When I posted a call for “If You Like” queries a few weeks ago, one of the requests that popped up was for “Lady Academic Fiction”, fiction set in an academic setting or with a grad student/professor as the protagonist. What could be more appropriate for back to school season?
If you like Lady Academic Fiction, you’ll probably like….
— How can I not start with Elizabeth Peters/Barbara Michaels? The first to come to mind are the Vicky Bliss books, in which professional art historian Vicky Bliss uses her academic know-how to solve a variety of crimes, heists and historical mysteries, starting with Borrower of the Night, although they just get better and better as they go on, culminating in the joy that is Night Train to Memphis. But don’t miss the Jacqueline Kirby books (The Seventh Sinner involves grad students and The Murders of Richard III historians) and such non-series books as Summer of the Dragon, Legend in Green Velvet and The Love Talker, all featuring grad students;
— Staying in the mystery theme, Dorothy Sayers’s Gaudy Night has one of the best descriptions of academic life I’ve read, as Harriet Vane returns to her old Oxford college to get to the bottom of a series of disturbing pranks;
— One of my favorite mystery series, by Sarah Caudwell, features Hilary Tamar, Oxford law professor. It’s tough to call this Lady Academic Lit, since Tamar’s gender is left deliberately ambiguous throughout, but it is quite definitely deeply academic. The four books are Thus Was Adonis Murdered, The Sirens Sang of Murder, The Shortest Way to Hades, and The Sibyl in Her Grave (added bonus: cover illustrations by Edward Gorey);
— The Amanda Cross mysteries, starting with In the Last Analysis, feature English professor Kate Fansler;
— Jennifer Lee Carrell has won my undying loyalty for blowing up part of Widener Library in Interred with Their Bones, the first of her academic mystery/adventure novels featuring a former Harvard grad student;
— Speaking of Harvard, the wife of a history department classmate of mine (a history PhD in her own right) wrote The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, featuring a Harvard grad student who finds herself entangled in a legacy of witchcraft;
Interestingly, while I can certainly rattle off lots of mystery and paranormal, I’m having a hard time thinking of romance novels featuring academics. Kristan Higgins’s Too Good to Be True features a high school history teacher, Susan Elizabeth Philip’s Nobody’s Baby But Mine is about a physics professor, and Jill Winters’s Blushing Pink stars a history grad student, but other than that, I’m drawing a blank.
Do you have any good Academic Lady Lit to recommend? All subgenres welcome….