cover image The Northbury Papers

The Northbury Papers

Joanne Dobson, Author Doubleday Books $21.95 (288p) ISBN 978-0-385-48693-4

Contradicting the joke that academic infighting is so fierce because the stakes are so small, a $10 million bequest may figure in murder at prestigious northeastern Enfield College. English professor Karen Pelletier (introduced in Quieter Than Sleep, 1997) decides to study the work of Serena Northbury, a 19th-century novelist considered trashy in her time. Pelletier, who advocates adding unheralded women and minority authors to the traditional literature curriculum, befriends the elderly and ailing Dr. Edith Hart, Northbury's great-granddaughter. Hart gives Pelletier access to her musty collection of Northbury writings and mementos. When Hart dies suddenly, police suspect foul play despite her old age and diabetes. Even Pelletier might have a motive, because Hart changed her will, leaving $10,000,000 to Enfield if Karen directs a research center devoted to Northbury. The windfall infuriates college trustee Thibault Brewster, a Hart relative who wanted more for himself. Brewster's son, known as Tibby II, disrupts one of Pelletier's classes and harasses a black female student. To such academic intrigues are added murder, missing manuscripts, the riddle of a baby picture from long ago and the news that Pelletier's former boyfriend is getting married. By the time this entertaining tale has revealed the full complement of small-mindedness on the Endicott campus, the unacademic local homicide detective, Piotrowski, is looking very appealing. (Oct.)