Professor Parry was tall, blond and handsome. His only flaws were his thinning hair and an uncontrollable urge to inject original limericks into every conversation. When a black-haired, black-eyed professor of French (whose accent was said to take on the flavor of garlic when she got excited) is found dead in the college library, Parry has personal reasons to look into her death.
Set at a thinly disguised version of Cornell University, The Widening Stain was written by a Cornell professor of romance literature (later its provost) who frequently contributed short humor pieces to The New Yorker, Saturday Evening Post and Life. He published his only mystery under a pseudonym and denied, at least in jest, authorship. A copy of the book was found in the Cornell Library with the following limerick scribbled on the flyleaf:
A cabin in northern Wisconsin:
Is what I would be for the nonce in,
To be rid of the pain
Of The Widening Stain
And W. Bolingbroke Johnson
But the only pain readers will suffer will come from laughing so hard their sides might split. Published in 1942, the book was an immediate hit, going into several printings.
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