THE FAST-DEATH FACTOR by Virginia Crosby


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Fast death, slow detection in this spacious, leisurely first novel of malice and murder in insular Tipton College. Who slipped well-hated college president Julian Merton a toxic dose of algae (a project of one of his late colleagues) during a faculty reception? Was it his long-suffering wife Priscilla, his maybe-mistress Anne Parker-Brown (rumored to be on her way out as dean), one of his stuffy vice-presidents (with names like Victor Laszlo and Turner Van Voorhis IV), snakelike board-chairman Leslie Filmore, recently fired lesbian Prof. Terry Logan, or any of a dozen other colleagues or lower-level administrators who were tired of the high-handed Merton style or wary of the $10 million gift he was cultivating from mogul Milton Weinert? Police investigators Thad Walker and Brandon Blessing plod amiably along, checking alibis and tracking down bottles of Chateau d'Yquem, as the murderer, identified only by the unisex nickname Dodge, effects further staffing cuts at Tipton--but the detecting honors go to Thad's wheelchair-bound sister Mary, avenging the death of Tipton's security chief Vince Riley. Author Crosby, inevitably a retired college administrator, juggles her enormous cast deftly and provides a gently nasty view of politics in and out of the college (who will get fired to curry whose favor? who may have slipped out of that professional conference for a brief tryst?), but detection isn't her strong suit: the clues are scanty, the investigation desultory, and the final revelation of Dodie's identity disappointingly arbitrary. Despite generous helpings of violent death, there's just enough mystery to keep the ivory tower sedately a-spin.

Pub Date: Nov. 30th, 1990
Publisher: Council Oak