DEATH BY DEGREES by Robin Wilson


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A first novel set at California's Monterey University, where President Harold Piggott and recently appointed chief assistant Peter Haas (both veterans of the CIA) are trying to make sense of the death of Albert Steener--a 40-ish, nerdy loner and data entry coordinator in the registrar's office who was found strangled in a motel room amid signs of drug use and a homosexual orgy. Piggott fears the reaction of the university board to what could be a drug-dealing scandal on campus, and so Haas throws himself into damage control, starting with questions about Steener's $30,000 car and quarter-million-dollar house in Carmel--all on a $27,000 yearly salary. What Haas soon realizes is that someone is going to great lengths to obliterate all information about Steener, including the contents of his office computer and home answering machine. Working with lover Hildy Barnes, head of the school's security force, Haas slowly brings into focus the source of Steener's lush income, but not before another killing takes place and his own apartment is bombed. It takes a little longer to home in on the brain behind it all--and to settle the score in a kind of throwback to CIA days. Newcomer Wilson (himself a CIA veteran and former college president) has a breezy and literate, if somewhat verbose, style; his sleuth is introspective but tough when he needs to be--a promising new face in a fast-paced story that captures the treacherous politics of academe.

Pub Date: Oct. 9th, 1995
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: St. Martin's