English prof Nick Hoffman takes a break from his academic woes—but not from sleuthing—when a Club Med getaway turns lethal.
As if threats and a mugging (Burning Down the House, 2001) weren’t trouble enough, now Hoffman is faced with State University of Michigan’s provost Merry Glinka’s peremptory appointment of Byron Summerscale to chair English, American Studies, and Rhetoric (EAR). Summerscale makes it clear that he doesn't consider Nick a team player, preferring wannabe jocks like Larry Rick, Les Peterman, and Martin Wardell. So Nick’s longtime lover, Stefan Borowski, suggests moving up their Caribbean vacation, and the two depart for the tropical paradise of Serenity. What Nick wants is a week of fun in the sun without department politics or nagging doubts brought on by his hetero crush on Canadian Studies dreamboat Juno Dromgoole. What he gets is an unexpected appearance by Peter de Jonge—the grad student who hassled him back home about investigating a conspiracy involving Nick’s assault, Juno’s not-so-accidental car crash, SUM’s Whiteness Studies Program, the appointment of departmental liaisons to spy on each other on behalf of the administration—and of course the inevitable corpse. Another trip into crime-solving and his growing discomfort at SUM leave Nick wondering whether he’s really in the right line of work.
Raphael’s wit is sharp as ever, though his complicated plot yields a solution far too pedestrian for its build-up.