The Puzzled Heart

Amanda Cross, Author
Amanda Cross, Author Ballantine Books $21 (257p) ISBN 978-0-345-41883-8
Reviewed on: 12/29/1997
Release date: 01/01/1998
Cross writes intricately plotted mysteries of manners (literate, urban, sophisticated) and polemic (feminist, liberal, iconoclastic). No surprise. Amanda Cross is the pseudonym of Carolyn G. Heilbrun, an emerita professor of Humanities at Columbia University. This 12th Kate Fansler mystery starts with the kidnapping, just outside his Manhattan office, of attorney Reed Amhearst, the husband of English professor and amateur sleuth Kate. Told that her husband will be released after she publicly renounces feminism, Kate is frustrated by her unfamiliar powerlessness. She turns to Harriet Furst, featured in An Imperfect Spy (1995), now part-owner of a detective agency. The innocuous-looking but feisty Harriet and her businesslike partner, Toni, almost effortlessly rescue Reed. The remainder of this entertaining intellectual puzzle concerns the discovery of who kidnapped him and why. Evidence is sketchy. It could be a right-wing Christian group, anti-feminist students, the conservative male university establishment, envious female academics or someone from Kate's past. Or all of the above. A subsequent murder turns the convoluted plot into a serious matter, although nothing (but death) stems the characters' adroit, if somewhat repetitious, conversations dissecting the evidence and proposing theories. The finale includes a new member of Kate and Reed's household--a young Saint Bernard puppy who's part of the problem and part of the solution. Mystery Guild selection. (Jan.)
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