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The "M" Word
By Jane Isenberg
Avon Books, 1999
Reviewed by Shirley Wetzel
Bel Barrett, fifty-something English professor at New Jersey’s River Edge Community College, is going through menopause while trying to solve a murder, and she’s having a rough time of it. Altagracia Garcia, the college president, is young, dynamic, and making waves in the old order. She drops dead at a college festival, and a vial of cyanide is found in the pocket of Oscar "Ozzie" Beckman, one of Bel’s ex-students who was serving food at the fete. He’d had a grudge against her because he only wanted to cook and she said he had to take other courses, but Bel does not believe the young man is capable of murder.
Bel joins forces with an adjunct professor, private eye Illuminada Gutierriez, and college administrator and martinet "Ramrod" Betty Ramsey. Together they compile a list of more likely suspects, uncovering damaging evidence about people in high places in their small community across the river from NYC.
Someone tries to put Bel out of the snooping business permanently.
The story is interesting and sometimes humorous, but the in-depth coverage of Bel’s menopausal symptoms via copies of her e-mail to her menopause support group may be more than we really want to know.
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