Stanworth, Michelle

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Stanworth, Michelle

(Michelle Spring)

PERSONAL:

Born in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada; married a political theorist; children: two.

ADDRESSES:

Home—Cambridge, England. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

Writer. Cambridge University, Cambridge, England, sociology professor.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Arthur Ellis Award for best mystery or crime novel, 2002, for In the Midnight Hour.

WRITINGS:

NONFICTION

Gender and Schooling: A Study of Sexual Divisions in the Classroom, Women's Research and Resources Centre (London, England), 1981.

(Editor, with Janet Siltanen) Women and the Public Sphere: A Critique of Sociology and Politics, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1984.

(Editor) Reproductive Technologies: Gender, Motherhood, and Medicine, Polity Press in association with B. Blackwell (Cambridge, UK), 1987, University of Minnesota Press (Minneapolis, MN), 1987.

AS MICHELLE SPRING; MYSTERY NOVELS

Every Breath You Take: Introducing Laura Principal, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1994, reprinted as Every Breath You Take, Ballantine (New York, NY), 1999.

Running for Shelter, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1996.

Standing in the Shadows, Ballantine (New York, NY), 1998.

Nights in White Satin, Ballantine (New York, NY), 1999.

In the Midnight Hour, Ballantine (New York, NY), 2001.

The Night Lawyer: A Novel of Suspense, Ballantine Books (New York, NY), 2006.

Contributor to periodicals, including London Times, Observer, Independent, and Sunday Telegraph.

SIDELIGHTS:

Michelle Stanworth is a Cambridge University sociology professor who writes under the pseudonym Michelle Spring. Her mysteries feature Laura Principal, a private investigator who formerly worked in an academic setting similar to Stanworth's, and whose initial case is inspired in part by Stanworth's own experiences with a stalker. Principal plays the saxophone and has an on-and-off-the-job partner, Sonny Mendlowitz. She is introduced in Every Breath You Take, where she and her friend Helen decide to add a third housemate, Monica, to share the expenses of their cottage. Before the arrangements are finalized, Laura finds Monica in her Cambridge flat, tied to a chair, beaten, stabbed, and dead. A Publishers Weekly reviewer wrote that the debut novel has "a few plot holes … but a smart pace."

In Running for Shelter, Laura has been retained to find out who has been stealing from the cast and crew during the rehearsals of Thomas Butler's West End production. When Laura visits his London townhouse, she meets Maria Flores, a Filipina domestic who asks for Laura's help in collecting wages owed by a former employer. Laura later returns to find Maria missing, and the producer disclaims any knowledge of her. In her attempt to find Maria, Laura learns about the world of undocumented workers serving in near-slavery conditions in the homes of the London rich. A Publishers Weekly reviewer wrote that "Spring's offering is carefully plotted, but Principal's meditations on friendship and on the gap between rich and poor are way too easy."

Standing in the Shadows finds Laura working for Howard Platt, whose brother is in prison for committing murder. Daryll had been abused by his family, and he was placed in foster care with sixty-three-year-old Geraldine King. He was eleven when he confessed to her murder after she was found with her skull bashed in. Howard feels guilt because he had gone to Australia, rather than stay and look after Daryll, and wants Laura to find out why his brother committed the crime. As Laura begins to delve into the circumstances, she finds that all the people involved are not who or what they seem and may have hidden motives. They include Daryll's mother, another brother, and a social worker. Geraldine had withdrawn money from her bank account just before her death, and it is now missing. It appears that Daryll may not have committed the crime. Alice DiNizo observed in Library Journal that Laura "is not a fully developed character with whom readers will bond," and called Sonny "a detraction from the main action." "There's not a great deal of action," wrote a Publishers Weekly reviewer, "but what there is turns out to be as honestly and respectably crafted as everything else in the book." A Kirkus Reviews contributor noted the "highly competent parboiled British detective work, even if a crucial few of the dramatis personae remain muffled." According to Washington Post Book World reviewer Bill Kent, the novel "achieves a powerful emotional intensity through the gradual understanding of the kind of evil that would corrupt a child for its own purposes."

Laura and Sonny provide security for the May Ball at St. John's College, Cambridge, in Nights in White Satin. Booklist reviewer Jenny McLarin remarked that the tale "convincingly weaves the city's geography and history into its well-crafted plot." Laura is retained when a frightened student, Katie Arkwright, disappears from the dance in her silvery gown. Senior tutor Stephen Fox turns up dead, with his faced smashed by a cricket bat, after telling Laura that Katie may have been involved in prostitution. Laura is given a history of prostitution by an historian who makes romantic overtures to Laura while Sonny is out of town. As Laura digs for the truth, she finds that the young women of Cambridge are being victimized. A Publishers Weekly reviewer commented that "if Dr. Principal aspires to become Cambridge's female answer to Oxford's Inspector Morse, she will have to give up puns and develop a deeper understanding of academia's dark side." Marilyn Stasio observed in the New York Times Book Review that the author "uses the setting with a sharp sense of irony about the power of beautiful things to distract from their ugly interiors."

In the Midnight Hour, Spring's next entry in the series, won Canada's Arthur Ellis Award for best mystery or crime novel. Olivia and Jack Cable, a famous couple, hire Laura to investigate whether a scruffy street musician is really their son, who disappeared from a beach when he was four years old. Laura becomes entangled in a maze of family relationships and problems in her quest to decide whether the young man is, in fact, their son, or if he is out to con the couple. While a Publishers Weekly reviewer found the book "strained and formulaic," Booklist contributor Connie Fletcher wrote that with In the Midnight Hour, Spring succeeds in creating an "English cozy with a hard edge."

The Night Lawyer: A Novel of Suspense is the next of Spring's crime novels. This book follows Eleanor Porter, a young woman who is attempting to pull her life together following a difficult period, during which time her father was murdered and her lover left her, resulting in a mental breakdown. She takes a position at a local newspaper as the night lawyer, the person responsible for insuring that the edition has no legal difficulties prior to printing, and spends her days learning karate. Then someone begins stalking her, and Eleanor's tenuous grip on her sanity begins to weaken. Booklist contributor Allison Block found the book "long on characterization but short on suspense." However, Lisa Hanson O'Hara, writing for Library Journal, called the book "a nail-biting read." A Publishers Weekly reviewer, while conceding that the ending was a bit too neat, felt that "thriller fans who like a rich London setting will be rewarded."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, June 1, 1999, Jenny McLarin, review of Nights in White Satin, p. 1801; February 1, 2001, Connie Fletcher, review of In the Midnight Hour, p. 65; September 15, 2006, Allison Block, review of The Night Lawyer: A Novel of Suspense, p. 33.

Kirkus Reviews, March 1, 1998, review of Standing in the Shadows, p. 305.

Library Journal, April 15, 1998, Alice DiNizo, review of Standing in the Shadows, p. 116; July, 2000, Susan Connell, review of Nights in White Satin, p. 172; October 1, 2006, Lisa Hanson O'Hara, review of The Night Lawyer, p. 62.

New York Times Book Review, July 11, 1999, Marilyn Stasio, review of Nights in White Satin, p. 29.

Publishers Weekly, March 14, 1994, review of Every Breath You Take: Introducing Laura Principal, p. 66; July 22, 1996, review of Running for Shelter, p. 229; March 2, 1998, review of Standing in the Shadows, p. 62; May 3, 1999, review of Nights in White Satin, p. 69; February 5, 2001, review of In the Midnight Hour, p. 65; September 25, 2006, review of The Night Lawyer, p. 46.

Times Literary Supplement, July 16, 1999, Mary Beard, review of Nights in White Satin, p. 23.

Washington Post Book World, August 9, 1998, Bill Kent, review of Standing in the Shadows, p. 4.

Wilson Library Bulletin, May, 1994, Gail Pool, review of Every Breath You Take, p. 86.

ONLINE

Unusual Suspects,http://www.unusualsuspects.co.uk (June 9, 2007), author's home page.

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