My instinct is to avoid cozy mysteries because I tend to find amateur sleuths foolish in their investigations, and I basically want to put them in jail for all the laws they break throughout the course of the book. So it's not really a subgenre for me. HOWEVER, Albert, the neurologically atypical amateur sleuth in this book, sidestepped all my annoyances with his own style of grace. I thought his character growth throughout the story was very much earned: he picked up investigative skills and deductive reasoning skills and friendships in a way that felt organic and believable. He practiced
his skills, and he learned from his missteps. He related things to his field of interest (music; he's a rather famous musical genius, in fact, who is living a quiet and unbothered life as a college professor) so that he could understand them. I'm ignorant and unqualified to talk about how his neurological atypicism is portrayed, but the other characters in the book didn't appear, to my eye, to treat him as lesser for who he was or the social "mistakes" he made (though a few characters do underestimate him).
I picked up this flying-under-the-radar mystery novel based on the excerpts and the recommendation in this excellent guest review on Dear Author
. I wasn't disappointed, because holy cats, character-wise, Albert is a font of awesomeness and fascinatingness and "I need to read what he does next!"-ness. Also, the jokes about academia had me laughing: "Administration had called a meeting to Summarize and Clarify Certain Recent Events Involving the School and Members of Its Faculty. The meeting had been rousingly well attended, leading one administrator to postulate that, while murder was not to be applauded, it certainly did wonders for bringing faculty together. Even the tenured attended."
The downside of the book, however, was that I was underwhelmed by particular dimensions to the plot and the shallowness of some of the other characters. The plot itself was a bit predictable and, well, old-fashioned in its treatment of women. (view spoiler)[Love interest? FRIDGED. Unnecessarily, too, and though she was pretty cool and I liked her, she was also fairly shallowly depicted, and I never understood how or why she fell in love--oh yeah, she told Albert "I love you" as she was dying, my goodness how cliched. My reaction was, "Wait, what? Seriously? We're going there? Book, I thought we were better than that. :(" Nearly all the named young women in the book are victims, mostly notable only by their relationship to male faculty members, and destroyed by the poor choices they were manipulated into. Oh, and eventually, they all get slapped with Temporary Insanity or plain Insanity, for the crimes they commit, which I can certainly read as part of a feminist critique, but it wasn't presented that way or with that sort of thoughtfulness. (hide spoiler)]
The point-of-view sometimes tripped me up. Lots of head-hopping, and not all of it graceful. It was an omniscient point of view, but the use of analogies that I didn't think would ever occur to Albert, while we were sorta-semi or most-recently in his point-of-view, threw me: things like metaphors involving baseball or Democrats never seemed like something that Albert would relate to, and so they tossed me out of the story and out of sync with Albert.
Despite the things that bugged me about this book, and especially at its current price of $.99, I'd still recommend this book to readers looking for a unique (and consistently depicted) amateur sleuth or an academic setting that focuses mostly on the arts and humanities (the origins of the Etruscans is part of the academic work involved in the murders, which is pretty cool).["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>