Saturday, November 29, 2008
Pick of the Month: The Writing Class by Jincy Willett
The Writing Class by Jincy Willett
Protagonist: Amy Gallup
Setting: Southern California
Every once in a while comes a book that I drag from room to room, because it literally is hard to put down. The Writing Class is that book. Willett takes a conventional murder mystery format (the closed community), but gives it a fresh, dark humor twist. Amy Gallup is a fiction writing teacher at an extension college. She's also, as Willett writes, a "bitter, peculiar person" who lives alone with her dog and hasn't written herself for years. But, for once, Amy finds that she has a writing class that really clicks -- 13 people of varying degrees of talent. Yet almost immediately class members and Amy start receiving poison pen letters, then prank calls. It spirals out of control, until one class member is seemingly murdered. The police won't investigate, thinking it's an accident. So it's up to the class members, which include the killer, to figure out the mystery.
Willett has drawn each character so well that you really don't want any of them to be the murderer. Throughout the book, Amy draws up lists for her blog. So I, pen in hand, was soon making a list of each class member, trying to figure out the whodunnit (I never did). A few pages later, Amy herself has drawn up the same list (still no help).
The book also works on another level, for whoever has ever wanted to be a writer or just loves language. Willett includes parts of students' stories, some very good, some so bad they make you laugh. The critiques and Amy's lessons make you feel part of the class, as well as providing clues about each character.
The Writing Class hasn't gotten much buzz, which is unfortunate. This is a funny, well-crafted mystery, very worthy of reading.