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By Sarah Shaber

St. Martin's Press, 1997

Reviewed by J. Ashley

I picked up this novel idly and found buried in it an historical mystery linked with present-day Raleigh, North Carolina.

This wonderful book won the St. Martin's Press best First Traditional Mystery contest and I'm glad it did. The novel introduces Simon Shaw, a half-Jewish, southern, Pulitzer Prize-winning professor of history, content to teach at Kenan College, a small private school in Raleigh. His nose for history gets him asked by the police and the resident archeologist to identify a body found while excavating the historic Bloodworth House. Simon believes the dead girl to be Anne Bloodworth, who disappeared in 1926. The girl apparently has been shot in the head, then buried, almost reverently, under the foundations of the kitchen. To keep himself from the doldrums caused by the abrupt departure of his wife, Simon begins to investigate the murder.

The puzzle sends him researching local history as well as hunting down the few people still alive who remember the girl. To add to Simon's problems, a fellow professor, jealous of Simon's fame, tries to stir up controversy over a low grade Simon gave to a prize student. Meanwhile, Simon meets a young attorney, Julie, who is interested in the case, and starts to believe that life can go on after all.

Of course, things can never be too easy for our sleuth. Someone attempts to kill Simon--why or who, he can't fathom.

I enjoyed this book and look forward to others. Though the solution was fairly predictable and Simon, in typical cozy-sleuth fashion, stupidly puts himself in the hands of the enemy, the rest of the book is worth reading. The author has an irreverent, satirical style that pokes gentle fun at academia, yuppies, and life in a small southern town. Shaber also includes digs at dating, diets, and Star Trek.

I highly recommend this book for a satisfying, short read. The next book in the series is SNIPE HUNT (March 2000).

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