Carlson, P.M.: Murder is Academic



Murder is Academic

By P.M. Carlson

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9781932325232-PerfectMURDER IS ACADEMIC (Maggie Ryan 1968)

An Anthony Award nominee

Vietnam, assassinations and riots. In the spring semester of 1968, a series of brutal attacks draws campus women together to study self-defense and the psychology of rape. Graduate student Mary Beth Nelson struggles to keep the Lords of Death at bay by immersing herself in researching Mayan languages. Her new housemate, Maggie Ryan, has her own secrets. When murder strikes close to home, Maggie investigates with a little help from her friends.

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Murder Is Academic treats violation of truth in tandem with assault and rape—true violations of person, mind, and body—and presents a cogent case for the inviolability both of persons and truth. . . . Maggie Ryan, statistician, proves that one can alter, but, in the final analysis, not suppress data, and that is the murder-mystery writer’s dictum. P.M. Carlson has spent time in academia, obviously, but has emerged with not only a healthy attitude toward female scholarship but also toward the necessary inviolability of truth.” — Susan L. Clark, The Armchair Detective

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MURDER IS ACADEMIC: Near an upstate New York university, June 1968.

She was dead now, no more threat.  The murderer pushed aside the long dark hair and, very carefully, cut the triangle into the young cheek.  Done.  Now, walk to the car calmly, get in.  Back to the highway, driving coolly,  back in control again.

The Christian conquerors teach that days don’t begin until midnight.  The Maya know that it takes longer to hand over the burdens of time, and that the influence of the incoming god may begin at sunset.  The day known as Monday, June 17, to those who count by the Gregorian calendar was pleasantly breezy, as befitted the Ixil 9 Iiq; but shortly after sunset it became one of the most tragic of Mary Beth’s life.  A Mayan traditionalist might have attributed the change to the coming of that doubly unlucky day, 10 Aqbal.

But it had all begun quite cheerfully.

Maggie had borrowed Sue’s backpack in case Nick needed one for the picnic, and had packed her own and Mary Beth’s with the camp stove and the food.  She hummed lightheartedly as she worked.

“You’re happy to see him, aren’t you?” Mary Beth had said, tightening the top of the salad dressing jar.

“Yes, but that’s only part of it,” Maggie had confessed.  “It’s just good to know that’s behind me.  It was a very bad time, and Nick was there.  But I can see him now and just enjoy the friendship.  The bad memories are there, way in the background, but the good ones are too.  It doesn’t hurt anymore.  It hurt quite a lot for a while.”

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MEDIA KIT  PM Carlson PhotoP.M. Carlson taught psychology and statistics at Cornell University before deciding that mystery writing was more fun.  She has published twelve mystery novels and over a dozen short stories. Her novels have been nominated for an Edgar Award, a Macavity Award, and twice for Anthony Awards. Two short stories were finalists for Agatha Awards. She edited the Mystery Writers Annual for Mystery Writers of America for several years, and served as president of Sisters in Crime.

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Personal comments on the background of MURDER IS ACADEMIC  

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7 thoughts on “Carlson, P.M.: Murder is Academic”

    1. Thanks, Trix, it was interesting for me to revisit my time as a student, and realize in hindsight how much else had been going on in the world. Academics, like many other people, have to focus on getting their work done and the exciting or tragic things in the news are in the background. Like Maggie and Mary Beth and Nick in the book, I was aware of the war and assassinations, but focused on family and friends and work to stay sane in those insane times.

    1. Thanks, Rita. I hope it shows a little about the threat in the background, and about the comfort of the developing friendship between Maggie and Mary Beth, and the rediscovered friendship between Maggie and Nick. A lot of this story is told from Mary Beth’s point of view, and since she’s studying the Maya she knew how to figure the days according to the Mayan calendar. The down side was that I had to figure it out too– not always easy!

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