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Little Miss Evil: A Nick Hoffman Mystery Hardcover – May, 2000

3.4 out of 5 stars 37 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Nick Hoffman, the crime-solving Edith Wharton scholar who's starred in three previous mysteries by Lev Raphael, still doesn't have tenure. His boyfriend Stefan's position in the English department at the State University of Michigan is a little more secure, but Stefan's career as a novelist is stalled in traffic, and the appointment of the gratuitously nasty Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Camille Cypriani--"a cross between Anita Brookner and Judith Krantz"--to a newly endowed chair in the department isn't doing much for their relationship. But that may also have something to do with the strange attraction that Nick, who's never been sexually interested in women, suddenly feels for Juno Dromgoole, the outsized and outrageous professor who's counting on his support in her quest for chairmanship of the department.

The English and Rhetoric faculty are already in an uproar over downgrades in status and pay, and on the heels of Camille's controversial appointment, a rumor that a new department of "White Studies" is in the offing sweeps the campus, further highlighting the intense rivalries and petty politics of the university. Then Camille is strangled with a leopard-print scarf that looks suspiciously like Juno's, and Nick's own life is threatened. It falls to Nick's cousin Sharon, a plucky woman whose problems are a lot graver than academic infighting, to point him in the right direction and wrap up the somewhat muddled plot.

Raphael is fast with the wisecracks and heavy with the references to pop culture. He's clearly spent a lot of time watching slasher movies and reading suspense thrillers, which fits neatly with the oversubscribed class Nick teaches on the mystery novel but detracts from the narrative's pacing. It may be time for Raphael to take Nick out of the ivied halls and put his smarts to work in another setting. But if murder in the groves of academe is your thing, consider Little Miss Evil as an extra credit assignment. --Jane Adams

From Publishers Weekly

Professor Nick Hoffman's fall semester gets off to a rocky start in the fourth of Raphael's amusing academic mysteries (The Death of a Constant Lover, etc.). When arrogant, bestselling author Camille Cypriani, "a cross between Anita Brookner and Judith Krantz," receives an endowed chair at the State University of Michigan, the normally rancorous English department turns into a festering zone of envy and resentment. The high-salaried appointee's office displaces a beloved, small library, while other professors are shunted to windowless quarters in the basement. Meanwhile, someone in the department is harassing Nick with threatening messages and vandalism; his lover, Stefan, the writer-in-residence, is in a funk over Camille's appointment and his own less-than-stellar sales; Nick's favorite cousin is facing risky surgery to remove a tumor near her brain; and Nick himself becomes confused when he finds himself attracted to the loud and sexy (and very female) professor of Canadian literature. The campus situation worsens when the university president speaks out for the creation of a Department of White Studies, setting off faculty and student protests. Nick and Stefan survive the upheaval in style and solve the inevitable murder of the resented new colleague. This satire of academia is an enjoyable diversion, despite its uneven, late-developing plot, its flat characterizations of Nick's co-workers-cum-murder suspects, and its author's tendency to stud his prose with glib name-dropping instead of substantive detail. Agent, Curtis Brown Ltd. (May)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Series: Nick Hoffman Mysteries
  • Hardcover: 187 pages
  • Publisher: Walker & Company (May 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802733425
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802733429
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.8 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,458,981 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on May 31, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Anyone expecting standard, run-of-the-mill mystery will be disappointed in Lev Raphael's witty academic satires that go beyond the genre's tired conventions. Like Robert Barnard and other masters, his new book experiments with a late murder--though there's a parallel mystery from early on involving stalking. What a joy to see an author do something different than he did in his last book, where the murder took place in the opening chapter.
The writing is eloquent and funny, the characters unforgettable, and best of all, in this fourth Nick Hoffman mystery we see an unexpected mid-life crisis for Nick that will doubtless raise the ire of the Political Correctness Police who don't know how to read fiction. This is a novel, not an inspirational pamphlet. In its own way, LITTLE MISS EVIL is as daring as Binnie Kaufman's magnificent PURE POETRY.
Over four books of the series, we've seen the stresses and strains of a couple living together for 15 years: jealousy, career anxieties, a medical emergency and now something completely different. Bravo to Lev Raphael, whose collection DANCING ON TISHA B'AV broke new ground in 1990, for this finely inventive novel.
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Format: Hardcover
If I ever visited Lansing, Michigan (the obvious model for the fictional town of Michiganapolis), I would not be a bit surprised to run into Nick Hoffman and his boyfriend Stefan. Perhaps if I was really lucky, they'd invite me back to their house and cook something wonderful. Now, I realize these characters are fictional creations, but they have grown to seem quite real to me after reading Lev Raphael's wonderful series!
It's always a pleasure to encounter Nick, Stefan, Nick's cousin Sharon, and the wacky faculty and staff at the State University of Michigan (SUM). In this latest book, a new professor named Camille Cypriani joins the SUM faculty -- she's a Pulitzer Prize-winner who has achieved great critical AND commercial success. So, needless to say, everyone else at SUM hates her. And at SUM, that inevitably leads to murder...
The Nick Hoffman mysteries are laugh-out-loud funny, and this one has a deeper element as well (Sharon is suffering from a brain tumor and Stefan's career as a novelist has gone WAY downhill -- his agent can't even sell his latest book). This is another fantastic book in one of the best mystery series around.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book has all the humor, melodrama and campus bitterness that the first three in the series offered. Lev Raphael is a wonderful writer – literate and elegant – and creates a vivid, perhaps even claustrophobic sense of his fictional university and its bizarre denizens.

But what has chiefly enamored me through this series is the real point of the stories—the complex, committed, loving relationship between Nick Hoffman and his partner of fifteen years, Stefan.

So for some reason in this book Nick, at forty-something, for the very first time in his life, finds himself obsessively attractive to a woman. Thereby threatening the one part of this series that I counted on: a happy gay couple coping with life’s strangeness. There are few enough gay couples in popular literature these days without having one of them decide he might be sort of straight.

I don’t know why Raphael did it, but it killed the series for me. Too bad.
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Format: Hardcover
There is trouble in the State University of Michigan EAR (English, American Studies, and Rhetoric) department and Nick Hoffman, a non-tenured professor who always seems to find himself surrounded by murder, is in the middle of it. Someone is stalking him, everyone is upset about a new endowed chair, and murder is once again in the air.
Using a professor who teaches a class in mystery allows Lev Raphael (the author) to have Nick name-drop all of the latest mystery authors, along with Virginia Wolfe, Edith Warton, Dark Passages, and Titanic with equal humor. I found myself laughing out loud when Nick (after spending too long on Janet Evanovich) wondered if he should simplify his diet (his partner, Stephan set him straight--Stephanie Plum is no role model).
The academic setting is brutally realistic. Unlike business, the University really is a zero sum game and professors play to win--not that there is much joy even in the winning. Still, Nick keeps his sense of humor and deepens his relationships with Stephan, his cousin Sharon, and the strangely attractive Professor Juno Dromgoole (is there a certain Dickensian quality to Raphael's naming?).
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By A Customer on September 21, 2000
Format: Hardcover
There are no dead bodies until well into Lev Raphael's latest academia mystery, but you won't miss them at all as you are taken along for a ride through backstabbing murderous university scenery. This is Raphael's best yet, in his Nick Hoffman series. Nick's partner is suffering from midlist writer's angst; the English Department at the university has been invaded by a best-selling harridan; and Nick is (horrors) finding that he's attracted to, of all things, a woman. Spicing it up is the usual cast of outrageous professorial and administrative characters that Raphael does so well. Hang on to your funnybone and enjoy LITTLE MISS EVIL.
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Format: Kindle Edition
What a mess! Faculty and students at the State University of Michigan (SUM) are in an uproar because the university president favors creation of a Department of White Studies. Adding to the unrest, a bestselling author Camille Cypriani, receives an endowed chair at SUM and a favorite small library is moved to make room for her office. She barely has time to find the powder room before she's murdered.

Caught up in all this is Nick Hoffman, untenured professor in EAR (English, American Studies, and Rhetoric department). Because he has solved a couple of murders he's brought unwanted attention to his department and has been banished to a claustrophobic basement office in a crumbling building.

Nick is between the well-known rock and a hard place. His partner, Stephan, is a tenured writer-in-residence. It would be hard to give up that security and Nick's own dreams of tenure, and go back to New York. Worse, Stephan hated Camille Cypriani, making him one of the suspects in her murder.

The plot thickens. For the first time in Nick's life he is attracted to a woman, a flamboyant professor named Juno Dromgoole. Stephan, who has been Nick's partner for 15 years, doesn't notice. He's too down in the dumps over his stagnating writing career. Complications multiply. Camille was murdered with a scarf belonging to Juno, and somebody begins harassing Nick with vandalism and threatening messages. There's nothing left for Nick to do but solve the murder.

This wickedly funny tale of murder in academia is a delightful read. All of the characters are vividly portrayed. My favorite off-stage character is Nick's cousin, Sharon, who faces a risky surgery to remove a tumor near her brain. Her contribution to the story is gently written, with great tenderness.

Pat Browning
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