Letters 11-23-2015

Cheering From Petoskey While red-eyed rats boil fanatically up from the ancient sewers of Paris to feast on pools of French blood, at the G20 meeting the farcical pied piper of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue thrusts a bony finger at the president of the Russian Federation and yells: “liberté, égalité, fraternité, Clinton, Kerry--Obamaism!”

The Other Mothers And Fathers Regarding the very nice recent article on “The First Lady of Yoga,” I have taken many classes with Sandy Carden, and I consider her to be a great teacher. However, I feel the article is remiss to not even give acknowledgement to other very important yoga influences in northern Michigan...

Drop The Blue Angels The last time I went to the National Cherry Festival, I picked the wrong day. The Blue Angels were forcing everyone to duck and cover from the earsplitting cacophony overhead...

Real Advice For The Sick In the Nov. 16 article “Flu Fighters,” author Kristi Kates fails to mention the most basic tool in our arsenal during Influenza season... the flu vaccine! I understand you might be afraid of being the victim of Jenny McCarthyism, but the science is there...

Keeping Traverse City in the Dark Our environment is our greatest asset. It sustains our lives; it drives our economy. We ignore it at our peril. Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council (NMEAC) has submitted letters of concern to both the city commission and planning commission regarding the proposed 9-story buildings on Pine Street. We have requested an independent environmental assessment with clear answers before a land use permit is granted...

All About Them Another cartoon by Jen Sorensen that brings out the truth! Most of her cartoons are too slanted in a Socialist manner, but when she gets it correct, she hits the nail on the target! “Arizona is the first state to put a 12-month lifetime limit on welfare benefits.” That quote is in the opening panel... 

Unfair To County Employees It appears that the commissioners of Grand Traverse County will seek to remedy a shortfall in the 2016 budget by instituting cuts in expenditures, the most notable the reduction of contributions to various insurance benefits in place for county employees. As one example, the county’s contributions to health insurance premiums will decrease from ten to six percent in 2016. What this means, of course, is that if a county employee wishes to maintain coverage at the current level next year, the employee will have to come up with the difference...

Up, Not Out I would like to congratulate the Traverse City Planning Commission on their decision to approve the River West development. Traverse City will either grow up or grow out. For countless reasons, up is better than out. Or do we enjoy such things as traffic congestion and replacing wooded hillsides with hideous spectacles like the one behind Tom’s West Bay. At least that one is on the edge of town as opposed to in the formerly beautiful rolling meadows of Acme Township...

Lessons In Winning War I am saddened to hear the response of so many of legislators tasked with keeping our country safe. I listen and wonder if they know what “winning” this kind of conflict requires or even means? Did we win in Korea? Did we win in Vietnam? Are we winning in Afghanistan? How is Israel winning against the Palestinians? Will they “take out” Hezbollah...

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Suicide Sonnet

Elizabeth Kane Buzzelli - August 1st, 2011
Suicide Sonnet
A sheriff’s past revealed in Medieval Murders
Review: Medieval Murders
By Aaron Stander
Writers & Editors, LLC
By Elizabeth Kane Buzzelli
Since reading the first book in the Ray Elkins series by Interlochen mystery writer, Aaron Stander, I’ve wondered about Ray. More than a capable sheriff in Cedar County, Michigan, Ray is quiet and caring and tenacious—but self-protective and slightly reluctant to open himself to anyone.
Ray’s a good cop. He always gets his man. He has eclectic tastes in music, literature and food (especially Stilton cheese), has good relationships with women, and is a thoroughly likeable man. But there was something more.
Now I understand.
Medieval Murders, the fifth in this popular Northern Michigan series, (after Summer People, Color Tour, Deer Season, and Shelf Ice) is a prequel to the other four books. It answers many questions about Ray: who he is, where he came from, and about the deep sorrow that darkened his life.

Before Ray came to live in Northern Michigan, before he became the sheriff of Cedar County and took on murderous snowplows and killers burrowed into shelf-ice caves, he was the Chair of the Criminal Justice Program at a midwestern university. Thereafter, he was talked into taking the post as interim director of the university police. You would think that a quiet gig. Drinking and drugging and mugging. Standard stuff at a university. But then Medievalists in the English Department begin to die. Ray is at his lowest. Ellen, his lover of many years, died a year ago and Ray’s suffering hasn’t lessened. “During Ellen’s last months he would wake, listen to her breathing, and wonder about the future. His despair had started long before she was gone.”
Not the first man to bury his sorrow in his work, Ray can’t let go of a campus death, a woman professor who leapt to her death from the carillon, a suicide: “An academic robe, luxurious folds of heavy black silk and rich blue velvet, covered the bird-like figure. A soft velvet hat with gold braid lay next to the crushed skull. Small streams of blood drained from the mouth and nose, forming a pool around the tassel.”

A thoroughly detested person, Sheila Bensen was denied tenure. Angered beyond reason, she had quickly filed lawsuits and set about making herself unpopular among the faculty and students. But suicide? Ray isn’t convinced. And then another female professor of Medieval Studies comes up dead, this time with a suicide note that only such a woman would leave. A sonnet:
O me! What eyes hath Love put in my head,
Which have no correspondence with true sight;
Or, if they have, where is my judgment fled,
That censures falsely what they see aright?

And then another—in a fiery accident. This one has a reputation as a solid drinker, but then alcohol figures heavily with all the dead women.
Despite pressure from the administration to protect the university’s reputation from bad press and funding cuts by the state legislature and declare all the deaths suicides or accidents, Elkins won’t let go of what he senses lies beneath the deaths. He looks into every aspect of the women’s lives, searching for that one place where they intersected personally, and not letting go until—bit by bit—he assembles pieces of the puzzle. Secrets, lies, hatred, hypocrisy—they are all there at this seemingly quiet university.
Along with a fine character study and a good mystery, Stander, an academic himself, gives a fascinating look behind the scenes at university politics and problems besetting departments: “ …21 sections of Women’s Literature and 9 sections of African-American Literature and 5 of Hispanic Literature made it this term, but only 3 sections of Shakespeare.”
So, in addition to being killed off one by one, the Medievalists face a bleak and marginalized future. As with businesses facing downsizing, retooling, and change, the faculty is rife with jealousy, competition, and destructive human beings clinging to their jobs.
While Elkins is busy unmasking a killer, women around him have honed in, like bloodhounds, on his newly single status. At least one of the women has a novel twist on the old ‘casserole left on the porch’ routine, moving in on poor unaware Ray, offering herself and, when that doesn’t work, offering up other vestal virgins she stumbles upon.
Ray has his work cut out for him in Medieval Murders. As with the other novels in this series, there are things to learn and things to be shown and a murderer to unmask. All of this while showing Ray overcoming a past that, in Summer People and the others of the series, was only hinted at.

Elizabeth Kane Buzzelli will sign and discuss her new mystery, Dead Dogs and Englishman on Wednesday, August 3, 1 pm, at McLean and Eakin Bookstore in Petoskey.

  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
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