Monday, October 6, 2014

Death by Hitchcock: Review Request

Death by Hitchcock is the second Edwina Goodman mystery by Elissa D. Grodin. Edwina is a physics professor at Cushing College who manages to spend her spare time helping the attractive Police Detective Will Tenney investigate murders that pop up on campus. This time we have local femme fatale Bunny Baldwin murdered in the bathroom on opening night of the Hitchcock Film Festival. Bunny is a graduate student in the Film Studies Department at Cushing--though it is a bit of mystery how she got there. Her research time seems to be spent on the latest fashions and her latest conquests rather than on the ins and outs of film study. 

Bunny had been planning to run off to California with Chaz Winner, current head of Film Studies. But someone put a stop to those plans--strangling Bunny, tying a strip of film around her head, and stuffing her into an empty stall. There are plenty of suspects to be found--from Winner's spurned wife to Bunny's roommate, Mary Buttery, who may be seeking revenge for a stolen screenplay to an odd older woman by the name of Honeysuckle blessing with her own plans for the head of Film studies to resident film studies genius Milo Marcus who might have been playing knight-errant and removing Bunny on Mary's behalf.

Edwina helps Will sift through the alibis and the departmental connections and finally uses a bit of physics know-how to spot the killer.

Here I am having looked forward to an academic mystery and finding myself let down again--not quite as badly as by the previous read, but still. And not only let down by the mystery itself, but the title was a real hook and then it wound up that the Hitchcock theme really didn't play a huge role. Yes, Bunny was killed at the Hitchcock festival...but that really didn't have much to do with anything. The murder could have taken place anywhere. There was so much that Grodin could have done with the Hitchcock tie-in...but she didn't. I was also disappointed by the quality of the writing. Since this was a second novel, I was expecting Grodin to have her writing legs under her. Scenes and conversations were very choppy with very little narrative flow and sometimes little development (a chapter that took up less than half a page??). It was very difficult to settle down into the story when it seemed like we were constantly jumping about.

On the positive side: I really enjoyed Edwina and Will and their developing relationship. They work well together and the best scenes were theirs. They are very engaging characters and I think if the narrative stuck with them instead of following various characters for short, choppy scenes then the book would have worked much better for me. The mystery is fairly well plotted although I'm not entirely convinced by the motive. It's possible that if the suspects characters had been fleshed out a bit more that it would make more sense. 

Loving academic mysteries as I do, I would be willing to give the series another try in a future installment--in the hopes that there would be better overall characterization and narrative flow. ★★ and a half stars for this outing...leaning more toward two than three.

[Disclaimer: My review policy is posted on my blog, but just to reiterate....The book was offered to me for impartial review  and I have received no payment of any kind. All comments are entirely my own honest opinion.]


Anonymous said...

What a shame Bev - on the face of it this sounded like great fun - ah well ...

fredamans said...

Sorry it was a letdown. I thought it sounded decent too. Great review!