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Oink: A Food for Thought Mystery
J.L. Newton, author
Emily Addams, foodie professor of women’s studies at Arbor State―a land grant university in Northern California―finds herself an unlikely suspect in the poisoning of a man she barely knows: Professor Peter Elliott of Plant Biology, the hotshot developer of a new genetically modified corn. How did her cornbread (unmistakable for its goat cheese and caramelized onions) end up in his hand as he lay in the smelly muck of the university’s historic hog yard? As Emily and her colleagues try to identify who and what has poisoned Peter, they also struggle to keep a new and corporate-minded administration from defunding the women’s and ethnic studies programs. In the process of solving the mystery, Emily and her network deepen their ties to each other, save their programs, and uncover some of the dark secrets of a university whose traditionally communal values are being polluted by a wave of profit-fueled ideals. A satiric novel about the struggle between communal and market forces in academia—and, by implication, the globe, Oink maintains that communities based on pleasure, mutual care, and a thirst for social justice still have power to improve our private lives and public worlds. Oink comes with recipes.
Newton, a professor of women’s studies for 20 years, puts her insider knowledge of academia to fine use in this highly entertaining whodunit, the first in a promising series. In 1999, Emily Addams, the head of the women’s studies department at California’s Arbor State University, faces a professional crisis. The university, facing decreasing support from the state and increasingly dependent on corporate funding, is looking for ways to save money. The new vice provost advocates subsuming women’s studies into another department. As Emily and her colleagues running similar small programs scramble to survive, she becomes enmeshed in an inquiry into the attempted homicide of Peter Elliott, a plant biologist whom she knows only slightly. Peter, who was experimenting with feeding pigs genetically modified corn, was found in a coma in the hog yard. The police suspect he was poisoned, possibly by cornbread that Emily made for a campus reception. The winning lead, superior prose, and clever plotting set this above the pack. Recipes are a bonus. (BookLife)