Overton University, formerly Overton Grace College, is a small, liberal arts school somewhere in the Midwest. As its name change indicates, what was once a denominational college has been superficially transformed by a new administrator. What was once the gym is now the fitness center; in fact, everything is now a center or a service. But it isn’t only the names that are changing; the campus is increasingly in the grip of a massive dose of political correctness, masterminded by the administrative head with some help from the Education Department.
But there’s also the loyal resistance, and much of it seems focused on a history professor, Preston Barclay. He, with the help of Professor Mara Thorn, who was a Wiccan when she joined the faculty but is now a Christian, solved a murder at Overton at great personal risk to themselves (the previous story is Rhapsody in Red). Barclay, 50, is a widower, his beloved wife Faith having died some three years previously.
A close friend of his wife is Mitra Fortier, a physic professor. At a faculty reception, Mitra tells Preston she needs to see him because their jobs may be at stake. After the reception, he goes to Mitra’s office, and he finds Mara standing outside the door. She’s been asked to see Mitra as well. When they open the door, they find Mitra dead. She turns out to have been murdered.
Preston and Mara have their hands increasingly full. Mitra left a document detailing her love affairs with Preston and Mara’s jealousy. It was untrue, but the police don’t care. Worse still is the administration and board of trustees, uniformly telling Preston not to investigate. Worst of all may be the chief detective investigating, an old foe of Preston’s from the army who wants revenge and isn’t above manufacturing evidence.
And then things get really interesting.
Murder Mezzo Forte is the second in the Preston Barclay mysteries by Donn Taylor. And it’s filled with musical references (Preston’s wife had been a pianist), commentaries on politically correct college administrations, humor (Preston is too much of a quick with for his own good), and non-stop developments, a few of which threaten Preston’s life (and almost get him killed twice). It even includes more than a dash of romance.
Taylor has published three Preston Barclay mysteries: Rhapsody in Red, Murder Mezzo Forte, and Murder in Disguise. He’s also published the historical romance Lightning on a Quiet Night, the action / suspense novels The Lazarus Effectand Deadly Additive, and a poetry collection, Dust and Diamond. He lives near Houston, Texas.
Murder Mezzo Forte is one of those rare mysteries that keep you laughing while you can’t put it down to see what happens next.