Katy Munger. Better Off Dead. New York: Avon Books, 2001.

Casey Jones, Triangle-based Private Investigator and (contrarily) ex-convict, is enjoying a quiet evening at home watching NC State trounce Duke at basketball. That is, until her boyfriend Burly starts haranguing the disconsolate Blue Devils fans from their Durham apartment window. With all the ruckus, Casey almost misses the knock on her door- and may come to wish she had. Her visitor is a terrified cleaning lady, who isn’t worried for herself, but for her employer- the infamous Helen Pugh McInnes. Casey knows a little about Helen: a graduate student who accused a well-respected Duke professor of rape, she lost her case and became a community pariah. Casey comes to learn that the gentle Helen has spent the year since her day in court too afraid to leave her quiet country home, terrorized by perverse phone calls and letters from her rapist, who is clearly still at large. Even venturing onto her front porch leaves her in the throes of a major panic attack. Casey knows right away that she has to help Helen, but since Helen is viewed as a liar and a loose woman, Detective Jones must tread carefully.

Her first move is to protect Helen: Casey’s boyfriend Burly, her lovable yet flabby boss, Bobby, and Bobby’s voluptuous girlfriend and paragon of Southern charm, Fanny, as well as a host of others all take up residence in Helen’s spacious, self-induced prison. Meanwhile, the thirty-something Casey applies a liberal amount of concealer and eyeshadow in order to infiltrate Duke University itself, going undercover as a non-traditional coed. But she isn’t entirely prepared for what she finds. As usual, the case is complicated by unforeseen circumstances: a wide-eyed college boy develops a crush on the gruff Casey, and for some reason it’s more difficult than usual to determine who the rapist really is. But Casey Jones always gets her man…unless this time, he gets to her first.

Readers will be glad to know that this tightly wound narrative deals sensitively with a difficult topic while still maintaining the series’ usual sense of humor. Katy Munger’s cast of misfits, cops, and strange birds is back, with some entertaining new additions. The Duke community will be pleased to note that the author issues a strong statement in the beginning as to the very fictional content of this novel. The UNC and NC State communities will be more satisfied with Duke’s (inevitable?) loss in the opening game.

Check the availability of this title in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library’s catalog.

1 Comment

Filed under 2000-2009, 2001, Durham, Munger, Katy, Mystery, Novels in Series, Piedmont

One Response to Katy Munger. Better Off Dead. New York: Avon Books, 2001.

  1. Eileen McGrath

    Go Heels!

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