“In the Last Analysis” by Amanda Cross

Cross, Amanda. In the Last Analysis (1964) 
rpt. Avon Books, 176 pages, $5.50 paperback  
ISBN 0-380-54510-1

Carolyn G. Heilbrun, the reality behind the pseudonym Amanda Cross, was a professor at Columbia University in New York City. In Cross’s Kate Fansler mysteries I hoped to find books with a bit more substance than many current mysteries present. I figured the best place to start the series was at the beginning.

In the Last Analysis introduces Kate Fansler, an English professor an at unnamed university in New York City. One of Kate’s former students asks for a referral to a good psychiatrist. When the student is found murdered on the couch of the psychiatrist, Kate’s close friend Emanuel Bauer, suspicion falls on Emanuel, on his wife, and even on Kate herself.

As might be expected from an academic writer, there are numerous literary references in the book, such as Kate’s remark about Emanuel: “There are many things I don’t admire about Emanuel, but I feel about him as Emerson felt about Carlyle: ‘If genius were cheap,’ Emerson said, ‘we might do without Carlyle, but in the existing population he cannot be spared'” (p. 65). And again: “‘After all, life is full of coincidence, as Hardy knew, though none of us like to admit it'” (p. 115).

What I did not expect to find, though, is snobbish, class-conscious stereotyping: “the facts, if they were facts, on Emanuel’s side were not the sort the police, who must all have stanch lower-middle-class backgrounds, could understand” (p. 35).

An additional problem I had with this novel is understanding Kate Fansler’s age. From the facts given in the book about her life, it’s possible to estimate her age as somewhere between 30 and 35. Yet she SEEMS so much older than that; she thinks, talks, and acts like someone on the back side of middle age, even referring to current college students as “the younger generation.”

I was slightly disappointed with this book, but even more bewildered. I expected more consistent characterization, more substantive literary allusions, and a better mystery. 

© 1998 by Mary Daniels Brown

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