A mystery-writing college professor I know recently joked (?) that the reason the victims in her first two books had been college students was that it was more polite behaviour than killing the real thing. As I don’t write fiction I’m dependent upon others to carry out my fantasy murders of choice and for me these would involve politicians. So how could I resist a book titled Dead Politician Society which also counts as book 4 towards my Canadian Book Challenge?
When a politician is killed in Toronto rookie police officer Clare Vengel is tasked with her first undercover assignment: join the political science class at the local University where police believe someone may be, or at least know something about, the killer. An email that appears to have originated on campus was sent to a newspaper claiming responsibility for the politician’s murder on behalf of The Society for Political Utopia and it’s Clare’s job to see what she can find out. When she joins Matthew Easton’s Political Utopia for the Real World class she meets more than one person with motive for killing and when more politicians start dying she has to work fast.
At 42 I’m probably a bit young for grumpy old woman status but if my reaction to the character of Clare is anything to go by I’ve definitely got my training wheels on. Despite being given a job she covets Clare does her best to ruin her chances of success by behaving irresponsibly, such as deliberately getting drunk while under cover and forgetting what falsehoods she has told, and berating her handler in an annoyingly childish fashion for all manner of imagined put downs. This might be quite realistic behaviour for a 22-year old but all I wanted to do was give her a slap and tell her to grow up.
Fortunately for me though this is not one of those stories in which a single character advances all the action. In fact the book’s chapters alternate from different points of view and in addition to Clare’s we see action unfold from the perspective of Matthew (the Professor), Laura (the ex-wife of the first victim), Jonathan (one of the students in the class) and Annabel (the journalist who is in text-message contact with the person claiming to be the killer). I found the regular switching gave the book a good, fast pace as well as allowing me to get away from Clare and engage with people I found much more interesting.
Much of the action unfolds against the backdrop of Matthew Easton’s unorthodox class in which students are divided into political parties and must from alliances, present legislation and generally operate as a parliament. Being a politics junkie I really enjoyed this aspect of the novel (I would have crawled over hot coals to be part of something like this when I studied political science myself all those years ago) and thought it offered an original spin on what is at heart a classic whodunnit. Having the students discussing and debating a range of issues allowed all sorts of possible motives to be explored as we learn about the histories and families of all the players. This kept me guessing, if not about the culprit, then about motives and the ultimate outcome right to the end.
Dead Politician Society is well-plotted, has just the kind of social introspection that I enjoy in my reading and the characters are well drawn. The fact that I found Clare to be annoying as hell is quite realistic, I get that annoyed by real people too. If you’re in the market for a funny, fast read with a political bent then you could do a lot worse (especially if you are not a curmudgeonly old woman).
Dead Politician Society has also been reviewed at A Novel Source, Musings of a Bookish Kitty and Pickle Me This (none of these reviews mention any level of annoyance at the character of Clare and one thinks she is a brilliant, feisty heroine so mine is clearly not a universal reaction, just me being a grumpy old woman).
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
My rating 3/5
Publisher ECW Press
Length 328 pages
Format eBook (PDF)
Source My thanks to the Publisher, via Net Galley, for the review copy