Learning a little bit about author Michael Collins is enough to, well, make you hate him for being so talented. Born in Limerick, he came to the U.S. to attend Notre Dame on an athletic scholarship. He went on to work at Microsoft, then train as an extreme athlete, which sent him off to events such as the North Pole Marathon and Everest Marathon, where athletes compete at temperatures below zero. Oh yeah, and he writes, too, winning the Irish Novel of the Year with his past effort "Keepers of Truth." His latest effort, "Death of a Writer," is part detective story, part philosophical investigation into literary creativity. If that sounds unwieldy, it's not. The book follows E. Robert Pendleton, who has yet to match the literary success that came early in his career. Despondent, he attempts suicide, fails, and befriends a graduate student who discovers an old manuscript of Pendleton's. When that manuscript is published (without Pendleton's knowledge) it raises questions about an unsolved murder that Pendleton may or may not have committed. Some readers may not appreciate the comedy of academic life depicted here, but the book eventually becomes a full-blown murder mystery with tidbits of philosophizing. It's the kind of tour de force you'd pretty much expect from the likes of Michael Collins. ($24.95 / 320 pages / Bloomsbury)
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