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Death By Committee
Susan Lombardi Mystery, No. 2

by Carole Shmurak

      Think your office politics get ugly?

Despite a vow to her husband and herself to avoid committee assignments now that she had tenure, Susan Lombardi couldn't really say no when her department chair pressed her to fill out the Department Evaluating Committee. After all, Nanette had been a huge support during Susan's own tenure bid, and there was only one candidate for evaluation this term. Ah, but what a candidate. Abby Gillette was the classic person others - including other members of the committee - either loved or hated. Radical to the core, she smugly reveled in inspiring radical activism in her students, while disclaiming any responsibility for the consequences. Colleagues who didn't live up to her standards were treated with open contempt. At the same time, she did inspire her students... at least those whose viewpoint agreed with hers. And she certainly had a tenure-worthy publication history. So she couldn't be dismissed out of hand. But a number of people were going to be very unhappy whatever the decision, with threatening signs of just how unhappy appearing to drive that point home.

Susan realized that signing onto the committee meant more boring time spent with paperwork and meetings. What she didn't foresee was that it would involve arson, theft, and murder, with the office realpolitik violence circling closer and closer to home. Investigating for herself wasn't just a matter of intellectual interest; it was a matter of survival.

Carole Shmurak writes intelligent mysteries that give the reader a true "you are there" feel to her academic world. The writing is beautifully readable, smooth and evocative, without a wasted word. I'd read her first Susan Lombardi mystery, and one thing I really liked about this sequel is that while she brought some of the secondary characters along, she didn't just leave them as part of the landscape. We learn enough about her husband, Swash, (a nice example of a supportive spouse who isn't just a doormat) and her friend Elaine to make them as fresh as the new characters we meet. Recommended.

The Book

October 2006
Trade Paperback
Traditional Mystery - Academic
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The Reviewer

Kim Malo
Reviewed 2006
© 2006