cover image Dying Voices

Dying Voices

Bill Crider. St. Martin's Press, $14.95 (196pp) ISBN 978-0-312-03328-6

Carl Burns, English professor at Hartlery Gorms College--a less-than-distinguished fundamentalist institution in Pecan City, Tex.--is none too pleased when college president Franklin Miller instructs him to organize a seminar for Edward Street, former faculty member and Hartley Gorms's only famous representative. A habitual pessimist, Burns quickly finds his expectations of disaster are exceeded by the reality. For Street, who has made his mark, against all likelihood, as a bestselling poet, is still remembered as poison in some parts of Pecan City and proves to be outrageously arrogant. What appears to be a public relations problem for Burns and the college turns into a real disaster when Street is murdered and Burns, who previously appeared as a bungling, but ultimately successful investigator in Crider's 1988 One Dead Dean , is himself the victim of an assault. Bloody but unbowed, the professor tracks down a totally unsuspected assassin and survives another battle by means of wily strategy. This lighthearted tale is more spoof than serious mystery. The violence is minimal, and the depiction of 10th-rate academia is both persuasive and funny. (Dec.)