Fall of Angels opens dramatically, with a young female trumpet player falling spectacularly (and suspiciously) to a bruised but happily non-dead state. Inspector Redfyre is on the premises, lured by a free ticket his aunt gave him. So he starts investigating, and in due course more young women turn up dead in 1920s Cambridge (England), prompting panic and a renewed urgency to the investigation, which seems to yield many secrets but not many tangible clues.
The plot is satisfyingly twisted but what made the book for me were the many comments about the effects of WWI, rules of etiquette, the misogynistic practices of the university (no degrees for women!), and early feminist efforts. The story brings to mind Gaudy Night, but in a more modern and utterly enjoyable form.
Are you interested in the lives of foreign Humanities doctorate students slaving as teaching assistants? Think lots of big ideas, lots of sex and especially thoughts about sex, culture shock, infatuation with various professors — and not much action towards theses of anything else that could be construed as constructive. (I’m not commenting on humanities doctorate students per se, but rather on the book). My eyes glazed over as I read Immigrant, Montana.
The Man Without a Shadow is an amnesiac, abundantly studied by the heroine, a neuroscientist whose professional fame comes from her exceptional subject. Many professional boundaries are crossed, and in any case the line between studying and exploiting is very porous.
I thought that the author captured in fine and interesting details the travails of the dedicated female scientist in a hostile time and place. The vagaries of memory are also explored in compelling and disturbing ways. The story moves slowly and the end is disappointing, but it lingers in the reader’s brain.
In The Price of Silence: The Duke Lacrosse Scandal, the Power of the Elite, and the Corruption of Our Great Universities, the author meticulously reconstructs the 2006 scandal when lacrosse players at Duke University were accused of raping a stripper they had hired for a boozy party, only to be exonerated, months later. He shows how the (mostly white) university’s fraught relationship with the (mostly African-American) city of Durham and its hands-off treatment of the sports teams (some would even say that the athletic directors set their own rules within the university) collided with a politically hungry district attorney who pressed charges that should not have been, charges that fanned protests by Duke faculty, students, and the general public, only to be withdrawn or disproved down the road.
If your idea of a good book is the day-by-day account of events, told several times, from several perspectives, and the line-by-line reading of interview and court case transcripts, you will be in heaven. Me, not so much! What I found fascinating is how this obvious legal error played out against rich, entitled young men, whose parents seem as concerned about a game being cancelled (hello! under-age players getting drunk and hiring strippers, let alone, perhaps assaulting them, are probably breaking the rules of conduct of the university, don’t you think?) as to whether they will be allowed to graduate in time to start their well-paid jobs on Wall Street. And these young men got millions of dollars from the university for the way they were treated. They were treated badly, no question, but millions? One cannot help but wonder about unjustly incarcerated individuals (of different colors and classes) who get a pittance when finally freed…