Author:Tace Baker

Publisher:Barking Rain Press

ISBN:Trade Paperback1-935460-47-1


Lest one be tempted to conclude that the life of an associate professor of Linguistics at a small college in Massachusetts must be a relatively sleepy affair, author Tace Baker introduces her readers to Lauren Rousseau who, in the first person singular, tells us in the past tense what she was up to before, during, and after spring break.

In a brisk and efficient way, Professor Rousseau introduces the members of her friends and family calling circle—a couple of her lovers ranging from the super-casual (it was destined to be such since this one supplies the obligatory corpse ending Chapter One) to the semi-serious; a homosexual sister and her police officer mate; college colleagues, superiors, students, and staff; a local drug kingpin and his most ardent customers; boys and girls who frequent youth clubs; and finally the totally adorable Wulu, Rousseau’s pet dog, who gets pushed around almost as much as his mistress does.

Speaking of Murder follows the murder mystery template fairly faithfully. There are multiple suspects, a fair sprinkling of red herrings, and an ending that is definitely a surprise, but for this reader at least, a rather flaccid one.

When a novel is told in the first person, it’s especially important that that person be captivating in one way or another. And indeed, Professor Rousseau has much to recommend her. She’s highly disciplined, both physically and academically, she’s totally dedicated to multi-culturalism, and she’s loyal and brave to a virtual fault. Her relationship with her long-term boyfriend is nicely layered and nuanced, and she’s totally capable of savoring life’s sensual pleasures whether related to food, sex, or nature. She does have a tendency to take arguably foolish risks—the police are always arriving at a dangerous crime scene after she does—but perhaps this an appropriate characteristic for the protagonist of a crime thriller.

Professor Rousseau is the essence of academic precision and political correctness. She can spot double modals a mile away, and she corrects papers with a purple pen, not an intimidating red one. I suspect that she or any of her students could have come up with a more intriguing title for her story.

The balance between adding texture to a scene and overburdening it with extraneous detail is always tricky, and at times the author’s attention to brand names was a bit distracting. But overall, the narrative flowed freely, and with the aid of extremely frequent chapter breaks, gave the reader the impression that significant progress was being made toward the mystery’s eventual solution.

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