Last summer, a friend’s mom gave me a copy of Murder in the Collective, by Barbara Wilson, after I was venting about interpersonal difficulties in a political collective. She and her fellow collective house members left around their house back in the 1980’s to remind one person living there that he might not want to temp fate.
The story was engaging. The characters were believable, reminding me of people I have met. The premise is that there’s a mixed-gender printing coop and a lesbian-only type setting coop that are somewhat at odds but may be about to merge. There are contentious meetings, larger movement conflicts, and complicated inter-person dynamics as the background to a murder mystery solved by Pam Nilsen, graduate student-come-collective member-come-amateur detective. The ending was slightly rushed, but creative and surprising. The book recognizes and skillfully plays with movement dynamics, interpersonal dynamics, and conflicts along the lines of gender, class, race, sexual orientation, and family background.
The story opens up beautifully. I keep finding myself unable to say more about the book because I don’t want to spoil any of the surprises. There’s big-p-politcs and little-p-politics, the mundane mixed with geopolitical intrigue, and a villain who confirms our deepest fears without painting the future as hopeless. It isn’t the best murder mystery I’ve ever read, but I’ll definitely be passing the book on my pulpy mystery loving, social justice focused friends with a hearty recommendation.