by Strunk N. White
Comparative Degree Press
Leather (tightly) bound
This is the third and certainly the best yet in the “Mistress Myopia, Ph.D” series in which the bespectacled female detective is also a seasoned dominatrix and a former English professor at an Ivy League College. (I particularly love the way she speaks of how there was far more real cruelty at the College faculty meetings she sat through than in the dungeons she worked in.)
Anyway, when one of her favorite male submissives is found brutally murdered in the reference section in the small town library of Grammarville, Mistress Myopia dons her diamond-studded, steel-framed glasses and swings into action.
Although in the beginning she suspects the librarian – a serial killer out on parole – she learns the deceased’s poor grammar infuriated a great many people in this insular but upper class community. Cleverly unraveling clues, Mistress Myopia travels to the nearby town of Pellucid. However, so many feisty female detectives have recently passed through, most people either ignore her or berate her. And many conservative townspeople don’t like her studded leather outfits and her nervous habit of cracking her whip.
It is here, however, where she meets the deceased’s wife, a mysterious Chinese woman named Dang Ling. Dang Ling claims she didn’t kill her husband but admits she always hated her husband’s habit of dangling participles and his other mistakes in grammar: “If I told him once, I told him a thousand times: ‘If the indefinite pronoun is the subject of the sentence, it regularly takes a singular verb.’ Do you think he’d listen? Not him!”
And his girlfriend also comes under suspicion: “Did you ever try living with someone who prefers the noncommittal present condition?!”
When a second client of her dungeon is mysteriously thrown in front of a bus along Pellucid’s rocky shore at Exclamation Point, Mistress Myopia suspects there is more to these murders than meets the eye. Someone seems determined to ruin her dominatrix business, and it soon becomes obvious that for many members of this tightly knit community, bad grammar is a perfectly legitimate motive for murder. It will take all Mistress Myopia’s wily detecting skills just to stay alive let alone solve the case.
Minor quibbles: When one of her (English professor) clients admits he has always been smitten by women who speak flawless English such as her, this leads to a seven-page discussion between Mistress Myopia and the client over whether “smitten by” or “smitten with” is the correct form. I also didn’t care for Mistress Myopia’s grammatical puns such as referring to Klaus Herfer, her German submissive, as a “subordinate Claus.” Not to mention several puns on the “colon,” too offensive to repeat here. Or double entendres about “submissive subjunctives.”
Also, the author has an obvious penchant for alliteration, e.g., “the apparent parent lay face down on the alleged ledge” and (while describing a mangled corpse) “the injustice of a just-missed bus.” This seems uncalled for and can grow tiring.
Also, Mistress Myopia’s address (E. Coli Drive) seems a bit much. And having Bill Clinton’s picture with the words, “I feel your pain” in Mistress Myopia’s Chamber of Punishment seems a wee bit over the top.
Nevertheless, this dominatrix-as-detective series is well researched and well crafted and I highly recommend it to open-minded readers who don’t mind a bit of a grammar lesson with their murders. The imaginative press kits, including fur-lined handcuffs wrapped around Fowler’s Modern English Usage, is already the talk of the editors’ tables at Four Seasons and Club 21.
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