a cabal of irate university women led by Ann Vogel, who spearheaded the charge against Kevin, is flooding the Web site set up to mark Ariel’s passing with brutally explicit photos of other women murdered by men they trusted and flocking to demonstrations to demand the resignation of CVOX radio personality Charlie Dowhanuik, the lover Ariel had just left. But is it really so clear, Joanne wonders, that Ariel was killed by Charlie, or indeed by a man? Just as the news that Ariel had been carrying another man’s baby opens up disturbing new vistas, the fault lines gaping between the women who are mourning Ariel, and within the Red Riding Hoods themselves, make sober, appealing Joanne suspect more old friends and colleagues than she’d like—and make her treasure every moment she can spend with her own ever-supportive family.
Not the tidiest mystery ever, but Bowen (The Wandering Soul Murders, 1994, etc.) transcends her academic background to provide a rare sort of comfort food: characters whose commitment to tough ideals makes them worth caring about despite the secrets that can drive them to murder—and worse.