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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Review - Death at the Alma Mater

I have been wanting to read this author ever since she won the Malice Domestic Grant and went on to win the Agatha Award for best first novel with "Death of a Cozy Writer."  The publisher kindly sent me this book to review.  Miss Malliet says "My books are affectionate send-ups of the traditional
British mystery."  See what you think.

Author: G.M. Malliet

Copyright: Jan 2010 (Midnight Ink) 283 pgs

Series: 3rd in Arthur St. Just Investigations

Sensuality: Mild

Mystery Sub-genre: British Police Procedural

Main Character:  Detective Chief Inspector Arthur St. Just

Setting: Modern day St. Michael's College at the University of Cambridge, England

Obtained Through: Publisher for an honest review

It starts like a traditional British mystery, weaving a story slowly and around page 70 the murder takes place.  St. Michael's is desperate for money and invites former wealthy graduates back  to the school for a fund-raising weekend to solicit charitable donations.  But these alumni have intermingled histories, the most famous is how Sir James left his "Paris Hilton-esque" celebrity wife - Lexy,  while at school for India.  Lady India Bassett is not happy that the threesome will be reunited and while many expected some melodramatic scenes from Lexy nobody foresaw her brutal murder.  To top it all off, her body is discovered by India's son!  The strands of the various participant's past come back to haunt them. 

This book has a nice handful of suspects.  Besides the triangle of Sir James - Lexy - Lady India, there is Augie the Texan , Gwen the celebrity reporter, Hermoine the stuffy uptight activist, the financier Karl and his wife Constance, the neglected son Sebastian and Saffron the girlfriend he selfishly uses, and Geraldo the millionaire playboy on Lexy's arm for the weekend.

But hands down the star of the book is St. Just.  He is my favorite police detective now.  Miss Malliet has created a sparkling main character.  He is an experienced investigator yet he keeps from being completely jaded.  He is in love and looking forward to marrying Portia (who is featured occasionally in the book since she attends the college.)  St. Just is humorous and wonderfully like-able, honorable without being stuffy and appealing as a human being. 

The great reveal of the murderer was the campy "suspects are all gathered together".  It worked.  

The motive for the murder stayed murky until the reveal and without that piece to the puzzle was very difficult for the reader to pinpoint the killer.  Like any great mystery novel, the clues were all there and looking back, it was pretty clear.  All I can say about the wrap-up is "Well Done, Loved It!"

So I am sold - this is what makes an award winning author.  Great book, I am looking forward to the next one.

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Bev Hankins said...

I love this series. I've read all three and would say that Death of a Cozy Writer and Death at the Alma Mater are both better than Death and the Lit Chick. I can't wait till a new one shows up!

A.F. Heart said...

I was pleasantly surprised and eagerly awaiting the next one too!!

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