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Topic: mysteries and academia

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Subject: mysteries and academia
Date Posted: 3/24/2011 9:11 PM ET
Member Since: 9/22/2010
Posts: 3,258
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As an entomologist who has been on the University of Florida faculty for over 32 years, and who is really looking forward to retirement, I thought it would be interesting to have a forum about mysteries with academic types as heroes or villians.

To start it off, I would like to recommend one of my favorite books, Bimbos of the Death Sun by Sharyn McCrumb.  Okay, I'm willing to admit that the title helped place it on my favorite book list on PBS, but it is also the winner of the 1988 Edgar Allen Poe Award for Best Original Paperback Mystery.  The good news is that there are over 20 copies posted here on PBS (none of them mine).

The hero is Dr. James Owens Mega, a "bright, bumbling professor at Tech" who researches the effects of sun spots on computers.  Just for fun he writes it up as a novel, adds some "brain-damaged females for entertainment" and suddenly finds himself lauded as the author of a popular sci-fi book.  So naturally his publisher signs him up as a guest author at an annual sci-fi and fantasy convention.  While there, another guest author is murdered. 

Now it is up to Dr. Mega to discover who "phasered" the guy.  Suspects include selections from all the different, fascinating types who attend such conventions.  Hey, even I went to one once and it was well worth my time as I discovered that fascinating movie with the unbelievable ending, A Boy and His Dog. There are lots of laughs in Bimbos of the Death Sun before the culprit is fingered.



Last Edited on: 1/1/13 2:32 AM ET - Total times edited: 5
Date Posted: 3/25/2011 7:59 PM ET
Member Since: 8/11/2006
Posts: 6,597
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Bill Crider has written two amusing series about college professors who solve mysteries on the side:

  1. Carl Burns, English Department chair at Hartley-Gorman College in Pecan City, Texas, is featured in four books.
  2. Dr. Sally Good, head of the English and Fine Arts departments at Hughes Community College near the Texas Gulf Coast, is featured in three books.

I also enjoyed Joanne Dobson's six-volume series about Karen Pelletier, an English professor at Enfield (Massachusetts) College.

Date Posted: 3/25/2011 8:22 PM ET
Member Since: 7/14/2007
Posts: 8,942
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I really liked Bimbos of the Death Sun!

I'm currently reading Shoo Fly Pie by Tim Downs.  The protagonist is a professor of entomology/forensic entomologist, so that might be right up your alley.  Or not.  There's a lot of insecty detail in it which is interesting to a lay person like me, but might just drive an expert on the subject crazy.  I'm pretty sure it's the first in a series.

My husband, who is a prof, is trying to get us (me) to write a series of cozies with an academic setting.  When I'm a famous author I'lll be sure to autograph copies for all my PBS buddies LOL!

Subject: Shoo Fly Pie
Date Posted: 3/25/2011 9:11 PM ET
Member Since: 9/22/2010
Posts: 3,258
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Sharon W.

Thanks. I passed the information on Shoo Fly Pie to two of my friends at work.  One is a new member of the entomology faculty and received her Ph.D. from our department, the other is one of our senior secretaries and is a book-a-holic like me.  They are also very strong into Christianity and are regular church goers. The Amazon site said this book was also "Christian fiction." I'm a strong believer myself, but opted out of organized religion decades ago.  In any case, my hope is that one of them will get the book and then pass it on to me.

As you might suspect, forensic entomology is quite the thing now-a-days.  In fact, our departmental entomology summer camp for middleschoolers this year is based on what is called "The Black Bear Murder Mystery."  This Florida state approved lesson plan incorporates forensic science into an entomological teaching program.  And you were right, Shoo Fly Pie is listed as #1 in the series.



Last Edited on: 3/26/11 10:38 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 3/25/2011 9:19 PM ET
Member Since: 8/30/2008
Posts: 2,207
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The Amazon site said this book was also "Christian fiction."

Really?! I read the book and didn't see that in it at all. The book was terrific but I've been pacing myself, don't want to read them all up and end up with nothing to look forward to.

I do enjoy bugs, guts, and gruesome stuff.

Gail - pining for Virgil who is back home at the library

Date Posted: 3/25/2011 10:42 PM ET
Member Since: 7/14/2007
Posts: 8,942
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The Amazon site said this book was also "Christian fiction."

Really?! I read the book and didn't see that in it at all.  

I'm surprised too.  I'm about halfway through, and I haven't noticed anything remotely religious yet - not even a mention of someone attending or belonging to a church.  My copy was stamped as formerly belonging to a church library.

Date Posted: 3/25/2011 11:28 PM ET
Member Since: 8/11/2006
Posts: 6,597
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@ Thomas,

Haven't tried McCrumb's Bimbos of the Death Sun or the follow-up, Zombies of the Gene Pool, but I have read all of her magnificent Ballad novels. I shied away when McCrumb went through her ridiculous NASCAR phase (three books); however, now that she is easing back into the Ballad style, I am looking forward to her upcoming September release--The Ballad of Tom Dooley.

This page lists mysteries in academia: http://www.stopyourekillingme.com/JobCats/Academics.html

 

Subject: Shoo Fly Pie and Zombies of the Gene Pool
Date Posted: 3/26/2011 10:25 AM ET
Member Since: 9/22/2010
Posts: 3,258
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Well, I didn't know that Bimbos of the Death Sun had a follow-up -- Zombies of the Gene Pool.  I'll have to check that out. Thanks.

As to the Shoo Fly Pie (Bug Man) series, one of the friends at work whom I passed Sharon W.'s information onto, just let me know she has the entire series and I can borrow them at will.  She also told me that the author consults with Dr. Neal Haskell, a forensic entomologist at St. Joseph's College in Indiana, to ensure the entomology in his books is correct.

See http://www.saintjoe.edu/academics/biology/haskell.html for Dr. Haskell's page.

Later: I agree with the member who placed a negative review on the Zombies of the Gene Pool page above. This book was nothing like Bimbos of the Death Sun.



Last Edited on: 1/1/13 2:38 AM ET - Total times edited: 6
Date Posted: 3/26/2011 9:04 PM ET
Member Since: 7/3/2006
Posts: 181
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Last Edited on: 2/2/15 2:53 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Subject: Link between Bimbos and A Boy and His Dog
Date Posted: 3/28/2011 12:43 PM ET
Member Since: 1/10/2009
Posts: 332
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When Bimbos of the Death Sun had recently come out, I was in the Murder Ink bookstore in NYC and the then-owner persuaded me I should have it. She said she'd been at the Edgar Awards dinner and that Sharyn McCrumb was seated at the same table as Harlan Ellison, who wrote the story that A Boy and His Dog was based on. He is famously irascible in the SF field and is clearly the first corpse in Bimbos. Apparently Sharyn McCrumb was in fear that he might have read her book and that thing would get Ugly. No fear, though, as either he hadn'[t read her book or didn't recognize himself. I do love that book. I still laugh when I think of some scenes and lines.
Date Posted: 3/28/2011 12:51 PM ET
Member Since: 1/10/2009
Posts: 332
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Probably you already know about Jefferson Bass' forensic series, based on the actual Body Farm setup.
Date Posted: 3/28/2011 5:08 PM ET
Member Since: 8/10/2005
Posts: 4,601
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Aaron Elkins writes a series with an anthropology professor (Gideon Oliver) as the main character.

Cheryl

Subject: Aaron Elkins
Date Posted: 3/29/2011 12:07 AM ET
Member Since: 9/22/2010
Posts: 3,258
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Well, I checked this author out and there are apparently 16 books in the forensic anthropologist Gideon Oliver series, beginning with Fellowship of Fear

I was really interested in anthropology when I was younger and thought about that as a career.  Good thing I didn't.  I knew a guy who had a M.S. in that area while in grad school.  He had come back for his Ph.D. as jobs in that area were few and far between.  He said you had to work for free for a long time just so you could be on the spot when a position opened.

I checked and PBS has 52 different postings of books from this series, as of this date.

Thanks to Cheryl R. for suggesting this author.



Last Edited on: 3/29/11 12:26 AM ET - Total times edited: 3
Subject: Joanne Dobson
Date Posted: 3/29/2011 12:21 AM ET
Member Since: 9/22/2010
Posts: 3,258
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There are six different novels in the Karen Pelletier series by this author, the first being Quieter Than Sleep.  This is also subtitled A Modern Mystery of Emily Dickinson for those of you with an interest in English literature.

PBS has six different postings of this series, as of this date.

Thanks to Ann W. and Ellen H. for suggesting this author.



Last Edited on: 3/29/11 4:09 PM ET - Total times edited: 3
Subject: Jefferson Bass
Date Posted: 3/29/2011 12:25 AM ET
Member Since: 9/22/2010
Posts: 3,258
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This is not your usual author. The name is a combination of one name each from two guys:  Dr. Bill Bass and Jon Jefferson.  There are six novels in the Body Farm series, with the first being Carved in Bone.  PBS has nine different postings, as of this date.

Thanks to Margaret H. for suggesting this author.

Subject: Bill Crider
Date Posted: 3/29/2011 4:18 PM ET
Member Since: 9/22/2010
Posts: 3,258
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There are four books in the Dr. Carl Burns' series. The first of which is One Dead Dean. (Oh, how i know the feeling. I can remember one dean...)

There are three books in the Dr. Sally Good series. The first of which is Murder is an Art. Obviously she works in the College of Arts and Sciences.

There are 107 postings for Bill Crider on PBS, as of this date.

Thanks to Ann W. for suggesting these.



Last Edited on: 3/29/11 4:19 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Subject: Jane Langton
Date Posted: 3/30/2011 1:06 AM ET
Member Since: 8/19/2010
Posts: 128
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Langton's main character is Homer Kelly, a celebrated Emersonian scholar who is trying move away from his former career as a legendary homicide detective to allow more time for his scholarly pursuits.  The first one is A Transcendental Murder.

Many are set in Mass, but they eventually travel also.  If you like literary references and an academic backdrop, you'd enjoy this series.



Last Edited on: 3/30/11 1:06 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 3/30/2011 12:33 PM ET
Member Since: 1/28/2009
Posts: 15,108
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Tim Downs who writes the Bug Man novels, ShooFly Pie, etc. is listed as Christian Fiction but you wouldn't know it by reading his novels.  They are clean books with no foul language or sexual content in them.  I have read all of them in this series except for the second one, Chop Shop which I couldn't get into for some reason.

I'm going to check out some the authors that others have suggested.

Date Posted: 3/30/2011 11:10 PM ET
Member Since: 8/30/2007
Posts: 3,237
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Oh, how I adore Jane Langton! Aaron Elkins' books are wonderful, too.

I'm reading a mystery right now called The Crossing Places by Elly Griffiths, whose protagonist is a British archaeology professor. It has a unique style, and I mean that in a good way.

 

Date Posted: 4/22/2011 9:04 AM ET
Member Since: 4/1/2011
Posts: 270
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I'm relatively new to Paperback Swap, reading through the various discussion threads...

No one has mentioned the series featuring English professor Kate Fansler.  These were written by the late Carolyn Heilbrun under the pseudonym Amanda Cross. They are older (written between the mid-60's and Heilbrun's death several years ago), but fit this category. I remember enjoying them!

Lori Hl.

Date Posted: 4/22/2011 11:41 PM ET
Member Since: 2/16/2009
Posts: 483
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I love Crider's Carl Burns series!  Very funny stuff.  Another of my long-time favorite academic sleuths is Charlotte MacLeod's Professor Peter Shandy.  The series is set at Balaclava College, an agricultural school, in the north (somewhere).  The first of the series is Rest You Merry and it is a humorous, entertaining mystery and the rest of the series is delightful, as well.

Thanks for the McCrumb recommendation - I'll have to look into that one!



Last Edited on: 4/22/11 11:43 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Subject: Charlotte MacLeod and Professor Peter Shandy
Date Posted: 4/23/2011 3:02 PM ET
Member Since: 9/22/2010
Posts: 3,258
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Michele W. suggested the Macleod (she died in 2005)  Peter Shandy series (10 books), and mystery and humor is a great combination. This series is described as having "generous dollops of...warmth, wit, and whimsy" (San Francisco Sunday Examiner and Chronicle). I'll have to check this one out.  The series starts with Rest You Merry.

In addition to this series, Macleod wrote a couple of dozen other mysteries.

Subject: Amanda Cross and Kate Fansler
Date Posted: 4/23/2011 3:09 PM ET
Member Since: 9/22/2010
Posts: 3,258
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The series Lori H. suggests with Cross'  English professor, Kate Fansler, has 14 books. The first in the series is In the Last Analysis.

Cross' real name was Carolyn Gold Heilbrun, an American academic and feminist author. In 2004, Heilbrun committed suicide at her apartment in New York City.  According to her son, she was not ill, but felt that her life had been completed.

 


Last Edited on: 4/23/11 3:10 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Subject: Dorsey Fiske
Date Posted: 5/5/2011 1:15 PM ET
Member Since: 1/10/2009
Posts: 332
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Doirsey Fiske wrote two, Academic Murder and Bound to Murder, that take place in a British academic setting (Cambridge). I liked both of them.

Last Edited on: 5/5/11 1:16 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Subject: Dorsey Fiske
Date Posted: 5/5/2011 8:28 PM ET
Member Since: 9/22/2010
Posts: 3,258
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Dorsey Fiske's Academic Murder has a rapist in an academic robe salking the streets of Cambridge, England. Meanwhile, a libarian was killed with arsenic and a copy of one of Shakepeare's earliest poems is missing from the library. John Saltmarsh, a Sheepshanks Fellow and closet writer of detective novels, is the apparent hero who seeks to solve the case.

Bound to Murder, the second mystery, didn't get a good review on amazon and the review has a different last name for the hero. Having read neither perhaps we can rely on Margaret H. for the correct name.

All the above posts lead me to wonder why so many academic mysteries take place in English universities. Perhaps because, even though Edgar Allen Poe invented the mystery genre, the Brits have excelled in its development.



Last Edited on: 5/6/11 11:40 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
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