Friday, February 6, 2009

"Schooled in Murder" (Book Review)

"An acrimonious English department faculty meeting at Chicago-area Grover Cleveland High leads to murder in Zubro's intriguing 12th Tom and Scott mystery (after 2006's Everyone's Dead but Us ). English teacher Tom Mason's troubles begin after he discovers the corpse of teacher Gracie Eberson, an eraser stuck in her mouth, in a supply room also occupied by two male teachers engaged in a sexual tryst. The guilty pair deny Tom's official report about their illicit activity, and an anonymous tip implicates Tom in Eberson's murder. When the dead body of another teacher turns up behind Tom's car, Tom turns sleuth. Tom's lover, Scott Carpenter, and such friends as Meg Swarthmore, Grover Cleveland's feisty librarian, and police officer Frank Rohde lend support. Zubro, a high school English teacher himself, invests this whodunit with sharp insights into what can happen when prejudice rules as well as timely lessons on educational chicanery."

As described by Publisher's Weekly Review, this novel by Mark Richard Zubro, is a murder mystery with a gay twist. Published in 2008 by the reputable St Martin's Minotaur, the work is the latest addition to Zubro's "The Tom and Scott Mysteries" series.

For book nerds like myself, reading is a pleasure. This is particularly so for a teacher like myself, who spends endless hours plodding through mind-numbing student papers. But trying to find insightful, high quality reading material, in this over-commercialized and visually oriented age of ours is like trying to find needles in a haystack, to borrow a well-worn saying.

Thankfully, "Schooled in Murder" passes the muster--by the wisp of a hair (or should it be, by the particles of an eraser?). Pettiness arising from oversized egos rears its ugly head, and soon, it feeds into the twin murders at this high school. Each death in retrospect is not unexpected, as the disparate pieces begin to fall into place.

The protagonist, Tom Mason, finds himself in a conundrum. The discovery of the first body takes place soon after he stumbled upon a gay "sexual tryst." Incidentally, this so-called tryst is your typical gay man meets married man affair. But there is more tryst than sex here, just to forewarn you. As you read this novel, you probably will wonder: Does this tryst play a role in Tom being implicated in this murder? Is Tom indirectly being blackmailed? And what is the relationship between this first and the second murder?

Enjoy this book. It is a quick read. My one criticism is that the author sometimes chooses to use overly high-flaunt diction, when it is not necessary to do so. After all, this is not Walt Whitman-like, either in contents or theme.

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