Monday, September 1, 2014

Death by Hitchcock by Elissa D. Grodin

Synopsis From Back Cover:

Physics and film seemingly have few academic features in common.  However, when local sire Bunny Baldwin, a student in the Film Studies Department at Cushing College, is found strangled to death on opening night of the Hitchcock Film Festival, Physics professor Edwina Goodwin puts on her detecting hat.  Using her scientific sleuthing skills to assist her almost boyfriend Police Detective Will Tenney, the pair work together to investigate the campus murder.  Edwina wants to know -- why did the murderer tie a strip of film around the victim's head?  Why did the killer time the murder to coincide with the showing of the famous Hitchcock film Spellbound?  Was Bunny really killed by strangulation or did the unusual drugs found in her system suggest poisoning?  Why do all the suspects have a seemingly airtight alibi?

There are certainty sufficient suspects as Edwina quickly ascertains.  The head of the Film Studies Department was having a torrid and practically public affair with the victim.  His wife was apparently furious, but not enough to keep her from also engaging in sexual hanky panky.  The victim had stolen a screenplay written by her roommate, Mary, to secure a Hollywood agent.  Mary is out for payback.  A quirky older woman who uses plants and other natural remedies to cure various ailments followed the head of the department around like a moon-struck calf.  And, of course, there's the film department's boy savant who plays chess with Edwina and keeps her updated on the various players.

Can Edwina use her knowledge of physics to unlock the strange features of this most unusual crime?  When a second murder occurs, it looks like she may -- if the killer doesn't find her first.

There are mysteries that can pull me in by the intricate plots, that twist and turn as they play with my brain.  I can be riveted by a dashing lead detective who uses the tools and know-how at their disposal, allowing them to solve the murder with panache.  Others hook me with the setting, a dark foreboding mansion, or the rocky, wind swept coast.  There are even mysteries that I really enjoy, without ever really understanding the reasons.   There is nothing that really stands out about them, but as a whole, they work.

I'm not saying Death by Hitchcock fits that last profile, because I'm not convinced I really enjoyed it all that much.  At the same, I'm not saying I didn't like it.  To tell the truth, I'm really not sure what I'm saying.  I tend to love academic mysteries, and while this does occur on a college campus, I never really felt as if it belonged there, and only there.  It's the same issue I had with Blade of the Samurai by Susan Spann, while the setting was real, the mystery itself felt as if it could have been anywhere, at anytime.  Nothing really connected the two parts of the mystery for me.

At the same time, I really did like Edwina, though I'm a little perplexed by the need to give the character the same initials as the author.  I found her to be engaging, and I loved her relationship with Will.  They are characters I would like to spend more time with, even if the mystery itself doesn't really work for me.  I just didn't by the ending or the reasoning behind the killer's motive.  I'm not sure if it's because the killer's character wasn't developed enough for me, or if the solution, though scientific, seemed to be a bit of a stretch.

I loved Edwina and Will, and maybe that love was enough to get around my issues with the story, I'm not really sure yet.  I'm not willing to give up on this series just yet.  While the mystery didn't captivate me, it was solid enough, and it did give something for Edwina and Will to shine in.  I'm just going to have to see how the next works for me.

This was a free review copy provided by Kelly & Hall Book Publicity, for an honest review.


Mystica said...

A new one for me as well. I like the background to this story.

bermudaonion said...

Hm, I like the solution to really work in a mystery so I'll have to think about this book.

Unknown said...

This sounds right up my alley! I am adding it to my list.

Lisa said...

I've gotta buy the ending of a mystery or I just can't be happy with the book. Think I'll have to pass on this one.