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||April 4, 2002
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Alan Cook, Mystery and walking writer
When her granddaughter's boyfriend gets accused of sexual harassment during his first teaching job, retired math professor Lillian Morgan springs to his defense.
In the second book of the Lillian Morgan series (Thirteen Diamonds was the first) Lillian, a retired professor, is jolted out of her serene life in a North Carolina retirement community when Mark, her granddaughter’s boyfriend, is accused of sexual harassment. Since he has just started teaching at a small college the charge could end his career almost before it begins. Lillian finds that the school has a harassment policy from hell, but almost immediately the accusing student, Elise, is murdered and Mark becomes the chief suspect. Ignoring her fingers-crossed promise to her son not to do any more detective work, Lillian springs into action and finds that in fact there are several other possible suspects.
My cell-phone rang while I was deep into a game at the Silver Acres Chess Club. I swore silently and mumbled an apology to my opponent, Wesley, who was trying to fork my king and rook with his knight. This was not the time for interruptions, but since only a few people knew my cell-phone number and they had been warned not to use it short of a dire emergency, on threat of disinheritance, I figured I’d better find out who was calling.
I located the phone in my purse and said hello.
“Lillian, it’s Mark.”
The voice of my granddaughter’s happy-go-lucky boyfriend sounded so strained that I was immediately concerned. Anyone who saves my life, as Mark had, earns the right to have my cell-phone number and also my full attention, day or night.
“Is something wrong?” I asked, gripping the plastic phone tightly and hoping I could make the problem go away with a wave of my hand.
Mark made a few more sounds, but didn’t produce any intelligible sentences. This must be serious, indeed, since he had never been at a loss for words as long as I had known him. I looked at my watch. Four o’clock. “Can you meet me here for an early dinner?” I asked.
“I’ll be in the front lobby in an hour.”
I said goodbye and disconnected.
“Is there a problem?” Wesley asked. He had started exercising since his wife had died, several months ago, and he had lost some weight. He didn’t look too bad for an old guy.
“I’m not sure,” I said, “but I’m going to have to cancel dinner.”
“I heard. That’s okay. I’ll eat with Tess.”
If Wesley meant to make me jealous, he failed. Tess, my best friend at the Silver Acres Retirement Community, had no interest in Wesley, except for conversation and tax advice.
“Let’s finish the game,” I said, turning my attention to the board. But my concentration didn’t return. Wesley not only succeeded in grabbing my rook, he soon launched an onslaught against my king. I resigned, not very gracefully. I am a bad loser. I excused myself and went back to my apartment.
Cynthia P. Chow
This is a wonderful mystery with engaging characters that are neither stereotypes nor caricatures. Lillian Morgan is a retired professor living in the Silver Acres retirement community, but she is definitely not your typical retiree. When she receives a phone call from Mark, her granddaughter's boyfriend, telling her that he is being accused of the sexual harassment and rape of one of his students, Lillian refuses to stand idly by. With the help of her would-be suitor Wesley, Lillian begins to investigate the charges despite her own granddaughter's doubts about Mark's innocence.
When the student is found dead, Mark becomes the police's number one suspect for her murder. Soon, things become even more complicated when Lillian discovers that the woman may have a murky past of her own. Lillian's investigation leads her into the politically cut-throat world of academic politics as well as into strip bars and the lives of strippers (which Lillian finds quite fascinating).
Lillian is an entertaining and witty character who doesn't come off as either a cutesy grandmother type or a spoof of a hip and with-it senior citizen. She is likeable and admirable and doesn't put up with the condescension the elderly often receive. Alan Cook as well explores the backlash of sexual harassment investigations that seem to unfairly prosecute the suspects and leaves them with little chance of proving their innocence.
I thoroughly enjoyed this mystery, which follows the first of the Lillian Morgan series, THIRTEEN DIAMONDS. I look forward to the next by Alan Cook and the continuation of this entertaining series.
Lynda W. Clark
This compelling murder mystery will be solved by a woman residing in an assisted living facility who is not afraid to tackle sensitive issues or to trace pathways otherwise unknown to her, in an effort to clear the name of a young man she values and respects. Gives senior citizens a good name.
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