Murder in the Collective

Wilson, Barbara

My favorite elements of this amateur sleuth story are the examples of progressive/feminist/lesbian political collective culture of the time, like everyone automatically saying no to being fingerprinted to help the cops identify a vandal.

"You know, we don't want to rule out the possibility that we were vandalized by someone in the community who didn't like our halftones, or even some weirdo from the Moral Majority, but if this did happen because of the merger, then I doubt we'd want to press charges. I think we'd prefer to work it out among ourselves."

"I hear you," said Officer Alice. … "Well then," said Officer Alice. "I think you still might be glad to have the report and the fingerprints on file down at central. You never know. All the talking in the world doesn't bring back your equipment."

"We got the fingerprinting down," said Officer Bill, coming back into the front room. "Now if we can just get yours, too."

"No," we all said in unison, perfect children of the seventies. "No fingerprints."

I also like this exchange on racism/white guilt:

" worry about being called racist as if it were syphilis or something. Like you were accused of carrying some dread, disfiguring, incurable disease. But I think it's more like telling someone or being told, 'Hey, you've got snot hanging out of your nose.' You say thank you and wipe it off. Though that doesn't mean the snot's not going to ever drip again."

Generally I liked the characters and politics more compelling than the mystery, but that's probably more about me than about the quality of the whodunnit. There's also a healthy dose of Filipin@ politics that will appeal to topical readers. I do wish there'd been a little more about the printing business, especially since the author wrote a stirring chapter about the importance of women printers for Make Your Own History: Documenting Feminist and Queer Activism in the 21st Century.

Nov 17 2012