A rich patroness has died and left a sizable bequest to the struggling St. Martha's College at Cambridge, and factional battles have broken out about how to use the gift. "The decision has to be taken by the end of the term," writes protagonist Martin Amiss, "and the Fellows are at war over what it should be. With her customary delicacy, Jack describes the two main tribes as the Virgins and the Dykes, with a minority party called the Old Women."
The first group, Amiss explains, "are devising the Alice Toon Postgraduate Scholarships in Theology, Paleography, Medieval Law and so on. Dame Maud Theodosia is compiling a definitive list at present of the most unpopular subjects anyone can think of.
"The second lot, the Dykes, are fewer in number but they're better street-fighters ... Her lot want to spend the money on a centre for Gender and Ethnic Studies." And the "Old Women are in fact men." I'm not far into the book, then, but I am prepared to have my sensibilities joyously offended.
Edwards said more than once during her appearances at the Books 2008 Crime Writing Series that she writes about institutions, so what she's up to is not sexism or cheap shots. Rather, it's a little thing called satire, and so far it's been nice to read.
© Peter Rozovsky 2008