Mysteries Set in the Dartmouth/Hanover Area

Given my long-term residence in the Dartmouth/ Upper Valley area of New Hampshire I thought it would be interesting to compile a list of “local” mysteries to use in Dartmouth Alumni lectures and my seminars. The list below does not include the recent spate of publications about the tragic “Dartmouth Murders” of two beloved professors here some years ago since I am concerned only with crime fiction. I hope that anyone who knows of any that I missed will contact me.

The earliest mystery I can find set at Dartmouth College is the Dartmouth Murders, written by Dartmouth grad (Class of 1922) Clifford Orr. It was published by Farrar and Rinehart in 1929. It is quire interesting and cleverly plotted and, for Dartmouth grads, filled with places and buildings still recognizable. It is quaint in that student fire escapes in the dorms at the time were long ropes, and the local Hanover/Norwich Bridge is a covered bridge (it really was). Copies can still be found on-line but they are a bit pricey and can be little frayed.

The book was made into a movie in 1933and titled A Shot in the Dark (not to be confused with at least two other later films of that name). The movie was made in Hollywood so the locale is not familiar and any attempt to replicate the Hanover Inn is a complete failure.

Death and the Professors (E.P. Dutton, 1933) written by Kathleen Sproul is a mystery set at a staid men’s college in New England – a fictional Dunster College. The story revolves around the death of a physics professor – he has his throat cut! Must have been a tough grader!!

Station Wagon in Spain written by Frances Parkinson Keyes (Farrar, Straus and Cudahy, 1959) is set in a small, select school in New England. A professor of Spanish inherits a fortune and goes to Spain to rescue a “Spanish Prisoner”.  A wordy travelogue following the hero across Spain. Mrs. Keyes’ husband was governor of New Hampshire and a U.S. senator in the 1930s.

J.S. Borthwick (aka Jean Scott Creighton) has set a number of excellent mysteries at Bowmouth College (apparently a combination of Bowdoin and Dartmouth). Her college series features Dr. Sarah Dean, Professor of English. One of my favorites and one that is certainly set at Dartmouth is The Student Body (St. Martin’s Press, 1986). It takes place during Winter carnival and is very well done.

Paullina Simons places the action of Red Leaves (St. Martin’s Press, 1996) on the Dartmouth campus and in Hanover. This St. Petersburg (Russia) native focuses on the women’s basketball team and the murder of a bright coed who is involved with a handsome but strange Hanover cop.  It is a fun read because of the campus locale.

Debbie Lee Wesselman, a Dartmouth grad (and daughter of a Dartmouth grad) published an interesting mystery entitled Trutor and the Balloonist (MacAdam Cage, 1997). It is set in a town near Hanover but has action that spills over to Hanover and the campus. It is a bit campy but very well written and fascinating.

Julie Kaewart, a Dartmouth grad, sends her English bibliophile and book publisher Alex Plumtree to Dartmouth in Uncatalogued (Bantam, 2002). Alex and his new bride, (both of whom are Dartmouth grads) return for a reunion but discover a Samuel Pepys manuscript in the Rauner Library and danger follows them. Of all the Plumtree books by Kaewart this is the only one set at Dartmouth and there are interesting little geographic errors as a result of the changes that have occurred on campus.

George Demko, March 2007

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