The Raven and the Nightingale by Joanne Dobson

The Raven and the Nightingale [2/5]
by Joanne Dobson
(Bantam, September 2000)

When series protagonist Karen Pelletier (literature professor at a New England college) receives a box of papers purportedly from a 19th-century poet who supposedly drowned herself for love of Edgar Allen Poe, it sets into motion a series of events which results in the death of her competitor Professor Elliot Corbin. In the process of attempting to clear herself, she may solve the century old mystery as well.

There appear to be five books in this series, at least one of which was nominated for the Agatha, and there were reviews that seemed to indicate that this, too, was a good read. The Poe angle pitched in the cover copy was the reason that I picked this up, and the interesting bits concerning his literary history did prove to be intriguing. However, as a mystery novel I found it somewhat disappointing. The plot was often overwhelmed by the minutiae of academia and tenure-focused infighting. Though, no doubt, a realistic portrayal (Dobson is a professor herself), I found it detracted from the suspense of the book and made many of the motives for the crime appear petty. Thus, it was hard for me to emotionally get behind any of the characters. In the end, I also have to admit that the investigation into the murder was too telegraphed and didn’t deliver any real surprises or twists, which again lowered the level of tension for me. Not my cup of tea.

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