Monday, March 07, 2005

Not for Love nor Money by Robin Wilson

"Not for Love nor Money" by Robin Wilson, Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, March/April 2005

People, mostly academics, say that academics can generate the greatest feuds over the tiniest excuses. This story uses that concept as its basis.

Dr. Peter Haas, middle-aged English professor at Greenfield State University, enjoys the position of official troubleshooter for the University's President. As such the beautiful Naomi Cordier, Associate Professor of Dance, approaches him when her beau, Harrison Buckman, becomes the victim of a beating, sustaining the most damage to his right arm and hand. This is significant because Buckman runs a nanotechnology lab, and manual dexterity is important to him.

Buckman doesn't want Naomi to call the police, but she has to do something. She brings Peter to see Buckman who tells him that he suspects Naomi's ex, Joe Hayden, Professor of Art and former NFL player, because of an old Oakland Raiders bag the assailant left behind. Buckman wants to handle the problem himself for several reasons. He doesn't want to upset Naomi by accusing her ex. Also if the story of a violent love triangle hit the papers, Buckman's reputation would be injured as would his position as the top receiver of grant money in the whole of the University.

Peter goes to report to the President who gives him the go ahead to get involved. His next stop is Joe Hayden, who rather quickly convinces him that he had nothing to do with the assault. Now Peter has to go back to Naomi and Buckman to figure out who else might have wanted to disable Buckman.

A little thought and discussion bring to light the most likely suspect, and Peter has to figure out a way to resolve the situation quietly with no damage to the reputations of the people involved or the University itself.

This is a good workmanlike story, no major speed bumps or logic holes or character inconsistencies, but it's all rather bland, kind of like a mayonnaise sandwich. I keep asking myself, "Where's the beef?" Maybe it's the academic setting or the fact that most of the important action takes place off-stage.

In short, I feel like there should be more.