Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Players Come Again

Written by Amanda Cross
Random House, 1990; 229 pages

At the beginning of The Players Come Again, Kate Fansler -- professor of English literature and amateur sleuth -- has just published a study of Henry James and Thomas Hardy, and is looking around for her next project. So she's very interested when an editor from a New York publishing company comes to her with a suggestion for a biography of Gabrielle Foxx, reclusive wife of the great modernist writer Emmanuel Foxx.

Gabrielle has always been an enigma to academics, who've wondered about her influence on her husband's writing, especially his controversial masterpiece novel, Ariadne. And there are questions about Gabrielle's own secret work -- work that no one has ever seen. Was Gabrielle just a muse and a handmaiden to her husband's enormous talents, or was she much more? As Kate digs deeper and deeper into the background of the Foxx family, she begins to realize the complicated motivations behind their fierce secrecy and desire to preserve the reputations of both Gabrielle and Emmanuel, and to protect their private lives from public scrutiny.

And from there, things just keep getting more and more complicated.

I've read one other book in this series, many years ago, and remember being a bit disappointed by it. But I wanted to give the author (Amanda Cross was the pseudonym of feminist literary critic Carolyn Heilbrun) another chance. I love the academic settings, and Kate herself is a very intriguing character. But, sad to say, this book was even less satisfying than the first. I read it right through, fairly quickly (for me), waiting for the promised mystery to develop. However, except for a possible long-ago murder mentioned in the book's last pages, this was a pretty standard tale of literary research. Not exactly boring, just disappointing if you're looking for real suspense.



  1. I admire you for giving the author another go - I think I'll skip this one.

  2. When I saw the title pop up in the blog roll, I had to stop by and see what you thought. I love Amanda Cross, but I have to agree that this is not the book to start with--and in fact, she's not at her best with the ones that involve research. Death in a Tenured Position is much better...should you ever decide to get her another try.

  3. I read one of her books last year -- The James Joyce Murder, or the James Joyce Mystery, something like that. I think it was the 3rd in the series. I liked it a lot and now want to read more. But I want to start at the beginning and some of the earlier ones are not so easy to find.

    Too bad this one didn't strike your fancy.


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