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Letters 07-25-2016

Remember Bush-Cheney Does anyone remember George W. Bush and Dick Cheney? They were president and vice president a mere eight years ago. Does anyone out there remember the way things were at the end of their duo? It was terrible...

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Families Need Representation When one party dominates the Michigan administration and legislature, half of Michigan families are not represented on the important issues that face our state. When a policy affects the non-voting K-12 students, they too are left out, especially when it comes to graduation requirements...

Raise The Minimum Wage I wanted to offer a different perspective on the issue of raising the minimum wage. The argument that raising the minimum wage will result in job loss is a bogus scare tactic. The need for labor will not change, just the cost of it, which will be passed on to the consumer, as it always has...

Make Cherryland Respect Renewable Cherryland Electric is about to change their net metering policy. In a nutshell, they want to buy the electricity from those of us who produce clean renewable electric at a rate far below the rate they buy electricity from other sources. They believe very few people have an interest in renewable energy...

Settled Science Climate change science is based on the accumulated evidence gained from studying the greenhouse effect for 200 years. The greenhouse effect keeps our planet 50 degrees warmer due to heat-trapping gases in our atmosphere. Basic principles of physics and chemistry dictate that Earth will warm as concentrations of greenhouse gases increase...

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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
$15.95
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.

THE BACKSTORY
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.”

SUICIDE SONNET
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.







 
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