DEATH OF A DEPARTMENT CHAIR by Lynn C. Miller

DEATH OF A DEPARTMENT CHAIR

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The title says it all.

Naturally, nobody mourns the passing of Isabel Vittorio, scheming chair of Literature and Rhetoric at Austin University, which looks an awful lot like the University of Texas, where Miller (The Fool’s Journey, not reviewed) teaches in the Theatre and Dance Department. Isabel’s colleagues are more shocked than grieved when she’s found battered to death in her office, slumped nude behind her desk. But they aren’t all that shocked, either. As Miriam Held, Isabel’s one-time lover and her recent rival in the election for chair, puts it: “What a hideous way to begin the week.” Miriam tells psychic Daphne Arbor: “This feels like a trashy movie.” No such luck. Instead of over-acting, or acting at all, Isabel’s colleagues, memorable only for their consensual shunning of heterosexual coitus, merely swan through the groves of academe without an idea in their heads except for departmental politics, lovers past and present and the endless connections between the two. The resulting idyll, draped in ceremonious prose and punctuated by Miriam’s annoying editorial retrospectives about what she didn’t know back in 2003, is less humane than Amanda Cross and less witty than Lev Raphael, but otherwise identical to every other collegiate mystery you’ve ever read, only more so—except for a muddled ending that supplies less bang than whimper.

The definitive epitaph is supplied by the police detective: “Please, let’s not be academic.”

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2006
ISBN: 0-299-21974-7
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Terrace Books/Univ. of Wisconsin Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 2006