Prolific literary theorist Holland (English/Univ. of Florida) indulges in an academic mystery set on his former campus, SUNY Buffalo. During a freewheeling ""Delphi seminar"" in which students are supposed to present untrammeled written and oral responses to poems, their teacher (one Prof. Norman Holland), and each other, combative deconstructionist Patricia Hassler's response is to keel over dead. It's the old poisoned thumbtack gag, of course, and Lt. Norman (""Justin"") Rhodes interrupts his amateur playwriting to investigate, guided by Holland's notoriously subjective reader-response theories. The ensuing plot, unfolded entirely and fashionably through a series of documents (newspaper stories, journal entries, letters, ubiquitous transcriptions of tape recordings), seems less designed to entertain the gentle reader than to entertain literary questions of authorship, evidence, reference, textuality, and authority--and, ultimately, to advertise Holland's biographical brand of reader-response criticism--which emphasizes the ""identity theme"" used here to analyze the suspects' copious self-analyses as a uniquely effective tool for solving mysteries. A curious fictional primer of contemporary literary theory too flatfooted as fiction to capture many of Robert Barnard's readers, though it may compete with Robert Grudin's zanier opus Book (1992).