It’s my pleasure to have as my Crime Cafe guest blogger today crime fiction author James Carse, who’s written what is truly a puzzle mystery!
James is offering a gift copy of his novel, PhDEATH: THE PUZZLER MURDERS, in the Crime Cafe book giveaway.
All you need to do to enter the giveaway is leave a comment here (with your email address, of course) and the winner will be notified after March 6. Please leave your comment before then.
I’ve read the book and can assure you that if you’re a fan of puzzles and academic mysteries, this story will give you a whole new perspective on that genre.
In any case, and without further ado, here’s an excerpt from the novel!
The Puzzler Murders by James Carse
Registration, Fall Semester
His body, when it was discovered at the entrance to the University’s Administration Building, lay partly on the sidewalk and partly in the street. Most of his head, or what was left of it, was about a car’s width from the curb, and too shattered for positive identification.
Although it was not immediately known to whom the body belonged, it seemed to have fallen from an upper floor of the ten story building. The Campus Security Staff were on the site minutes after it was reported by a taxi driver calling it in on an iphone, his strong Urdu accent adding to the shock and horror of the news. They immediately made a cordon around the unknown man’s remains, holding students and passersby back fifteen or twenty feet to avoid trampling on the fragments of skull extending out to the yellow line at the street’s median. The face, mostly intact, had the rough appearance of a stained sandwich wrapper, with teeth. He evidently hit the pavement head first.
Two city police cars arrived shortly after, followed by an ambulance from the nearest hospital. The EMT’s, springing lightly from their ambulance and pushing through to the victim with their stretcher, stopped short when they got a full view of the body. Even to an experienced emergency worker, the sight was disturbing. They covered the remains with a plastic sheet. Only the feet were showing. There was no need for the stretcher. Nothing could be done until the Coroner comes to make a closer examination of the body.
Early as it was, a few minutes after eight in the morning, the Square was already spottily populated, mostly with overnighters who had spent the early hours sleeping under benches out of the sight of park employees. They were the first of the onlookers to appear. The student presence was modest but increasing as the subways emptied onto the far side of the Square. Dormitory residents from around the Square were slower to emerge, many of them in bathrobes and flip-flops. As if a secret signal had gone out, there was a steady drift of viewers from all directions. Adding to the solemnity of the event was the collective silence, broken only by the whispering to newcomers as to what was assumed to have happened.
The quiet was shattered by a woman’s scream, animal-like in its intensity, that came from an open window at the top floor of the Administration Building. A face briefly appeared over the sill then vanished. Moments later, apparently the same person burst through the glass doors of the building’s entrance and rushed toward the covered body. Although in an extreme state of panic and horror, she was recognized at once by the growing mass of students and professors as the Administrative Assistant to the Dean of Arts and Sciences. The whispered name, Lucille, could be heard circling through the crowd.
Through convulsive sobs she affirmed the identity of the body as that of her boss, the Dean, Oliver Ridley. When the officers began to lift the plastic, she held up a hand to stop them. As she later testified, she needed only to see his feet. The Bettanin & Venturi shoes had been purchased only a few weeks earlier for the Dean’s first day in office. In fact, it was she who advised him on the purchase, introducing him to one of her most favored shoe saleswomen.
James Carse graduated Ohio Wesleyan, earned a Masters in Divinity from Yale University and a PhD. From Drew University. He is Professor Emeritus of History and Literature of Religion at New York University, and also served as Director of the Program in Religious Studies. Mr. Carse is the winner of numerous awards including New York University’s Great Teacher Award, New York University Distinguished Teaching Award, and Doctor of Humane Letters from Georgetown University. He was a visiting professor at Drew, Sweetbriar and Yale Universities. He is the author of eight non-fiction books, and has lectured widely and given workshops at schools, colleges, learning centers and conferences. He was host of The Way to Go a Sunday morning interview program on CBS-TV for eight years that focused on religious, artistic and intellectual figures. He lives in New York and Massachusetts.