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Murder at the MLA

von D. J. H. Jones

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As a Chicago homicide detective, Boaz Dixon has just about seen it all--or so he thinks until corpses begin accumulating at the Hotel Fairfax during the annual meeting of the Modern Language Association. The investigation takes him into a world unlike any he has ever encountered--the byzantine milieu of the contemporary academy, with its arcane jargon, endless posturings, power struggles, and puzzling factionalisms. To get to the bottom of these murders, Boaz decides to enlist some assistance. Enter Nancy Cook, a bright and resourceful assistant prof from Yale, whom Boaz quickly recruits as his guide and translator. With Nancy inserting her specific slant on things, Boaz and his fellow cops can confront the baffling questions in the case. Why had the Wellesley department chair, Susan Engleton, collapsed in her hotel suite, her skirt up and a run in her stocking, never to preside over hiring interviews for her school again? And Michael Alcott, the University of Arizona's formidable purveyor of the latest trends in critical theory: why had his body plummeted ten floors to the atrium lobby, there to lie for hours and spoil a pretty patch of terrazzo? Was this the work of a disgruntled hotel staff member, out to get even with his employer? Or could the culprit--or culprits--come from the ranks of the assembled academics? And, the most disturbing question of all: will the mayhem continue? With numerous twists of plot and an affectionate evocation of Chicago, the City That Hates Wimps, Murder at the MLA is at once a deftly designed mystery and a rambunctious satire of today's academy. Beneath the novel's surgical wit, however, lies a serious concern for academic priorities, including the status of teaching and the curriculum in the currently beleaguered world of higher education. Of course, any resemblance to prominent academic figures and to well-known institutions is purely coincidental.… (mehr)
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As a Chicago homicide detective, Boaz Dixon has just about seen it all--or so he thinks until corpses begin accumulating at the Hotel Fairfax during the annual meeting of the Modern Language Association. The investigation takes him into a world unlike any he has ever encountered--the byzantine milieu of the contemporary academy, with its arcane jargon, endless posturings, power struggles, and puzzling factionalisms. To get to the bottom of these murders, Boaz decides to enlist some assistance. Enter Nancy Cook, a bright and resourceful assistant prof from Yale, whom Boaz quickly recruits as his guide and translator. With Nancy inserting her specific slant on things, Boaz and his fellow cops can confront the baffling questions in the case. Why had the Wellesley department chair, Susan Engleton, collapsed in her hotel suite, her skirt up and a run in her stocking, never to preside over hiring interviews for her school again? And Michael Alcott, the University of Arizona's formidable purveyor of the latest trends in critical theory: why had his body plummeted ten floors to the atrium lobby, there to lie for hours and spoil a pretty patch of terrazzo? Was this the work of a disgruntled hotel staff member, out to get even with his employer? Or could the culprit--or culprits--come from the ranks of the assembled academics? And, the most disturbing question of all: will the mayhem continue? With numerous twists of plot and an affectionate evocation of Chicago, the City That Hates Wimps, Murder at the MLA is at once a deftly designed mystery and a rambunctious satire of today's academy. Beneath the novel's surgical wit, however, lies a serious concern for academic priorities, including the status of teaching and the curriculum in the currently beleaguered world of higher education. Of course, any resemblance to prominent academic figures and to well-known institutions is purely coincidental.

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