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Burning Down the House (Nick Hoffman Mysteries Book 5) [Kindle Edition]

Lev Raphael
3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)

Kindle Price: $5.99

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Book Description

Evil Stalks the Halls of Academe!

Welcome to the hothouse world of academia where egos bruise as easily as peaches and vendettas grow like weeds. Cheerful, sarcastic professor Nick Hoffman never wanted to be a sleuth, but circumstances at the outwardly bucolic State University of Michigan keep forcing him to solve crimes and save himself from prison--or worse.

Now, at Christmas time, he's caught between rival factions in his department over who should be the next chairperson and even over what kind of Christmas tree the office should have. His life spirals out of control thanks to an unexpected sexual attraction, and a blur of anonymous threats, stalking, and assault. Is murder next?

“Lev Raphael is one of the most sophisticated mystery authors alive, and his latest, Burning Down the House, is witty and charming.”
—The Cleveland Plain Dealer

“This series has always been distinguished for its irreverent academic wit and hip social observations.”
—The Washington Post Book World

“Lev Raphael’s Nick Hoffman books [are] wickedly funny.”
—The Seattle Times

“Raphael continues his assault on the pretensions of academic careerists in his newest tale featuring scholar Nick Hoffman, caught in a maelstrom of campus strife….The most entertaining scenes center on faculty meetings during which I repeatedly laughed aloud. These educators with exalted egos get their knickers in a twist over such earth-shattering issues as whether to install a White Studies program to help foster diversity at the school, or whether setting up a small, non-denominational fir tree in the office during the Yule season somehow represents a violation of church-state separation. Readers unaware of scholarly eccentricities may find the humor exaggerated. I find it utterly realistic.”
—Chicago Sun-Times

“[Lev Raphael] is defining a new genre.”

“Filled with clever humor as well as sophisticated comments about food, wine, current events and contemporary fiction. [Raphael’s] satirical observations make this a light-hearted illustration of mystery writing that is entertaining and amusing.”
—National Jewish Post & Opinion

“If conditions on university campuses really are as bizarre and insidiously political as depicted in novelist-critic Lev Raphael’s new Burning Down the House, higher education must be at an all-time low. As the author amusingly presents it, the faculty at State University of Michigan is an assortment of eccentric, conniving, self-promoting, not to mention homicidal, half-baked do-nothings.”
–Los Angeles Times

Editorial Reviews

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.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

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 Scott
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • File Size: 4587 KB
  • Print Length: 256 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0079QQCQE
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #535,357 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A highly recommended book by a most talented writer January 11, 2002
BURNING DOWN THE HOUSE is Lev Raphael's best book yet in the Nick Hoffman series. Unlike the previous Nick book which were called mysteries, the cover says "a Nick Hoffman novel." I think this is indicative of the direction the series is going and that certainly is not meant as a criticism. There is no murder, but there is attempted murder. The tone is darker than the others in the series as Nick continues in his sexual fascination with Juno Dromgoole which both intrigues and frightens him. But things on the SUM campus, especially in his department are becoming more and more bizarre with the launch of a campaign for "whiteness studies" and the diversity tree. To complicate matters, Juno has decided she is going to run for the chairmanship of EAR and wants Nick's help. A not very popular decision as at least two attempts are made on Juno's life and Nick is attacked on campus. As with life, there is no neat ending, but rather more self-awareness on Nick's part of how he is capable of reacting. It certainly leaves me eagerly....even anxiously awaiting the next book. The humor is here, but it seems more biting and certainly less tolerant of the fools that Nick encounters in the academic life. It is more like the campus (and the world) would be a better place without some of these bloomin' idiots. I would highly recommend BURNING DOWN THE HOUSE, but suggest that you read Lev's other books in order of publication. Another point about Lev's books. I've been becoming a little concerned that so many books, movies, tv shows, etc. are using only allusions to popular culture, doing away with those to classical literature, mythology, art, et al. Lev manages to bring both into his writing and that is a real bonus.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Burn Marks February 6, 2002
Nick Hoffman is a very confused man. The untenured professor and star of Lev Raphael's four mystery novels faces a bleak future from his unwanted connection with several murders. He's concerned about the rise of hate crimes against gays on campus. Even his sexuality has come under assault by his unexpected attraction to Juno Dromgoole, the voluptuous Canadian professor who's a force of nature in spandax. Not that he's against such connections, but his long-time male lover might object.
Worse, the State University of Michigan is under considerable turmoil. A new administrator has pushed the faculty to open revolt with her high-handed ways. If that built the bonfire, the presence of a Christmas "Diversity Tree" and the possibility of a Whiteness Studies program is the equivalent of dumping gasoline and tossing on the flaming torch. And Juno's campaign to become chairman of Nick's department is being undermined with threats. Nick tries to negotiate these land mines, but his search for the source of these attacks compels him to reach a possibly life-changing conclusion.
As a former professor, Lev Raphael has plenty of material to etch his acidic portrayals. There are few good people. The administrators and faculty are deadly ambitious, hilariously inept or simply clueless. Back-biting and rumor-mongering are traditional ways to gain power or revenge. Meetings tend to degenerate into accusations and chaos. In this context, violence seems like just another way to get ahead; cannibalism the logical conclusion of a bloody-minded faculty meeting.
"Burning Down the House" marks a new direction among the amateur detective subset of the mystery genre. It's less a mystery novel than the culmination of threads woven in Raphael's previous books, beginning with "Let's Get Criminal.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars TERRIFIC SATIRE! RAPHAEL'S BEST! September 28, 2001
By A Customer
If you've followed this delightful, well-written, and moving series from the first book, you've watched Nick Hoffman grow progressively disillusioned with his academic home, though he loves teaching itself. The pettiness hasn't just been petty, it's been murderous, and the university he teaches at has become more and more of an autocracy.
Well, in BURNING DOWN THE HOUSE, the hard rain starts to fall and
Nick is caught in an academic riot--yes!--that is the wildest scene Raphael has ever written. It's as good as anything Jane Smiley or David Lodge has done in this vein.
Don't expect a paint-by-numbers mystery, and don't expect political correctness either. Nick enters uncharted territory in a number of surprising and exciting ways.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Daring and different October 16, 2001
By A Customer
Bravo to Lev Raphael, an author who dares to take chances and
shake off the tired conventions of the mystery genre. I love a book that surprises me and takes risks, which "Burning Down The House" does in spades.
I don't want to give too much away, but BDTH is definitely not a conventional mystery "whodunit." It *is* a very good novel, though, full of complex characters and wonderful (and often very humorous) writing. Lev's crazy little academic world, with its "diversity trees" (the politically correct Christmas tree) and riotously petty faculty grudges, is a perfectly delightful place to visit, though I wouldn't want to live there!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Burning Down the House Is Hot, Hot, Hot November 6, 2001
By A Customer
Not only is Burning Down the House the smartest mystery I've read in ages, it's the sexiest. And Bravo! to Lev Raphael for daring to explore the complexities of sexuality, for giving an honest account of his hero's desire to dip his toe in the other side of the pool. It's a painfully difficult dilemma for his Nick Hoffman, to suddenly desire a woman(and oh, what a woman!), but Raphael handles this conundrum of the human condition in an intelligent and thoughtful way. All this juicey stuff, plus a page-turning who-dunnit set on a hilarious and action-packed college campus. Definitely read this one.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
Nothing more to say then excellent
Published 4 months ago by PDB
5.0 out of 5 stars A compelling read.
This books starts off funny, drew me right into the story. I kept watching for a major crime (murder) but there wasn't one. Read more
Published on August 25, 2004 by Lorraine Talbot
4.0 out of 5 stars Burning with Suspense
Lev Raphael has managed with his Nick Hoffman series to not only entertain us with Academia and Murder, but has gone beyond the "formula". Read more
Published on December 1, 2003 by Jeffry T. Downs
5.0 out of 5 stars Stellar!
This series has to be one of the most under-rated in the country. It's witty, well-written, compelling and original. Read more
Published on July 9, 2003
5.0 out of 5 stars Taut, twisted and telicious...
I have read all the Nick Hoffman series and they keep getting better. Mr. Raphael knows how to superbly blend Judaica, gay relationships and academia. Read more
Published on July 7, 2003 by David MacCarthy
2.0 out of 5 stars Sorry, Nick, you flunked out this time!
I would like to add one more expression to the myriad of multilingual musings that salt and pepper this book in the guise of intellectual inspiration - and that is caveat emptor! Read more
Published on March 3, 2003 by Robert Edler
2.0 out of 5 stars endless ruminations
I have read all the books in this series and have become disappointed at the direction this series is taking. Read more
Published on September 18, 2002
4.0 out of 5 stars Delightfully Funny Satire on College Life
I can't quite support the idea that Burning Down the House a mystery or a suspense story. On that score, I need to say right off, it was a little disappointing. Read more
Published on May 13, 2002 by Daniel J. Maloney
5.0 out of 5 stars BURNING DOWN THE HOUSE
This was the first book I read in the series, and when I was done I started reading the others. Burning Down the House is by far the best of the series. Read more
Published on April 6, 2002 by P. C. Library
1.0 out of 5 stars Didn't measure up
I was left unfulfilled after finishing this book; even worse because I forced myself because I'd spent my good money. Read more
Published on March 30, 2002
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More About the Author

Lev Raphael has wanted to be an author since he was in second grade, and he's not only achieved his dream, he's published twenty-five books in genres from memoir to mystery to Jane Austen Mashup; had his books translated into nearly a dozen languages; appeared in two documentaries; won various prizes; done hundreds of invited talks and readings on three different continents; recently sold his literary papers (92 boxes!) to the Michigan State University Libraries (MSUL); been the subject of scholarly articles, papers and book chapters; and seen his work taught at colleges and universities around the country. Which means he's become homework. Who knew?

Born and raised in New York, he got over it and has spent half his life in Michigan. He's a pioneer in writing about children of Holocaust survivors, which he's been doing since 1978, longer than almost any other American author. He frequently tours with his books (check for his current schedule) and is currently touring with My Germany, a memoir/travelogue exploring the role Germany has played in his family, his life, and his career.

After he escaped academia to write full-time, he reviewed extensively for over a decade for the Detroit Free Press, Michigan Radio, The Washington Post, Jerusalem Report, The Ft. Worth Star-Telegram, Forward, Boston Review, and Lambda Book Report. He now reviews for and WKAR 90.5 FM/East Lansing Public Radio, and when he's not busy, he sometimes imagines some graduate student years from now in the MSUL archives puzzling over his handwriting.

A seasoned reader of his own work, with a background in theater and teaching, he loves the performance aspect of touring, as well as meeting people he'd never meet back home. And the sightseeing. And the foreign foods. For photos from his previous German book tours, go to

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