Thursday, June 8, 2023

Murder Is Pathological

 Murder Is Pathological (1986) by P. M. Carlson

1969 in a New England college town. Someone seems to be determined to disrupt the experimental phase of Dr. Weisen's revolutionary new drug for brain tumors. First there is the exploding trash can. Then there is the slaughter of a group of experimental rats. Maggie Ryan, statistician for the project, thinks it's more than just random vandals. And when the lab's maintenance man is found dead in a ditch, she refuses to believe that it was the accidental bicycle accident it has been ruled. Of course, the students associated with the project are all her friends and she is reluctant to believe that any of them could be behind the the sabotage and murder.

Enter Nick O'Connor--Maggie's friend who would like to be more than friends. When she sends him a letter announcing that she's managed to sell an article to a leading journal, he comes to Laconia ostensibly to celebrate with her, but really because he wants to try and settle things between them. He listens as she tells him what's been going on at the lab and he decides to be a hero. He goes undercover as a replacement janitor in an effort to find out what and who is behind the mayhem in the biology lab. But what he and Maggie find out may end their chance to find happiness fact it may end things for both of them permanently.

This is the second Maggie Ryan mystery I've read (3rd in the series) and I have enjoyed both. Murder in the Dog Days is the sixth in the series and featured Maggie more as the detective. Here, Nick takes center stage and does quite a good job with his undercover work. He's an actor, so he's used to slipping into character and he never makes a false step while pretending to be "Rick." Well, except for stumbling into the mysterious night-time visitor to the lab and not preventing another massacre of a batch of rats. But "Rick" was hired to be a maintenance man, not a security guard. He quickly deciphers the clue that his predecessor left behind and then he and Maggie work together to figure out how it figures into the bigger picture.

A better academic mystery than my previous read--the atmosphere is good and the mystery plot and investigation hang together better. Maggie is a little bit prickly in this one (compared to my previous) read, but given her romantic track record it's understandable. Her emotional distractions probably keep her from coming to the same conclusions as Nick as quickly, but she still manages to shine as a co-investigator. ★★ and 1/2.

First line: B-716 was not a particularly happy rat.

Last line: "Well, can't argue with two authorities like that." She yawned again, nuzzled his chest, and slept.


Deaths = one hit on head

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