Title: The Writing Class
Author: Jincy Willett
Release Date: June 10, 2008
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Mystery
Rating: **** (out of 5)
From the dust jacket:
Amy Gallup is gifted, perhaps too gifted for her own good. Published at only twenty-two, she peaked early and found critical but not commercial success. Now her former life is gone, along with her writing career and beloved husband. A reclusive widow, Amy’s daily mantra is KILL ME NOW, her sole companion a dour, flatulent basset hound who barely tolerates her – she is a loner who is afraid to be alone. The only bright spot each week is the writing class she teaches at the university extension.
This semester’s class is full of the usual suspects: the doctor who wants to be the next Robin Cook, the overly enthusiastic repeat student, the unassuming pupil with the hidden talent, the prankster, the know-it-all…Amy’s seen them all before. But something is very different about this class – and the clues begin with a scary phone call in the middle of the night and obscene threats instead of peer evaluations on writing assignments. Amy soon realizes that one of the callers is a very sick puppy, and when a member of the class is murdered, everyone becomes a suspect. As she dissects each student’s writing for clues, Amy must enlist the help of everyone in her class, including the murderer, to find the killer among them.
Suspenseful, extremely witty, brilliantly written, unexpectedly hilarious, and a joy from start to finish, The Writing Class is a one-of-a-kind novel that rivals Jincy Willett’s previous masterpieces.
While I’ve never read another one of Jincy Willett’s other works, and can’t testify to whether The Writing Class “rivals one of Jincy Willett’s previous masterpieces” (sorry, I couldn’t help myself – that line made me laugh out loud!), I did enjoy the book quite a bit.
First of all, the book is very funny. Not so much in that laugh-out-loud hilariousness, but it is subtle and witty. The characters are all well written, to the point where, when I was trying to figure out who the murderer was, I conjectured that it could be someone as-yet-unintroduced in the book because I didn’t want to believe it was any of the characters in the writing class. (I’m not going to tell you whether I was right or wrong). It also includes some hilarious examples of bad writing (introduced through the writing class itself, not Jincy Willett’s writng).
I would say the best part of this book is its uniqueness. The murder mystery aspect is intriguing and keeps the reader guessing. That, combined with wit, makes this a light and fun read. Despite the fact that there is a murder, the book is not heavy in the slightest. The worst it gets is a little creepiness here and there.
As far as the downsides, I’d have to say that my main criticism of the book is that it isn’t believable. The characters don’t act as three-dimensional people (they insist that the writing class continue, even after a person was murdered – my inclination would be to stay as far away as possible!). Also, the ending is a bit ambigious and unfinished, which is a pet peeve of mine.
The humor really makes the book though – apparently the author wrote another book called Winner of the National Book Award. I have no idea what it’s about, but I already want to read it!