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Jane Langton: The Transcendental Murder {Excerpt}

Jane Langton: The Transcendental Murder {Excerpt}

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Published by OpenRoadMedia
In an intellectual hamlet, century-old love letters give rise to murder

The citizens of Concord, Massachusetts, never tire of their heritage. For decades, the intellectuals of this little hamlet have continued endless debates about Concord’s favorite sons: Emerson, Hawthorne, Thoreau, and their contemporaries. Concord’s latter-day transcendental scholars are a strange bunch, but none is more peculiar than Homer Kelly, an expert on Emerson and on homicide. An old-fashioned murder is about to put both skills to the test.

At a meeting of the town’s intellectuals, Ernest Goss produces a cache of saucy love letters written by the men and women of the transcendentalist sect. Although Homer chortles at the idea that Louisa May Alcott and Ralph Waldo Emerson might have had a fling, Goss insists the letters are real. He never gets a chance to prove it. Soon after he is found killed by a musket ball. The past may not be dead, but Goss certainly is.
In an intellectual hamlet, century-old love letters give rise to murder

The citizens of Concord, Massachusetts, never tire of their heritage. For decades, the intellectuals of this little hamlet have continued endless debates about Concord’s favorite sons: Emerson, Hawthorne, Thoreau, and their contemporaries. Concord’s latter-day transcendental scholars are a strange bunch, but none is more peculiar than Homer Kelly, an expert on Emerson and on homicide. An old-fashioned murder is about to put both skills to the test.

At a meeting of the town’s intellectuals, Ernest Goss produces a cache of saucy love letters written by the men and women of the transcendentalist sect. Although Homer chortles at the idea that Louisa May Alcott and Ralph Waldo Emerson might have had a fling, Goss insists the letters are real. He never gets a chance to prove it. Soon after he is found killed by a musket ball. The past may not be dead, but Goss certainly is.

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Published by: OpenRoadMedia on Jun 15, 2012
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Amherst only one hundred miles away. Sam must have known Sophia Peabody
 
 
THE TRANSCENDENTAL MURDER 
Jane LangtonThere was a big man sitting at the other end of the table in the reference room of the Concord Library when Mary came in and put down her file. He had a safety pinon one side of his glasses and adhesive tape on the other. His necktie was allover  butterflies. He glanced up at her briefly. He had to look way up, because Mary wassix feet tall. For a minute as she settled down with her book she thought about thesharp look of his small eye and the sawn piece of brown hair hanging across thetop of his face. Then she got to work.
 Memoirs of the Social Circle in Concord 
, 1895–1909. Read the memoir on SamStaples, who locked up Henry Thoreau in 1846 for not paying any poll tax to agovernment that countenanced the Fugitive Slave Law and war with Mexico. Readit and stop playing around. Look at Sam’s chin-whiskery face. Look for referencesto your ladies. Did Sam know Elizabeth Hoar, Margaret Fuller, Lidian Emerson?Of course there was no hope that any of them knew Emily Dickinson, glorifyingHawthorne. (Peabody. Was the accent on the first syllable or should you comedown hard on the penult, too? If a bag of salted penults costs five cents, how muchfor a bag of antepenults?) Mary closed her book with a bang. Come now. It’s justthis sort of thing that keeps you from getting anything done. Concentrate. Whatabout those female Norcross cousins that Emily Dickinson had in Concord? Didshe ever come to visit them? Did the Norcross sisters have any male relatives in theSocial Circle? Mary ran her finger down the list. No Norcrosses here. Try another volume. She got up and looked through Volumes I and II. No luck. Vaguely shelooked around for Volume III.“Here,” said the man at the table, “what name are you looking for?”Mary stared at him. He had it. “Norcross,” she mumbled.His big thumb flipped the book open at the list of memoirs in the front. “Not here,”he said. Then he snapped the book shut and went back to his notes.Well. That was that. Mary would have liked to look for herself. But she said,
 
 
“Thank you,” and turned to something else. She found Edward Emerson’s book about his father and spent her morning on it. Her beautiful free morning. Even withher eyes on the page she was conscious of the way the stranger at the other end of the table used his books. It was a subject on which she was a connoisseur. All theother days of the week Mary stood behind the charging desk, a guardian of the books in the library rather than a reader. And so she knew them all—the magazineleafer, the morning-paper reader, the homework doer, the author of a talk onConcord gardens of yesteryear. This man knew what he was looking for, where tofind it and how to take it away. He made notes in a rapid scrawl on a pad of lined paper. He hauled a sheaf of papers out of his briefcase, ran swiftly through them,extracted one and scribbled across the top. Once he snorted to himself. Somethingwas funny.Edward Emerson wasn’t. He was reverent. No one who had known Ralph WaldoEmerson was ever anything else. Usually Mary felt reverent, too. But now shewould have loved a breath of Emersonian scandal. She hung her feet in their bigtennis shoes on the rung of her chair, and hunched her shoulders over her book.The man pushed back his chair and got up. He rose and rose and blotted out thewindow.Mary looked up in spite of herself. Tall enough, she thought, then checked herself savagely, and glared back at Edward Emerson. The man went out. Mary got up,too, after a while, and left the reference room. She crossed the main room with itscheck-out desk, its balconies, its white busts of Henry Thoreau and NathanielHawthorne and Louisa May Alcott and Bronson Alcott and Ebenezer RockwoodHoar and its great seated statue of Emerson and went into her own office to eat her  paperbag lunch. She left the door open and looked out at Nathaniel Hawthorne’snaked classical collarbone. For Mary the Concord Public Library was a pleasuredome and palace of delight. The high dusty ceiling might have been a sultan’scanopy, the stern Carrara Transcendentalists so many dancing girls. Mary hadcaught the transcendental fever long ago, and she planned never to recover. Shewas writing a book now about the women, taking her time, still reading at random.She had happy thoughts and rattled them out on her typewriter. Everything shewrote was covered over with a film of sweetness, and whenever she read it shelicked the sugar. Later it would not be so. She knew how the sugary bits would notfit in, and the grandiose ideas would turn insubstantial. But now it was all sugar,sweet sugar. Mary stared at the wall, put down her sandwich, and turned to her 

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