He wanted to do research, but what he ended up with was a murder investigation--murder deep within the porn industry. Desperate to complete the last chapter of his law thesis on workplace dynamics for women to secure his tenure, Professor Stanley Hopkins stumbles on an old close college friend, Donald Johansson, who has plenty of female employees. The problem is that Donald is a porn video king. Taking his wife to California's seedy city of Burbank to help with taping interviews (and to protect his reputation with the university, not to mention his marriage), Stanley realizes he is in way over his head the moment a leading porn star is brutally killed in Donald's office during a party. Donald is arrested and pleads with Stanley to play legal detective. Stanley's problems are compounded, as playing detective for a porn king puts him on thin ice with the university trustees, gets him in hot water with the police, dangles temptation in front of him, and puts his marriage at serious risk. As he solicits the help of eager porn stars and scrabbles for clues to help defend his old friend, Stanley feels the walls closing in on him more and more each minute. Death in Eden is a gripping page-turner and a darkly funny debut novel.
Another enjoyable read, this time with a murder mystery with a little bit of variety thrown in the mixer. We have a university professor, Stanley Hopkins seeking to secure tenure, so in addition to our murder, there’s the internal academia politics to contend with. Stanley’s marvellous idea is to hook up with old college friend and adult film maker, Don Johansson to interview some of his contacts within the porn industry to enable him to complete his thesis, get published and secure tenure – something that will provide a security blanket for him and his wife, Angela.
Overcoming his wife’s initial concerns about him cavorting with porn stars, by outmanoeuvring Angela and roping her in to do the video-taping of his interviews; all goes swimmingly until Don gets arrested for the murder of his latest top hot porn star – Jade Delilah.
Don with his finances and film career heading south, enlists Stanley as part of his defence team to do some investigating. Having been found unconscious and with the murder weapon in his hand, things look bleak for Don, especially when it comes to light that he was in love with the victim and his feelings weren’t reciprocated.
Stanley views interviewing possible witnesses as an extension of his academic training and against the protestations of Angela offers his friend his support. When news of the murder and his involvement in the case breaks back in university-land, Stanley is pressured by his bosses, fearful of the possible damage to their reputation, to drop it and head home – a decision his wife is in full agreement with. Angela flies back, Stanley stays, heaping more pressure on his marriage as well as his job.
Angela alone, stressed, insecure and possibly pregnant, fears Stanley may stray especially when another stunning ex-porn star, Janet Stevens; a lady with a soft spot for Don, takes her place assisting Stan with the interviews for his book and his investigation. That Janet assists Stan while also being on his radar as a possible suspect in the murder added another layer of intrigue to the puzzle. There is one scene where our intrepid Professor gets caught by the ex-porn star rifling through her walk-in closet when his phone goes off…..tense, riveting, tenser and finally hilarious as our quick thinking Prof. gets himself off the hook.
I liked the amateur sleuthing aspect, especially as our investigator wasn’t necessarily endeavouring to solve the murder, just shed light on certain aspects of the case that the police might have overlooked; something that offered alternate motives and suspects which might help his friend. There was plenty to like when Hopkins crossed paths with the Detective in charge of the case – McCaffrey. McCaffrey after initially coming across as a bit of a hard head, was likeable and professional enough to both assist Stan and accept pointers from him. The personal involvement of the cop with the ME also being his ex-wife added a bit more flesh to the drama.
Great mystery, an engaging main character and diverse support cast, with the dynamics and pressures of his job and more interestingly on the relationship between him and his wife adding to the enjoyment. Moments of light relief and humour throughout. Very enjoyable overall.
Interesting to get an insider view on academia and the world of adult film-making, I wonder if the author has personal experience in the second area as well as the first?
4 from 5
The author was kind enough to send me a copy of this for review.
Paul Heald, the Richard W. and Marie L. Corman Professor of Law, joined the Illinois faculty in 2011 after 20 years at the University of Georgia School of Law, where he was the youngest faculty member in the law school's history to be named to a chaired position. He is currently a fellow and associated researcher at CREATe, the RCUK Centre for Copyright and New Business Models in the Creative Economy, based at the University of Glasgow. He recently concluded a stay as Herbert Smith Visitor at Cambridge University.