Grey Expectations (Dulcie Schwartz)
by Clea Simon
Review by Gayle Surrette
Severn House Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780727881342
Date: 01 April 2012 List Price $27.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Dulcie Schwartz has thesis block -- the writing is not going very well. She gets a phone call from Trista Dunlop, a Victorian specialist and fellow grad student. Trista is totally panicked that another student is missing and some police came to question her and scared her. Dulcie agrees to meet her but she doesn't show up.
Later, Trista's boyfriend, Jerry, calls because she's missing. Dulcie's boyfriend, Chris, works with Jerry, and between the two of them, they try to calm him down. Things get even weirder when a very rare and expensive book is missing from special collections.
While Dulcie would like to get back to writing about the Ravages of Umbria and get back on track with the paper, she can't help getting pulled into another mystery. Where is Trista? Who stole the book? Who are the men claiming to be police? And where is the missing student, Roland Galveston, who precipitated this entire chain of events?
The characters introduced in Grey Matters are back. Dulcie is still adjusting to the loss of Mr. Grey, a cat who was as much partner as pet. Esme, the new kitten, is new to her and they're still working out their relationship, though Esme seems to be more Chris's cat than hers -- and that's also painful. The research is not going well and very vivid dreams which seems to be pointing her research in new directions may be either a help or a hindrance.
The writing is filled with enough detail of college politics and grad student insight that it will remind some readers of what it was like back in the day. The mystery is convoluted, but in the end very plausible. The characters may at times seem to be acting irrationally, but if you think about real people in these situations I doubt that any of them would act any differently. Dulcie does get distracted frequently and I found that annoying but then it does fit her personality.
If you enjoy mysteries in a college or university setting, featuring hard working and under appreciated graduate students, teaching assistants, and college politics and turf wars -- you'll certainly enjoy, Grey Expectations.