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by Ruth Dudley Edwards
HarperCollins, May 2004
246 pages
ISBN: 0002326736

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Lady Hermione Babcock is dead, and Georgie Prothero calls Robert Amiss in an absolute tizzy, because Hermione is the chairperson for the newly prestigious Knapper-Warburton Prize and "There's a meeting of the committee next Thursday. Have you forgotten? The crucial meeting. The long-list meeting. What will we do without Hermione?"

Georgie speaks in frequent italics. Amiss, after consulting with Georgie about the people currently on the committee who might be able to step up as chair, decides that his friend, Baroness 'Jack' Troutbeck would be best suited for the position, if she can be convinced to take it.

Jack is persuaded. She is not deterred when it is discovered that Hermione was poisoned with ricin. She handles the various members of the committee with an aplomb and political astuteness which is a pleasure to watch (read?). Then another member of the committee is killed, although the police believe the death by drowning is either accidental or a suicide. Attempts are made on the lives of at least two other judges. Jack is determined to figure out who is killing the judges and to shepherd her choice for the prize through the process and into the winning slot.

Edwards has a deadly eye for the pretentious and is a satirist par excellence. Think Sharyn McCrumb in BIMBOS OF THE DEATH SUN, only the targets are 'literary' authors and their books. I have a mental picture of each member of the committee; Edwards makes them live without taking them over the edge into blatant stereotypes. Her descriptions of their novels are scathing, but right on target.

She also has a very keen insight into the politics of literary prizes, and takes the reader behind the scenes for a look at how the winners are really selected. CARNAGE ON THE COMMITTEE will not restore anyone's faith in the purity of academia, that's for sure!

I've heard of Ruth Dudley Edwards for years, have heard her speak on various panels at conventions, and she's been on my list of "people to read one of these days". I wish I'd bumped her higher up the list, although the up side to waiting so long is that there are nine fiction books and about that many non-fiction for me to go back and read. This is a good thing. I thoroughly enjoyed CARNAGE ON THE COMMITTEE; think Wodehouse blended with Caudwell, and you've got an idea of the flavor. A good read, a good mystery, lots of fun -- what more can a reader ask for on a dreary summer day?

Reviewed by P. J. Coldren, August 2004

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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