A professor’s toil in the mines of Copper University’s English department is unpleasantly relieved when a student falls from a library window to her death at the teacher’s feet.
While Prof. Maddie Temple, recovering from her close encounter with the late Cheryl Crawford, bullies Cheryl’s reluctant advisor into looking for her missing thesis and awarding her degree posthumously, controversy roils the campus. The new Students With Individual Needs Center has attracted disproportionately lavish funding while the rest of the Copper campus pinches pennies. Leading protests against high-profile SWINC is Prof. Malcolm Driscoll, English department chair, he of the fake British accent and the quail farm. Driscoll’s limited interest in administration leaves Flo Andrews, the pathologically ambitious English department coordinator, free to wreak havoc. Maddie’s shocked to find Driscoll dying in his bed, but she’s even more astonished to learn that Driscoll was poisoned and that he left his fortune to SWINC. Reeling, Maddie must act as chair after the police arrest Flo, salivating over Driscoll’s still-warm office, for his murder. Researching Driscoll’s past and Cheryl’s present, Maddie eventually discovers the truth, but only the timely intervention of a student with good grammar keeps her from paying for it with her life.
The staccato, herky-jerky prose is distracting, but the quirky humor and red herrings—or quail, as the case may be—are thoroughly enjoyable.