Carolyn G. Hart’s fifth book in the Death on Demand series, A Little Class on Murder, opens in Annie Laurence Darling’s bookstore, Death on Demand, with a strange man walking into her store and grilling her on her mystery knowledge. Upon Annie’s demonstrating a vast competence in her field, the man reveals himself to be R.T. Burke, the chair of the journalism department at Chastain Colleg, and offers Annie the job of teaching a course on mystery fiction. Annie enthusiastically jumps at the opportunity and immediately announces that typical mystery programs feature only male authors but that her course will feature the three grand dames of the mystery novel, Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, and Mary Roberts Rinehart.
Despite having a mere week to prepare, Annie shows up ready for her first day of class, only to discover the three women whose presence in her class scare her the most sitting in the classroom: Henny, Annie’s most loyal and prolific customer; Laurel, Annie’s mother-in-law; and Miss Dora, a college trustee and one of the most influential and intimidating citizens of Chastain.
Meanwhile, the editor of the student newspaper has decided to expose the sins of the members of the journalism faculty, beginning with a woman who had embezzled money from the department. The editor has either not done his homework or covered up part of the story, however, as this professor did so to seek medical treatment for her grandson dying of AIDS and began paying back the money before she was ever caught. With AIDS holding such a stigma in the 1980s when the event took place and still in 1989 when the book was published, the professor feels such shame that rather than defend herself, she takes her own life.
With the publication of this cruel article, the department chair, as well as the members of Annie’s class, set out on a search for Deep Throat, so named for the secret informant against Watergate. This sets the stage for the bludgeoning of Burke, followed almost immediately by the murder of a member of the student newspaper in an explosion of the newspaper office.
A Little Class on Murder returns to the success of Something Wicked in earning five stars. It gives wonderfully well-rounded depictions of the characters in the book, also with a strong premise with an enjoyable series of twists. Yet again, Kate Reading does an excellent job in narrating, making the book come alive in her expressiveness. I thoroughly enjoyed all aspects of A Little Class on Murder and highly recommend it to anyone who likes cozy mysteries.
A Little Class on Murder (Death on Demand Mysteries, No. 5) is available from Amazon.