cover image The Semantics of Murder

The Semantics of Murder

Aifric Campbell. Serpent's Tail, $14.95 (250pp) ISBN 978-1-84668-733-4

The unsolved 1971 murder of UCLA philosophy professor Richard Montague is the inspiration for Campbell's uneven debut, set in 2001. American psychoanalyst Jay Hamilton has worked in England for two decades, pretty uneventfully, despite a professional secret; Hamilton uses his patients as inspiration for the bestselling fiction he authors under a pseudonym. His comfortable existence is put at risk by an inquiry from Dana Flynn, a woman researching his late brother, Robert, a controversial UCLA professor; Dana is naturally curious about the circumstances of Robert's murder 30 years earlier. Robert, a closet homosexual, was strangled in his home. Based on Jay's account of seeing two men drive away in his brother's car, the official theory was that they were responsible for the crime. Campbell writes well, and does a good job of portraying the complex relationship of the Hamilton brothers, but the surprise she springs on the reader about the murder will astonish few.