In her first mystery, Spring, a sociology professor, introduces Laura Principal, who has abandoned her own academic career to work as a London PI with Sonny Mendlowitz, her professional and personal partner. Laura and her friend Helen, who jointly own a cottage in Norfolk, decide to take in a third partner to share expenses; they settle on Monica Harcourt, a painter and academic--despite Laura's sense that there is ``something not quite right'' about her. When Laura stops by Monica's Cambridge flat and finds the body of her new housemate tied to a chair, fatally stabbed and beaten, she becomes obsessed with this woman she previously didn't even like very much and is determined to sort out the murder. Laura's in luck: a policewoman assigned to the case is a former student and includes Laura on the periphery; the staff at the university where Monica worked are as willing to share information and the late woman's effects with Laura as with the police. Such contrivances and a few plot holes limit this debut's success, but a smart pace and the suggestion that the promising Sonny might have a larger role in the future warrant a look at a sequel. (Apr.)
Domestic detail and descriptions of setting tend to clutter rather than clarify Spring's first novel at the outset. Extended narrative wandering finally yeild's to one-way vision with the discovery of a college artist's mutilated body by London-based private investigator Laura Principal. With backup from best chum Helen, a librarian, Laura struggles to ``unmask'' the murderer, who stalks them at their country cottage. Missing photographs, possible government scandal, and sexist university politics all add interest but fail to smooth out an uneven effort. Look for the second.
"MICHELLE SPRING IS A MAJOR NEW NOVELIST whose literate,
intricately patterned storytelling will be warmly greeted by fans
of P. D. James and Minette Walters."
"AN AUSPICIOUS DEBUT FOR WHAT PROMISES TO BE AN EXCELLENT SERIES . . . This is a well-constructed and highly readable suspense tale with feminist overtones and terrific characters."
--The Toronto Globe and Mail