Book Critique – The Princeton Murders (McLeod Dulaney #1)

For review of all books in this series: Go here.

Stars: 3 / 5

My Recommendation: A cozy knit plot like a sweater that gives you a itch here and there but still keeps you warm. A straightforward mystery with some petty unique quirks, expected twists, mildly amusing, and pleasant read for those dull days.

The Princeton Murders in the first book in the McLeod Dulaney series by Ann Waldron, first published in January of 2003. It introduces the readers to McLeod Dulaney the protagonist of the series, and sets a stage for the future books in the series. 

McLeod Dulaney is a Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist from Florida who comes to Princeton University in Princeton, NJ as a visiting lecturer. The stories in this series are the various cases that Dulaney investigates.

McLeod Dulaney arrives at Princeton University in New Jersey as a visiting lecturer. She gets invited to a string of faculty gathering during which she meets the rest of the department folks. She starts having a grand time knowing them as well as her students and her classes. All seems to go well until professors are dying like flies in a honey pot. And although no one believes her, she thinks they are being murdered. So McLeod with help of her students sets upon investigating the deaths. 

We had a second outdoor social distancing book sale at the local library and I found a few treasures in the form of new authors and a few books of the authors I collect. Best part was it was a bag sale - meaning you buy a bag for $5 or $10 and fill as many books as you want in that bag. Me and my friend hauled three bags in total. I guess we are set for 2021 to entertain ourselves if this pandemic continues.

Ann Waldron was one of the new authors that I picked in that sale. In the beginning, it started off well, and to the way I expected a cozy mystery would be. Then few things happened that made me pause at continuing to read.

For instance, I found it a bit surprising that Waldron made her character McLeod a little shallow with regards to external appearances of other people. Several times she had McLeod critiquing a character who was fat or had some odd features in their face. 

Then, I also felt that she was introducing a new character every couple pages and it felt hard to keep track of them. I have read book in long-running series by other authors where characters keep appearing from past books, or new ones crop up. But they seldom created as much confusion as Waldron did for me.

And then just before I tried to put it aside, I checked on the author. It came as a surprise to me that she started writing The Princeton Murder mystery series in her late seventies. She had been an accomplished writer until then but not in this genre. That actually cinched it for me to pick the book again as it made me wonder how one could begin a new path in their career at that very prime age. Made me rethink about my career path as well. 

Waldron's McLeod at first reminded me of Jessica Fletcher from the famed Murder, She Wrote TV Show and later books. Specially when some portion of the plot resembled closely to a few of the episodes in the series - 1991 Night Fears, episode 2 from season 8; 1989 Class Act, episode 10 from season 6. But as the book progressed she morphed into Agatha Christie's Miss Jane Marple

All in all the plot is tight and well-written despite the plethora of characters Waldron kept throwing at the readers. A cozy knit plot like a sweater that gives you a itch here and there but still keeps you warm. A straightforward mystery with some petty unique quirks, expected twists, mildly amusing, and pleasant read for those dull days.

Spoiler Alerts:

1. Plot Reveals:

a. Staff at Princeton University: Ginger Kingsley, executive director of the Council of the Humanities, & her husband Cliff; Frieda, Ginger's secretary; Mystique Alcott, novelist and a playwright; English Department professors Gertrude "Trudy" Sergeant, Elizabeth "Liz" Finley; Archibald "Archie" Alexander, John McPhee, Fred Harper; Dexter Kincaid, English Department Chair & his wife Margie; Assistant Professors Guy Peyton, John Pope, Ursula Barnes, Bob Dewey, Guadalupe Hutchinson, Grady Schuyler; Stephanie West, administrator of English Department; Jim Macy, public relations officer; Dr. Winchester.

b. McLeod's students: Ben True; Daisy Wood; Marcy Flowers; Lyle Cramer; Courtney Philips; Valentina "Tina" Martinez; 

c. Law Enforcement: Public Safety on Campus - Sean O'Malley the director, Mr. Culkin the proctor; Borough Police - John Ives the chief of Borough Police, Captain Nick Perry chief of detectives, Officer Phil Vaccarella; Dr. Luther Scott the medical examiner; 

d. Two attempts of murder happen on McLeod. And none could be confirmed as to who did that. 

e. Media, Books & Cooking references:

i. Books: Quotes from Ralph Waldo Emerson's works; Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope; 

ii. Waldron gives the readers four simple Faculty Brunch recipes at the end of the book; all of which had been made by her characters during the course of the plot. Of all of them I felt like trying Baked Grits. And Voila! The Baked Grits turned out pretty good. 

2. Sub-Plots: 

a. McLeod's colleagues and friends from the Star of Florida newspaper: Charlie Campbell, her boss, & his wife Prudence; Jim "Toe Sack" Burlap, oldest reporter; George Mackintosh, reporter from Newsweek; Oliver "Ollie" Hunt, New York Times reporter; Dr. Phyllis "Phil" Meriwether; 

b. McLeod's family: daughter Rosie, a journalist; son Harry; mother; 

c. McLeod is interested in writing a book on the works of John and William Bartrams, father-son pair of intrepid naturalists of Colonial times 

3. Grammatical / Character / Plot / Geographical / Historical / Mythological Errors:

a. On Pg. 30, one of the characters Daisy Wood is shown to have a piercing in her lower lip. However, On Pg. 76, Daisy shows her piercing on her chin instead.

b. On Pg. 48, Line 14, an extra open quote is seen in that line which is not needed.

c. On Pg. 81, in the beginning we see that four students take up the assignment - Ben, Marcy, Daisy & Tina - other than Lyle. However on Line 8 from bottom, Waldron writes that five students had taken up the assignment other than Lyle. 

d. On Pg. 204, Mimi Howell mentions that she went back to Rome on Thursday. However in the following page, 205, she says that she went back to New Haven on Thursday.

e. On Pg. 256, Line 14, an extra open quote is seen which is not needed.


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