Back at Oregon’s Reed College, which Hyde has now renamed Bede College to avoid too many possible inconsistencies with the real deal, professor Emily Cavanaugh plans to spend her sabbatical leave finishing her book on Dostoevsky’s spirituality. That’s not exactly how things work out.
Now that she’s all but retired from Bede, Emily (Cyanide With Christie, 2019, etc.) feels more than ever her marginal status. She’s reluctant to pull rank on Daniel Razumov, one of her students, when she finds him with a raft of books on Dostoevsky she needs for her own work. She backs down from a confrontation with professor Taylor Curzon over whether her colleague should leave her hands off Daniel, whom she clearly has in her sights. And when she threatens to bring the case of Daniel’s girlfriend, Svetlana Goldstein, whom Taylor unfairly gave a D, to smirking divisional chair professosr Richard McClintock, she finds herself eavesdropping with chagrin on Taylor’s highly successful blackmail of McClintock. It might seem nothing but a relief when someone bashes Taylor’s head in with a miniature bronze replica of the famous Bronze Horseman statue in St. Petersburg’s Senate Square. As Emily instantly recognizes, however, the murder weapon belongs to Daniel, whom the police promptly arrest. Luckily, the police are represented by Detective Colin Richards, the nephew of Emily’s intended, Lt. Sheriff Luke Richards, and the connection gives Emily a birds’-eye view of the investigation and more than a little influence over its direction, both before and after the Russian Mafia gets improbably involved. It’s not that Richards will do whatever Emily says; it’s that knowing what he’s doing allows her to deploy her own allies—professor Marguerite Grenier, her bestie; adjunct professor Oscar Lansing, her newfound half brother; and Saul Goldstein, Esq., Svetlana’s father—more efficiently.
Eventually the heroine reflects: “She could be inside one of Dostoevsky’s novels—where anything might happen.” Um, no.