SALLY WRIGHT – Publish and Perish. Multnomah, softcover, 1997. Ballantine, mass market paperback, February 1999.

   If you like mysteries taking place in the world of academia, this is one of the better ones. This first in a series of six Ben Reese novels takes place in a small college town somewhere in Ohio, where the first death is that of his best friend, Professor Richard West, chair of the English Department.

   At first West is assumed to have died of a heart attack, but since he had just finished a mysterious trans-Atlantic phone call with Reese soon before he died, the latter returns home immediately, looking for answers to questions the police have not thought of asking yet.

   By trade, Ben Reese is an archivist for the school, making him a natural for adding detective to his résumé, but his background in commando-style pre-invasion work for the Army in World War II holds him in good stead as well. The story takes place in 1960, by the way, just as things were about to change drastically in the world of higher education. There are no panty raids in this book, but they were still around at the time, with in loco parentis still the philosophy of the day.

   Speaking for myself, I’d like to have known the dead man quite a bit more before he disappears from the book. He was a dedicated scholar, tough on his students, dogged in academic arguments, which were many, and a staunch believer in honesty, a fact which is what gets him killed. It is only as Reese works through West’s life that we get to know him better.

   As the author of this tale, Sally Wright also knows the ins and out of college-based squabbles, jealousies and other political maneuverings, so as I say, I enjoyed this one. Future books in the series move away from the academic scene, however. Reese’s occupation as an archivist will lead him all over the world, and I am curious to learn if the change is for the better.

       The Ben Reese series

1. Publish and Perish (1997)
2. Pride and Predator (1997)

3. Pursuit and Persuasion (2000)
4. Out of the Ruins (2003)

5. Watches of the Night (2008)
6. Code of Silence (2008)