Carolyn Gold Heilbrun Newgate Callendar - Essay

Newgate Callendar

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Amanda Cross writes mystery stories featuring a college professor (of English) named Kate Fansler. The dialogue in her books is supercivilized, in the drawing-room tradition, with long, resounding periods….

Amanda Cross knows her Wilde and Shaw, and fine models they are for any writer. But the trouble with "The Question of Max" is that it wears this kind of Beautiful Writing like a great purple badge. Most of the Cross characters tend to talk this way; and since the author, after all, is not up to Wildean or Shavian flights, the result can be interminably dull, not to say pretentious.

Like most of the Cross books, "The Question of Max" takes plenty of time in its presentation. It is about lady authors, a quiet murder, a quiet solution and a traditional final confrontation in which the killer faces Professor Fansler with evil intent. And she is all alone. There is a subsidiary plot about cheating on college boards; but this, of course, is tied up with the main mystery. This book is for specialized tastes.

Newgate Callendar, "Criminals at Large: 'The Question of Max'," in The New York Times Book Review (© 1976 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), October 3, 1976, p. 36.