Sunday, February 27, 2011

Death and the Visiting Fellow

By Tim Heald

Tudor Cornwall has been invited to spend a semester as a Visiting Fellow at a university in Hobart, Tasmania. But when he arrives, his old friend from his college days who was supposed to pick him up at the airport, Ashley, is nowhere to be found. And as Tudor finds out, not only has Ashley vanished, but Ashley, who is also a professor at the university, is being accused of sexual harassment by some female students.
Tudor takes up his position at the school and soon receives emails purporting to be from Ashley, claiming that he had to disappear for awhile and asking Tudor to do a favor for him. Tudor isn't convinced that the emails are from his friend, but still agrees to do the favor, which is to mix up a mulled wine drink, using Ashley's recipe and ingredients, to be entered into a school competition.
Tudor makes the beverage and disaster strikes. A woman who drinks some of it, turns out to be fatally allergic to one of Ashley's ingredients and dies before anyone can help her. Now Tudor is in the middle of a big mess and still his old friend is nowhere to be found.

This murder mystery is a bit different. The location, for one, is very exotic, and at times, I didn't know what the author was talking about, with the down-under and British terms. A book like this could use a glossary in the back. The first one that stumped me was shooting brake, which sounds like a it would be a hunting blind but means a car like a station wagon or an SUV. Then there's wattle, which I never did figure out what that is. There's a few more, but I don't recall them exactly.
Also different is that the murder victim is not the obvious choice of the missing professor but is the woman who drank the mulled wine. But the biggest difference between this book and most murder mysteries is the ending. Bit of a spoiler here: the killer, though revealed, is not brought to justice. Very unsatisfying ending, I thought. So, even though I found the exotic locale interesting and the story engrossing, because of the crappy ending, I can only rate it as fair.

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