Saturday, October 13, 2012

Word Nerds

Although I seldom read mysteries, I stumbled upon one (wish I could remember who recommended it) that seemed to be up my particular alley. In David Carkeet's Double Negative the murder takes place at the Wabash Institute, an Indiana linguistics think tank where socially inept academics study the babblings of toddlers in order to learn more about the formation of language. This hits three of my favorites – well-crafted plots, quirky and humorous characters, and my previously undisclosed love of linguistics.

Jeremy Cook is Carkeet's clueless hero, a star linguist caught up in the petty jealousies and feuds typical of academia. So when a colleague's dead body turns up in Jeremy's office, the cantankerous police detective, as well as some of his co-workers, suspect him. And in his bumbling way Jeremy continues to draw suspicion to himself even as he attempts to find the real killer.

Sometimes Carkeet's humor is a little broad (the murdered man's name is Stiph and a clumsy colleague's name is Woeps), but I enjoyed the clever sendup of academic life, the nerdy linguistic in jokes, and the twists and turns of the plot.

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