In Literally Dead by Eryn Scott, Pepper Brooks is finishing her degree in English at Northern Washington University, the school where her father was an English professor for many years. Despite her passion for Shakespeare and Dickens, Pepper wonders whether she has selected this major just because it was her father’s field. Then one day she goes to assist Dr. Ferguson, known as Fergie, her mentor professor, prepare for a lecture by the preeminent Shakespearean scholar, Dr. Campbell, and is asked to get Dr. Campbell from Fergie’s office and bring him to the auditorium. Thinking the man asleep at the desk, Pepper reaches to wake him and finds him dead, with a copy of Hamlet’s famous soliloquy on the desk under his hand. He seems to have left his unique style of suicide note.
The next day, Pepper realizes that something that has been bothering her is the fact that one word of the soliloquy was written incorrectly. Someone like Dr. Campbell would never have gotten the wording incorrect, so it must be murder. At Pepper’s second home, the campus library, she finally talks to the hot employee there, only to learn that Alex is the son of Dr. Valdez, the lead detective on the case. When news arises that Dr. Campbell has indeed been poisoned, but that Fergie is the prime suspect, and as Pepper begins to suspect that the killer is using literary clues, she determines to help out her mentor. But Alex insists on tagging along as she performs this investigation.
As someone who holds an M.A. in English and taken Shakespeare classes, I connected with Literally Dead even before I pushed play on the audiobook. The title drew my attention because one of my biggest pet peeves is the figurative use of the word “literal.” Plus, seeing a murder set in the world of English academia was incredibly fun and creative. As I listened to the book, I appreciated it all the more.
The plot has many interesting points to it, with the clues pointing to literature. The discussions of books and Shakespeare plays add to the flavor of the book, giving an added touch to the strength of the book. However, these features won’t get in the way of people who have never read Hamlet or A Tale of Two Cities. I enjoy the way that Pepper keeps accusing others of the crime, only to be proved wrong.
The main characters in Literally Dead are fun, though many are not fully round. I enjoy the perspective of Pepper, who has a lot of humor to her character. The quotes she chooses are fun as well, as she discusses why she chooses each one. She has a creative relationship with Alex, as she tries to hold back from her growing attraction to him, knowing that every time she has dated a fellow student, he has moved out of town immediately after graduating ending their relationship.
Margo Chervony narrates the audio of this book. I found her performance to be effective, as a college student and as a literary scholar in addition to an amateur detective. She uses good believable voices for the characters and keeps the book moving smoothly.
I strongly loved listening to Literally Dead. I found this book clever and full of delight in the listening experience. I recommend this to anyone who likes cozy mysteries but especially to anyone who enjoys literature. I give this book five stars.
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