All Amanda Cross books are da bomb!
ISBN 0345346866 - As a mystery fan, I opened this one happily. I was far happier to close it. Most of the book is written in a very pretentious way - paragraphs such as "She's gone, though not without collecting a bottle of vinegar, expressing inchoate horror at the use of wine vinegar at twice the price of ordinary, asking if she could borrow the house for her garden club's tea, informing me she was busier than anyone else on earth, and wondering, with barely concealed salaciousness, what were the functions of the two young men in this household. I have become very disillusioned about the rural character. I suspect that Wordsworth, when he took to the country, never spoke to anyone but Dorothy and Coleridge, and perhaps an occasional leech gatherer." actually pour from the mouths of Cross' characters. Almost non-stop. It's an affectation, I assume, because there are points in the book when people converse in simpler language.
Kate Fansler went to school with Veronica Lingerwell, daughter of the now-deceased Sam Lingerwell, publisher. Sam's estate is left to Veronica, who is now a nun. The estate includes a large number of Sam's letters and among them are letters from James Joyce, whose work Sam published. The letters are of great interest to many and Kate, as an English professor, is asked to help sort them and decide their fate. She hires a grad student to help, almost accidentally acquires her nephew Leo and hires another grad student to help with him and takes the lot of them off to Lingerwell's country home to get some work done.
Mary Bradford, their neighbor, makes herself generally obnoxious; it's hard to find anyone in the area - local or visitor - who DIDN'T dislike her. When she's shot, it's equally hard to find someone who wouldn't, at some point, liked to have shot her. The members of the household rally around William, Leo's tutor, to help find the real murderer before the police can cart William off to prison.
Since this is one in a series of books, I'll likely read others and I really hope that Cross gets the stick out of her...spine. The characters aren't particularly sympathetic, since almost all of them speak the same way - like pretentious snobs that I would most definitely NOT like to know. If you're a fan, read it for the through-story of Kate. If you're new to Cross, you might want to start elsewhere, because this one is a let-down.