Series: Crime with the Classics #4
Published by Severn House Publishers Ltd on October 1, 2019
Genres: Cozy Mystery
Source: the publisher
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Also in this series: Bloodstains with Bronte
Also by this author: Bloodstains with Bronte
Professor Emily Cavanaugh has left Windy Corner behind and is back at Bede College on her sabbatical, determined to finish writing her book on Dostoevsky. She is soon reunited with one of her promising students, Daniel Razumov, as well as familiar faces on the teaching staff – her friend, Marguerite Grenier, her half-brother, Oscar Lansing, the abrasive division chair, Richard McClintock, and the predatory Taylor Curzon. Known for her relentless pursuit of young male students, Taylor now has Daniel firmly in her sights.
Emily knows Taylor must be stopped, but as she starts gathering evidence of Daniel's harassment, she has a disturbing flashback, and then makes a gruesome discovery . . . Can Emily catch a dangerous campus killer while also confronting events from her own past?
I received a review copy of this book from the publisher.
In Death with Dostoevsky, Katherine Bolger Hyde serves up another enjoyable mystery starring former literature professor Emily Cavanaugh. Emily is back at her college temporarily, researching for her book on Dostoevsky. But she is distracted by a troubled former student, Daniel, who is the target of unwanted sexual advances from another professor. When that teacher ends up dead, her head bashed in, the police arrest Daniel. But Emily doesn’t believes Daniel is guilty, and knows that he’s not the only person with a motive to kill Prof. Curzon. With the help of her fiance Luke’s nephew, a Portland police detective, Emily sets out to prove Daniel’s innocence.
Several recurring characters play significant roles in this book. Luke, Emily’s policeman fiance, appears occasionally, but since his job is in Windy Corner, we see less of him than usual. On the other hand, Emily’s friend Marguerite is very helpful throughout the investigation. Emily’s recently discovered half-brother, Oscar, an adjunct professor at Bede, is now dating another professor, and Emily tries to smooth his way. Luke’s nephew (introduced in this book) is charming, and will make a fine detective someday. Hyde’s secondary characters are always well-drawn and realistic rather than caricatures, pushing the series toward the “traditional mystery” rather than the “cozy-lite” end of the cozy-mystery spectrum and helping to make it one of my favorite newly-discovered mystery series.
All the books in the Crime with the Classics series reference the work of classic or well-known authors: Austen, Bronte, Christie, and now Dostoevsky. I haven’t read Dostoevsky, so I’m sure I missed a number of the subtler allusions to his work. But even without that background, the book reads like a tribute to Russian novels generally. The bleak winter setting, some of the personalities and relationships, and the Russian background of several of the important secondary characters all contribute to that impression. (Not incidentally, the author has a degree in Russian literature.)
Hyde brings Emily’s Orthodox Christian faith out a little more in this book. Personally, I found it refreshing — it’s rare to come across a main character in a cozy series whose faith is so clearly part of who she is. The world is full of people of various faiths as well as more secular individuals, after all, and fictional worlds should reflect that diversity. I don’t think readers of other religions, or none, will find it detracts from their enjoyment of the books. Any reflection of Emily’s beliefs occurs within Emily’s POV, making it part of her character rather than preachiness on the part of the author.
A final note: If you’ve read the previous books, you may notice that the name of Emily’s college has been changed in this book. Earlier books had her teaching at (or rather, on sabbatical from) the real-life Reed College. In this book, that institution has become Bede, a fictional college heavily based on Reed College. An author’s note explains that the change allowed Hyde to structure the college both physically and institutionally as she needed to for the plot, rather than trying to make the plot fit the real-life college. (I suspect it also avoids any potential legal unpleasantness.)
You could certainly read Death with Dostoevsky as a stand-alone, but the other books in the series are good, and the relationships develop over time, so why not start at the beginning with Arsenic with Austen?
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
- COYER with Friends (Winter 2019-2020)
- POPSUGAR Reading Challenge 2019