State University of Murder

State University of Michigan? Hmm… SUM? Is this perhaps a heavily disguised Michigan State University (MSU)? Or would that be too subtle?

Anyway, you should read State University of Murder, Lev Raphael’s latest novel. This academic satire is the latest in a series of mystery novels that take place at MSU — oops, I mean SUM — where Raphael and his two protagonists teach. As is true in many of his other works, there’s a splash of Jewish culture and history, more than a splash of LGBTQ issues, and a heavy dose of the realities of life as a university professor. You don’t have to have read the earlier books in the series: the author carefully — perhaps too carefully — clues the reader into anything relevant from them.

State University of Murder contains many staples of the mystery genre, many conventions that are close to being stereotypes. But they all are written tongue-in-cheek, with a knowing wink, so they don’t turn out to be annoying. The mainstay of the story is a combination of vicious academic conflicts, conflicts that don’t normally boil over into murder… but if things were normal we wouldn’t have a mystery novel, would we? I have a soft spot for academic mysteries, and Raphael’s are always fun and pointed. So obviously I enjoyed this one. You will too.

Categories: Books