The James Joyce Murder (A Kate Fansler Mystery) by Amanda Cross is unabashedly literary. Imagine an Agatha Christie bucolic setting complete with the aristocratic rich, the scandalous young and evil lurking close. Add to it, P. G. Wodehouse like whimsical sentence construction and a wholesome disregard to practicality. Most important to the novel, is a Jasper Fforde confident love for literature.

I personally, have not read James Joyce, I blame that on my literary ignorance and not the high-handedness of Amanda Cross.

If like me, you love all 3 genres then you can’t go wrong with this book. It is a smart, well-written mystery without being too cute and cozy.

So, after all this preamble, what is the book about?

Kate Fansler is an English professor who is spending the summer in a country side house with a weird assortment of people and letters related to the revered author James Joyce.

Her guests include a sexually repressed college student who has a writer’s block and a thesis to complete. Another student who pretends to be effeminate for reasons unknown, but is a genius where James Joyce is concerned. There is a young boy who likes to use the neighbour as target practice. A neighbour who loves to throw wild parties is a famous author of English books but does not know good English himself. Finally, another nosy neighbour who had to end up as the murder victim.

Reed Amhearst is the voice of reason, or as reasonable as a voice can get, amidst the chaos. Stuck in this surreal setting, he remains to perform his duty as self-appointed knight in shining armour to Kate. So for the woman he loves, he is willingly to stay in a house where murders occur and people yell outside his open bedroom window at 4:00 AM.

I have to mention my favourite scene. The revelation of the murder in as convoluted a way possible. Deliberately flippant and pretentious, but will have you rolling with laughter once you reliase that is what the author really was leading upto.

No more spoilers. The James Joyce Murder is short and sweet or rather short and crazy. Am eagerly scouring bookstores to find more books from the Kate Fansler series by Amanda Cross.