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    LITTLE MISS EVIL by Lev Raphael

    A NICK HOFFMAN MYSTERY

    Walker & Company, 2000

    Nick Hoffman isn't sure that State University of Michigan is working for him. The soap opera of personalities in the EAR (English, American Studies, and Rhetoric) drives him to bad jokes and now they are talking about a new program in White Studies. Still, his partner Stephan is writer in residence and tenured. It would be hard to walk away. A newly endowed chair offered to an best-selling author drives the department from steady bickering to open warfare and ultimately murder. To preserve his own sanity and protect the woman he finds himself strangely attracted to, Nick decides to solve the murder. Unfortunately, there are plenty of people who hated Camille Cypriani, not least of whom is Stephan. Who, though, would be stalking Nick?

    This mystery series staring a professor who teaches a class in mystery is as delicious as the food Nick and his partner Stephan describe. Nick throws around allusions to Virginia Wolfe and Janet Evanovich with equal skill. Lev Raphael does an excellent job developing the characters and giving them motivations that go beyond solving crimes. Nick wants to make tenure but canít prevent himself from making bad jokes that somehow offend those who could help him. He loves the Michigan countryside but wonders whether he should return to New York. He loves teaching, but finds that teaching is the function within the University held in lowest esteem.

    LITTLE MISS EVIL and the Nick Hoffman series may appeal most to readers familiar with the internal dynamics of academic departments--I especially enjoyed his descriptions of graduate students--but the humor, the relationship between Nick, Stephan, Nickís cousin Sharon, and the wildly ostentatious Professor Juno Dromgoole, make the novel a joy for any reader. Of course, if you aren't a mystery fan you won't get a lot of the jokes and references (should Nick really simplify his diet based on Stephanie Plum?)

    Four Stars

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