Carolyn Gold Heilbrun Melvin J. Friedman - Essay

Melvin J. Friedman

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Amanda Cross, a skilled detective story writer, has given us a lighter side of ["Joyceana"] in her The James Joyce Murder. She has kept pace with the Joyce "industry" and has given us a series of quite plausible events leading to a murder and its curious aftermath….

Each chapter is ingeniously titled after a story from Dubliners. Amanda Cross manages this with a minimum of awkwardness. She must stretch a bit to call a Berkshire town "Araby" and to arrange for a full-scale discussion of "Ivy Day in the Committee Room" to justify the titles of two chapters. Yet she is so at home with Joyce lore and scholarship that everything proceeds with great fluency and ease.

I suspect that Amanda Cross is intimately in touch with the latest developments in fiction, especially with the post-Joycean antics of the nouveau roman. The James Joyce Murder strikes me as being very close at times to certain procedures of Alain Robbe-Grillet, Nathalie Sarraute, and Michel Butor. There is something gently mock-detective about it, in the best tradition of these French contemporaries and also of the Truman Capote of In Cold Blood, the William Styron of Set This House on Fire, and the Colin Wilson of Ritual in the Dark. Even though Amanda Cross' murderer is apprehended in the end, there are many false starts and stops, there are detectives who are more expert at literary criticism than solving crimes, and other mockingredients….

Amanda Cross has a fine ear for academic conversation. She does occasionally overdo it. There is too much "hash-joint-cum-bar," "buddy-cum-tutor," and "cleaning woman-cum-cook;" even academics do not talk this way. But generally the dialogue is convincing.

The James Joyce Murder is a very intriguing book. It is a superior mystery and at the same time manages to say interesting things about the literary mentality. It is, furthermore, a tribute to the importance of Joyce study in this country and deserves a position among a select list of Joyce criticism—despite its fictional nature.

Melvin J. Friedman, "Book Reviews: 'The James Joyce Murder'," in The Modern Language Journal, Vol. LI, No. 6, October, 1967, p. 373.