What can I say? A murder mystery that is pretty smart about academia (even if there are a few more-or-less predictable oddities from the non-academic characters in terms of their understanding of the world inside the so-called ivory tower) and features food in the form of ice cream? Perfecto! The title: Scoop to Kill. The author: Wendy Lyn Watson. The town: (best name for a small town ever) Dalliance. The university (and yes, I misread this): Dickerson.
Ice cream is not really very central to Scoop to Kill except that the main character/quasi-detective/snoop runs an ice cream parlor called Remember the a la Mode (yep, located in Texas and punny with regard to the Alamo) and there is an occasional reference to their swell flavors. What else? Well, there is a groom's milkshake as a side issue, which involves Dr. Pepper which for some reasons is thought of as THE drink of Texans. (Not my favorite, I must confess.)
The real focus of the mystery is on higher education -- graduate students and faculty, politics and teaching and scholarship, whatever the ivory tower equivalent is of the water cooler and the jostling for office space and etcetera. I have to say there are moments when that representation seemed all too realistic in its portrayal. Does every campus have a pompous pipe smoker and a philandering department chair and a feminist and an anti-feminist and. . . Caricatures in some ways, but they did strike the mark more than half the time! And the students vary -- from studious (moving up in social class) to the not so studious -- not so surprisingly. (Oh for a story where the link of class to studiousness was not quite so obvious.) Of course, the mystery also has a bit of romantic tension, though this time it is not only the main character/quasi detective who is at the core of it. Even so, I have a bit of an issue with the ways the academics deal with romance -- if nothing else, the [SPOILER ALERT] faculty/student relations are a bit problematic not to mention the characterizations of female faculty. . . .
I do like the notion that Tally, said quasi-detective, takes a class as part of her investigative work. I wish she'd be a tiny bit less sarcastic about it, though I did find her humorous when it comes to what she does and does not see as reasonable about academia. Maybe we can learn something from those who have been excluded and return. . . . if we are incomprehensible to the sensible sorts like Tally (that's how the author makes her sound) then maybe we're incomprehensible in a bad way. (Yep, I think the author is more than hinting at this. Is academia everyone's favorite target du jour? Do we deserve to be? Or only in places like Dalliance and at schools like Dickerson?)
All in all, though, this quick read was fun, had moments of irony for those of us who live in academia, and likely will please Dr. Pepper lovers everywhere.
For a bit more on this cozy, click here. And for another try here. Or, even go so far as to click here where you can read a totally urelated bit entitled Remember A la Mode which seems to be a data analysis problem or here for some historical bits on the whole notion of a la mode including the joke in which the pie says. . . Remember the a la mode.