A book by Lev Raphael< read all 1 reviews
His comic alter ego, Nick Hoffman, came to the State University of Michigan to teach classes in the English, American Studies and Rhetoric Department and to be with Stefan, his partner. He also wants to make tenure. But his sharp tongue, lack of allies and preference for teaching over research hurts his chances enough if it weren't for all the bodies he keeps discovering.
By the time Raphael's third book opens, Hoffman's career is foundering and sinking fast. His involvement as amateur detective has brought unfavorable publicity to the university, and his chances darken further by simply being within eyeshot of a murder -- this time of a young man killed during a melee between a campus preacher and a group of students.
"The Death of a Constant Lover" -- the title is a reference to 19th-century English novelist Benjamin Constant --is more a novel of university life and politics than a murder mystery. The investigation moves in fits and starts as Hoffman finds himself also dealing with other problems: death threats are being sent to his office mate, a woman hired to fulfill SUM's diversity quota, and the effect on his relationship with Stefan when he is dropped by his publisher.
Raphael's third book is slightly darker than his first two. Hoffman's joie de vive is dampened by the violence around him, making "Death of a Constant Lover" not so much a darker book -- we're not talking about James Ellroy here -- but simply not as bright and vivacious than the first two books. That's not a criticism so much as an observation that Raphael has put his finger on a key problem with the detecting genre. Death is serious business, and cracking jokes like Noel Coward around the body doesn't ring true. And yet, some sense of humor is needed to keep one from turning Gothic. Homicide detectives and crime reporters tend to develop a callous form that can be shocking to those who The tradeoff here is that Raphael has a sure grasp of his leading characters, and "Constant Lover" is a deeper and more thoughtful mystery that approaches the depth of P.D. James or Martha Grimes.
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Hoffman teaches in the university's EAR (English, American Studies, Rhetoric) department and is very popular with his students. However, he has just turned 40 and is seriously worried about getting tenure. Also, his supervisors tend to view him as an under-published scholar, and, with some justification, a walking crime zone. The truth is that Nick attracts murder like a magnet. This time out, a student named Jesse Benevento--son of a history professor--is stabbed to death before Nick's very eyes during a campus riot. Nick and his novelist lover, Stefan Borowski, are sucked into a case that turns even uglier when a second murder occurs. As Nick struggles to solve the murders, his colleagues whine and bicker, a graduate student stalks him, and more violence erupts on campus.
If you like the way Raphael puts the camp into campus, his two previous titles, The Edith Wharton Murders and Let's Get Criminal, are both available in paperback. --Dick Adler --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.