Scholars have come from near and far to attend a centennial Emily D. symposium in Amherst, Mass.--with some of them housed in the poet's old dwelling, now a museum. And it's here that the body of immensely fat Winifred Gaw is found--an axe on the floor, amid signs of a battle royal. Who'd want to kill poor Winifred, recent fired secretary of leading Dickinson authority Owen Kraznik, a sweetly modest widower addicted to lame ducks? (Like Winifred.) The disappearance of gorgeous student Alison Grove adds to the confusion, especially after her body is found in the local reservoir--still clad in the long white Emily dress she wore at a poetry reading. And Owen, with new-found love Dr. Ellen Oak, suffers an ordeal of his own--until they're rescued by Owen's old chum Homer Kelly (The Memorial Hall Murder, Natural Enemy), who finally succeeds in making sense of it all. As usual, Langton's mystery is stuffed with cross-currents and cross-purposes, sideline scholarship, oddball people, and a heavy dollop of whimsy. Still, it moves crisply from crisis to crisis--as the academic milieu meshes nicely with the slightly precious sensibility at work here; and competent line drawings enhance the ambience.