Thursday, August 18, 2011
Spider Song by Susan Alexander
Joanna Bryce is a very closeted professor at a very conservative college and is having an affair with an even more closeted professor, Carol Davis. All of that begins to unravel the day Joanna walks in and finds Carol having sex with another female professor. While Joanna is trying to decide whether or not to salvage the relationship, Carol is found murdered in Joanna's apartment, and despite the fact that Joanna was out of town, it soon becomes clear that the police consider her a major suspect.
Joanna's life falls apart as she's put on paid leave by the university, not only for being a murder suspect, but a lesbian murder suspect; a promising new relationship with another woman is in danger of collapsing over the turmoil surrounding Joanna; her nerves fray after the buffeting from dealing with doubting family members, colleagues and friends; and the police refuse to clear her name even though they are having doubts about her guilt.
Joanna and her friends realize that they don't just have to clear Joanna, but need to find the killer, especially when it turns out the person may still be stalking Joanna. A set up to catch the killer nearly costs Joanna her life when she learns that people she thought she knew very well she may not have known at all.
Spider Song is a well-crafted mystery. The story moves at just the right pace to allow excellent character development and to let the events slowly unfold. The relationship between Joanna and Carol is revealed in such a manner before the murder to explain why Joanna might have had grounds to commit the crime if she had wanted to. The reaction of her friends and family ring true also. One very close friend nearly ruins their relationship when she has to ask Joanna if she is guilty of the crime. Joanna struggles to understand how someone who supposedly sees her as an almost family member could ask that question, but it really does seem the most natural thing to do in the circumstances.
Dina Miller is totally believable as the young woman who is drawn to Joanna, but isn't really sure that she wants to complicate her life with the mess that is swirling about the other woman. There is also an interesting relationship that develops between Joanna and one of her students who is the other major suspect for the crime. Together they show the frustration and sense of isolation that grow around people who are suspected of crimes, but can't be charged or exonerated.
The appealing part about this book is the fact that it remains a mystery until the end. The story evolves with increasing complexity and the twists keep you trying to figure out just who did this. There are parts of the story when the reader will almost believe that Joanna must have done the murder even when you're being pointed in another direction. At the end, the twist is one that you realize you should have seen coming, but you didn't. This is a book that just keeps pulling you in. Mystery lovers will like it.