Books & Literature

Book Review: The Professor, by Lauren Nossett

CRIME: Ethan Haddock is discovered in his apartment, dead, apparently by his own hand. His professor is taken in for questioning, and rumors swirl that his death is the result of a student-teacher bad romance. The story hits the media, an investigation is opened, the professor is suspended, and social media crusaders and trolls alike are out for blood.

Clever, pacey, and engrossing.

Feature image credit: Pan Macmillan Australia

Lauren Nossett’s debut novel The Resemblance, won awards, critical accolades, and a satisfied readership. Her new offering The Professor looks set to do the same, if not more.

Nossett writes in the increasingly popular crime sub-genre of “dark academia.” A doctor of German literature herself, she knows her way around a college campus. In her new novel, we are once again following Marlitt Kaplan. No longer in the police force, she is working as a research assistant. When Ethan, a student at the university, appears to have taken his own life, Marlitt’s mother, who is a professor in the German Department, asks Marlitt to help her colleague Verena, who is being accused of having had an affair with this student, possibly leading to his fatal decision. When Marlitt starts investigating, she finds that there is more to the story than first meets the eye, and maybe Ethan didn’t take his own life, but had it taken from him.

Nossett certainly knows how to craft a tight, suspenseful, crime thriller. But she is also able to weave around that framework some threads of social commentary and astute observation. In The Resemblance, she delved into the murky world of Greek Life on campus: the dreaded fraternity houses. In The Professor she looks more deeply at the current state of academia, where highly qualified teachers and researchers are overloaded, underpaid, and desperately scrambling for tenure.

Marlitt herself is an engaging character: a young, ambitious, woman in the predominantly still male world of law-enforcement. Like many a good “detective” in fiction, she does things her own way, doesn’t always go by the rulebook, and sometimes lets her heart rule her head. Nossett also creates multi-dimensional minor characters around her, allowing for some psychological depth. She is very good at giving us a narrative in which we are not quite sure who is talking, or who it’s about — a structure which adds to the suspense and the emotional roller-coaster that we look for in our crime fiction.

Pacy, cleverly twisty, detailed enough without being over-written (which sadly seems to be a recurring issue with contemporary crime fiction), The Professor satisfies both as a genre-work, and as a work of lighter literary fiction.

Reviewed by Tracey Korsten
Twitter: @TraceyKorsten

The views expressed in this review belong to the author and not Glam Adelaide, its affiliates, or employees.

Distributed by: Pan Macmillan Australia
Released: December 2023
RRP: $34.99

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