Picture taken on Kodak color infrared slide film of student at George Washington University. Taken sometime in the late 1960s or early 1970s.
Friday, March 5, 2010

The Student Body

I think the picture above, which was taken by the old stegosaurus himself, shows a student at George Washington University during the 1970s. If you know her, or if you are her, contact me at tehart@mac.com to identify her or request that the picture be removed.

This is another in the “cozy” genre. Borthwick has written a number of mysteries, 13 at least. The main characters are Sarah Deane, a graduate student in English lit, and her boyfriend/husband (later in the series) Dr. Alex McKenzie.

The book is set in Maine at at Bowmouth College. This is apparently a combination of Bowdoin and Dartmouth. (See this site for comments on the geography of the story.)

The crime involves the murder of a rather annoying undergraduate student, rather like Christina Yang on Grey’s Anatomy, who is found strangled and stuffed in an ice statue during the college’s winter carnival. This is followed by another murder, by poison.

The sleuth, Sarah Deane, is a graduate student at the college. She seems to have an unusually heavy academic load for a graduate student/teaching assistant. When I did a TA at Catholic University I was told that the usual load was teach 2 classes, take 2 classes. I was unusual in that I taught 2, took 3, and worked full time in addition. Sarah’s load seems to be about 5 classes, including some audits. She also manages to get stuck with Old English/Anglo-Saxon. I’m not sure, looking back, how I did it, but I managed to avoid Old English.

The cast of characters include a drunken professor, a womanizing professor, a crazy professor (who does weird things with poetry and mathematics), and an assorted group of misfits and wackos. While I’ve met obnoxious professors, and knew of one, since deceased, who had a reputation as the campus bed-hopper, I don’t think I’ve ever seen that many eccentrics in one department.

The mystery unravels over the course of several weeks, and while it seems unusual that a small town police force would have the resources to expend on a prolonged murder investigation, I suppose it is possible.

The mystery turns on a question of scholarship, which I won’t detail lest I spoil the book for any interested readers.

The central requirement for a “cozy” is would you like to spend time with the people in the book. Sarah is likable enough, and while you may not fall madly in love with her, she’s a satisfactory companion that you might want to look in on from time to time.

A note about the picture at the top. I was heavily into infrared film and the false color effects that it generates when I took pictures in the ‘70s. That picture was probably taken with Kodak Aero Ektachrome, the only widely available infrared during that period. The blue atmosphere is a result of the false color of the infrared film.