cover image Strangled Prose

Strangled Prose

Joan Hess. St. Martin's Press, $12.95 (183pp) ISBN 978-0-312-76428-9

Hess enlivens her mystery with humor and the bumptious doings of narrator Claire Malloy's daughter Caron. A widow, Claire supports herself and 14-year-old Caron by running a college-town bookstore, where Mildred Twiller insists the reception for her new lurid romance be held. Mildred's husband, Prof. Douglas Twiller, revels in the fortune his wife earns under the pen name Azalea Twilight. But when guests at the party hear themselves libeled in excerpts from the novel, Douglas is aghast and Mildred/Azalea goes home in tears. Later she's found strangled, and Douglas endures grilling by detective Pete Rosen, until the professor is strangled too. Rosen then turns the inquisition onto Claire (whose late husband is accused in the novel of philandery) and onto some of the other people in academe. Caron and a friend, wimpy Inez, cause distractions that inhibit the investigation, which ends at last after several developments that strain credibilityparticularly when Inez vanishes for a long time with no indication that anyone is particularly alarmed. Despite its weaker aspects, the novel is satisfying light entertainment. February 3