Death in a Tenured Position by Amanda Cross
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Amanda Cross is the pen name of Carolyn Gold Heilbrun, an English literature professor who taught at Columbia from the Sixties to the Nineties. "Death in a Tenured Position" is a part of a 14-book series featuring Kate Fansler, an English literature professor from an established New York university.
Kate is asked to investigate the strange case of Janet Mandelbaum, the first female literature professor in the English department at Harvard, who was found drunk and asleep in a bathtub along another woman in a campus building. The obvious suspicion is that the male professors, angered with intrusion of a woman on the male bastion, played a severe practical joke. The plot takes a more serious turn later, as presaged by the title.
Ms. Cross is an acute observer of the politics of gender wars in the Seventies; she most likely participated in gender battles at her university. To me, the portrayal of the social mores of that time is a stronger aspect of the book than the mystery plot, which is quite understated. Despite dealing with issues that are still relevant today, the novel feels somewhat dated. I had a hard time getting "into the book", but once I did, I had to force myself to stop reading at 1 a.m. Overall, "Death in a Tenured Position" has good characterizations and a solid feel of the time and place. Worth reading.
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