cover image Maxwell's House

Maxwell's House

M. J. Trow. St. Martin's Press, $20.95 (222pp) ISBN 978-0-312-13123-4

A deeply cynical view of modern British schools informs this absorbing series launch, which pits a teacher who prides himself on his eccentricity against a killer, the police and the educational establishment. After 17-year-old Jennifer Hyde is found dead, ostensibly after being raped, in a deserted building called the Red House near Birmingham, the police, led by ambitious Chief Inspector Henry Hall, mobilize their resources. But one of her teachers, Peter Maxwell--aka Mad Max to his students and some of his colleagues--feels responsibility for her fate and decides to investigate, questioning police effectiveness and dedication. His probing brings on deep trouble, as his interest is interpreted as possible guilt or prurience. Another death digs the pit deeper. Trow, author of the Inspector Lestrade crime novels, serves up clever, biting commentaries on modern life and introduces, in Maxwell, a compelling, literate protagonist who quixotically battles the bureaucratic degradation of all he holds dear. (July)