The author of The Tenor Saxophonist's Story (1997), among others, turns to the tried-and-true form of the play-within-a-play—with results that fail to allay its own artificialities.
In politically correct Edenvale College, an unnamed narrator teaches a seminar on writing detective fiction, and studies the campus denizens, mainly the young women in his own class, to use as fodder for his mystery novels. As he observes the comely Candace Quentin in the office of Professor James F. Cooper across the hall, he notes with keen interest that Cooper closes his door, definitely against Edenvale rules. And when Candace rushes from Cooper's office in tears, the writer-observer's little gray cells are thoroughly engaged. As he follows events and continues parrying with the young women, Professor Mary Mather's husband, Raymond Hammett, is murdered. Meanwhile, back in the homeland—in the days of communist rule—the narrator's wife Sidonia has been named, with others, as a spy, and has been further pilloried by the editor of Kill Kommunism (in an article entitled "Put Your Cards on the Table, Mrs. Sidonia!") and by enemies disguised as friends. The story moves back and forth between the mystery of Hammett's murder at Edenvale and the plot to destroy Sidonia. Along the way, the narrator spends a great deal of time at the Lame Duck, the college pub, solving one crime and worrying the other.
Škvorecký’s portrait of the writer unable to minister to the psychic needs of a loved one while absorbed in watching human nature is brilliantly amusing. But Two Murders isn't so much about the frailties of writers as it is a reflection on the vagaries of political correctness suited up as a novel. And, on that level, it falters.