Saturday, August 08, 2015

Code Grey by Clea Simon

Clea Simon takes readers into the world of scholars and book theft in her latest Dulcie Schwartz feline mystery,Code Grey. If that phrase "feline mystery" makes you think of cozy mysteries, think again. Simon's mysteries are darker than cozy, tending towards the Gothic of Dulcie Schwartz' own studies.

Dulcie is working on her doctoral dissertation, analyzing a piece of Gothic literature. And, the setting is perfect for her studies, a quiet college campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts, spring break for the students. It's hardly spring though, as the ice and wind have combined to make walking miserable on campus. To make matters worse, there are pipes breaking and flooding all over campus, forcing buildings to close. There are even rumors of theft, but Dulcie never believed Jeremy Mumbleigh (Mumbles) was responsible for them. He was a one-time scholar who suffered from mental illness. Dulcie sees him as a fellow scholar, while her boyfriend, Chris, feels justified in seeing him as disturbed when they learn Mumbles is in the hospital with the police questioning him about a book believed to be stolen from a library collection. Stories differ as to Jeremy's connection with the tunnels where he was found under the campus. Did he fall? Was he living in the tunnels? Dulcie only knows that she has to convince the police that Jeremy, a fellow scholar, isn't the campus thief. She's convinced he was saving books. But, how do Jeremy's books connect with Dulcie's own studies of a Gothic book?

Dulcie Schwartz is caught up in an eerie Gothic story herself. The half-deserted campus during March's weather, the tunnels, hidden rooms, and long-buried secrets all combine to create a suspenseful, menacing atmosphere. The scholars themselves, with their arcane studies, only add to the serious tone. And, Dulcie, like so many Gothic heroines, is slightly naive and awkward, but with a tender heart and sympathy for a fellow scholar when she can envision herself on that same troubling path. And,  Dulcie's mysterious relationships with cats, including the ghost of her beloved Mr Grey, only adds to the eerie quality of these books.

I'll admit I have problems with the texts of the materials Dulcie studies, esoteric sections of a Gothic work. And, Dulcie's own writing is not easy to get through. However, the story itself, in this case a mystery involving stolen and missing books, is a fascinating search for answers. And, I'm particularly fond of one of Dulcie's new friends, a librarian, Mr. Griddlehaus. In Code Grey, Dulcie Schwartz and her unlikely team of allies uncover the intriguing mysteries that have remained hidden for decades on campus. It's a story right out of the pages of Dulcie's own dissertation.

Clea Simon's website is

Code Grey by Clea Simon. Severn House. 2015. ISBN 9780727885067 (hardcover), 216p.

FTC Full Disclosure - The author sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.


Clea Simon said...

Thank you for reading, Lesa! And yes, Dulcie's own writing is my take on academese -- as dense and overwrought as those Gothics she loves. As long as the main book worked for you, I'm thrilled! And yes, I do adore Mr. Griddlehouse, I'm glad you liked him too. (He's a recurring character.)

Reine said...

Hi, Lesa. Hi, Clea.

It's all the more interesting because of the recent disappearances of treasured rare documents at the Boston Public Library. Those under suspicion of theft... leaving their jobs... awful. And now the documents have been recovered. They were misplaced and not stolen. Misplacing items in a library, even rare documents, is something that happens all the time. When people have access things are misplaced. I found a rare 18th century book shelved like any other book in the Divinity School Library at Harvard.

But of course things are stolen, too. I look forward to reading another of your engaging books, Clea.

Lesa, I'm so glad you reviewed this latest of Clea's. I count on your thoughts and appreciate that you reflect on different aspects of a book. It enhances the value of all your reviews.

Clea Simon said...

Reine - Thanks for writing! Wow, you sound like someone Dulcie would love, finding that book! So glad you did! And, yes, the situation at the BPL was horrible. I do feel bad for the folks who lost their jobs, but I'm SO GLAD the prints weren't stolen.(FYI, I did use this as the kickoff for a guest post for Lesa a few days ago, if you're curious.) You probably know about the thefts at the Girolamani library in Naples? That was the spark for "Code Grey," though I took off in a different direction after reading the basics of that case.

Reine said...

Clea, thank you. I had a lot of student jobs over the years there, but my very first was at the Div school library finding lost books in the Old Div section. I found that one by accident while looking for a more recent one.

Regarding the Girolamani thefts, I was shocked to read that De Caro's position as director was not based on education or experience but was apparently a variety of political appointment whose trail went something like being energy advisor in 2010 to director of the library in 2011?

Clea Simon said...

Yes! I wish I could say, "only in Italy (or Naples)" but that could happen here too, I fear.