Academic intrigue is deeply entrenched at Tilton University. Graduate student Nick Merrill has devised Learn It!, a computer program to help students learn English, which seems from initial trials to be very effective. Nick asks Connor Hadley, his academic mentor, to go through his write-up of his results before submitting them for publication, without realizing that Hadley himself is due for tenure and desperate to impress the committee that is about to decide his fate. Nick is also carrying on affairs with two women, a juggling act that can’t go on for ever, and attracts envy from other students by his application for a prestigious scholarship.
Publish or Perish is a brisk, engaging account of the hectic lives of the students and faculty of Tilton. Teaching, committees, observations, research and writing fill up the time of the academics, all desperate to stay on the ladder of success, or, in the case of the students, steady employment for a year or two.
Before too long, there is a death – could it be murder? Professor Joel Williams thinks so. Williams is a retired cop who has retrained as a teacher, and is now on the faculty of the criminal justice department at Tilton. He was a colleague of the victim, and uses his contacts with the police to investigate the crime – if there was a crime.
Publish or Perish is a literate, light yet engaging read. The account of life at Tilton University rings authentically true, as one might expect from the author’s credentials as an associate professor at a prestigious US university. The pace never flags as the investigation narrows down to a small group of suspects, and previous associations become clearer.
I thoroughly enjoyed Publish or Perish, and can recommend it to anyone who wants to be taken out of themselves for a couple of hours, and who is curious about the backstabbing and doublespeak that can go on in the groves of academe.
Publish or Perish by Margot Kinberg (Eloquent books, New York).
Confessions of a Mystery Novelist is Margot Kinberg's blog. Such a good blog, with consistently well-written, thoughtful, constructive and engaging posts daily – that it made me want to read her book.