From Publishers Weekly
In Raphael's disappointing fourth book featuring untenured professor and amateur detective Nick Hoffman, Juno Dromgoole, an English professor at the State University of Michigan, wants to find out who's been harassing her with anonymous phone calls urging her to "Get out!" and to become chair (the "alpha bitch") of her department. So she turns to her colleague Nick for help. The Glock-owning Juno hardly seems to need Nick or anyone else; she's got more balls than 99% of her colleagues, whom she dismisses as "a bunch of whiners and weasels." This dysfunctional tribe of academics represents the possible suspects, and while several are clearly capable of a threatening phone call, none seems to have the guts or the motive for the (mildly) escalating violence. Raphael pads the story with other conflicts: Will Nick get tenure? Should he buy a gun of his own? Is he attracted to the Amazonian Juno? (Not a trivial question for a gay man in a committed relationship.) It would take a more resourceful, less ambivalent hero to rescue Juno or this thinly plotted novel. Nick is almost as annoying as his petty, inarticulate colleagues. Their heated debates are more reminiscent of playground squabbles than intellectual disputes. Satirizing the academic world is one of the author's big themes, but it's a tired premise in this inexplicably titled book. Raphael doesn't generate enough narrative momentum or suspense to hold the reader's interest as the novel grinds to its abrupt, unsatisfying ending.
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Raphael proceeds down a path he started in the last Nick Hoffman mystery, Little Miss Evil
(2000). That book was almost over before someone was murdered. This time the corpse never shows up, and Nick voices Raphael's seeming preference for slowly- building suspense rather than bodies. Suspense arises from a variety of sources, and readers may find partnered, gay Nick's mid-life lusting for a woman more engrossing than the mysterious accumulation of injuries done to him and the object of his sexual fantasies--tall, voluptuous Juno. Will Nick act on his fantasies? For that matter, will untenured Nick even stay on at the State University of Michigan, Raphael's take on academic hell, where professors are reduced to whining subservience by administrators who, like the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland
, hand down sentences before verdicts? Sexual and academic tensions fascinate Raphael more than the phone threats and beatings of the mystery element of the book, leaving readers to wonder whether he is defining a new genre. Whitney ScottCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved