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Dartmouth College Library Bulletin

Journey's End THE MYSTERIOUS COLLEGE

This journey began at the Rue Morgue, a shop in Boulder, Colorado, that purports to be the oldest mystery bookstore in the world. There on the shelves was a pristine copy of Clifford Orr's The Dartmouth Murders. (1) It was in perfect condition. Even the dustwrapper -- lacking on the copy in Special Collections -- was in superb condition, with the exception of a few chips on the bottom edge of the spine. An orange band printed on the green dustwrapper puffs the novel:

'Absorbing and dramatic mystery and crime.' -Transcript

' . . . five feverish days on the campus . . . sensational.' -New York Herald-Tribune

' . . . suspense and horror sustained to the end, with an unexpected solution of the problem.' -Boston Evening Transcript

Having purchased this classic college mystery for our own collection, we wondered if there were other mysteries that involved either the Dartmouth campus or Dartmouth faculty. Searching the online catalog under the subject heading 'Dartmouth College - - Fiction' produced interesting results. Over the years, we have collected a number of fictitious accounts of the college, but only a few are true mysteries. A more helpful tool is John E. Kramer Jr. and John E. Kramer III, College Mystery Novels . (2) Here are listed several other mysteries that relate to the college:

Kathleen Sproul, Death and the Professors (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1933).

A member of the physics faculty of 'Dunster College,' a venerable men's school in New England, has his throat slit after a colleague dies during a dinner party. Nearly every member of the college is a suspect at one time or another.

Frances Parkinson Keyes, Station Wagon in Spain (New York: Farrar, Straus and Cudahy, 1959).

A professor of Spanish at a small, select college in New England goes to Spain after inheriting a fortune. Five deaths and solutions later, the professor returns to the college to impart his wisdom to his students. Mrs. Keyes's husband was Governor of New Hampshire (1917-1919) and United States senator (1919-1931).

Emma Lathen, Come to Dust (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1968).

John Putnam Thatcher, the eminent New York banker created by the pseudonymous duo known as Emma Lathen, is called in to solve the murder of a prospective student, the theft of the files on the incoming freshman class, and the disappearance of a $50,000 bearer bond intended for the endowment. All this takes place on the campus of Brunswick College, a select institution of higher learning in Coburg, New Hampshire. Lewis Hosegood, A Time-Torn Man (London: William Heinemann, 1973).

While his employment history is not critical to this tale of violence and international intrigue, Wladyslaw Brunowicz, the main character, taught history at Dartmouth before becoming involved in an attempt to rewrite the history of World War II. Carolyn Banks, Mr. Right (New York: The Viking Press, 1979).

The sexual proclivities of a novelist, once a theatre profesor at a small New Hampshire college very much like Dartmouth College, are the focus of this mystery. Old colleagues drag the past into the present, including a murder on the New Hampshire campus.

One mystery published after Kramer and Kramer's compendium that must be noted is:

J. S. Borthwick, The Student Body (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1986).

Winter Carnival at Bowmouth College is the scene of the crime in this mystery where the locale is clearly a conflation of the Dartmouth and Bowdoin campuses.

The editors would be pleased to know of other Dartmouth mysteries, fictional of course.

P.N.C.

  1. Clifford Orr, The Dartmouth Murders (New York: Farrar & Rinehart, 1929). The volume, dedicated to Franklin McDuffie 1921 of the Dartmouth English Department, was copyrighted by the Collegiate World Publishing Company (College Humor). It first appeared in serial form as 'The Dartmouth Mystery,' in College Humor , 18:2-4 (September-November, 1929). The original typescript of the novel is Dartmouth College Library, Special Collections, MS-596. Orr was a member of the Class of 1922.
  2. College Mystery Novels: An annotated bibliography, including a guide to professional series-character sleuths. Garland Reference Library of the Humanities, volume 360 (New York: Garland Publishing Company, 1983). The authors Kramer are members of the Class of 1956 and 1985, respectively.