Thursday, November 10, 2011

book review: In the Last Analysis by Amanda Cross

The backstory: In the Last Analysis is the first mystery in the Kate Fansler series written under the pseudonym Amanda cross. When Rose City Reader reviewed the second mystery in the series, The James Joyce Murder, I was intrigued enough to try this series.

The basics: Kate Fansler is a literature professor at Columbia. When a student, Janet Harrison, of hers asks Kate for a recommendation for a psychoanalyst, Kate recommends her dear friend Emmanuel. When Janet is found dead on Emmanuel's couch,  he is the prime suspect. Kate never doubts his innocence, and she throws herself into the case when she believes the police aren't considering alternative suspects.

My thoughts: I instantly enjoyed Kate as a character: "As is the unfortunate habit of the literary person, she already imagined herself retelling this extraordinary event." Although in the Last Analysis is a mystery, the mystery is not always the focus of the novel. Kate still has to teach, research and attend to her administrative duties, and I was as fascinated with the state of academia in the 1960's as I was in the mystery. The glimpse into higher education was absolutely fascinating. It was just as shocking to see how much things have changed as it was to see how little things had changed at times too.

Kate is both deeply insightful and curiously funny, although perhaps not always intentionally. Cross never seemed to meet a comma or set of parentheses she isn't inclined to use: "“it began like any other day.” (Days always do, Kate thought, but we notice it only when they don’t end like any other day.)" While I found these diversions delightful and mostly amusing, this descriptive writing will not appeal to readers seeking a more traditional mystery.

Favorite passage:  "I wanted to protect you, so to speak, in the quarantine period, to be sure the fever was gone.” “What fever?” “Detective fever. I’ve known a few people with cases like yours. They invariably sail for Europe and trip over a body on their way to the shower. It was simply no good expecting myself to sit in New York, imagining you following clues and dropping literary allusions.”

The verdict: I found Kate to be more interesting than the mystery of itself, but I still enjoyed both elements of this novel  immensely. I'm looking forward to reading the next Kate Fansler mystery soon.

Rating: 4 out of 5
Length: 217 pages
Publication date: June 1964
Source: I bought it for my Kindle

Treat yourself! Buy In the Last Analysis from Amazon in paperback or for the Kindle (only $5.99!)

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  1. I am always looking for a mystery thriller that does something different, so this one sounds very interesting to me. I like that the main character is so witty an punchy. This was a great review, and I enjoyed reading your thoughts!

  2. A friend of mine gave me one of the books in this series last Christmas. It's been languishing on my TBR, mostly because other books have taken precedence, but also because I kind of hate the idea of coming into the middle of a series (the friend said it didn't matter but ...)

    I'm glad to see you enjoyed it, that might help me get over my initial reluctance!

  3. I wasn't familiar with this title, but I do think it sounds pretty good.


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