College is often said to be the best time of your life. For some that’s true and for others life either had already peaked in high school or it has yet to reach its apex. But when your collegiate years are marked by the tragedy of a murdered classmate, hardly anybody wants to comment on it for fear of dredging up horrific memories–or they are so curious to not have boundaries for other people’s pain. Within the pages of Robin Kirman’s Bradstreet Gate a murdered co-ed brings together the narrative’s main characters in a convoluted, intertwined story.
Georgia Calvin is a traditionally beautiful and smart blonde with a flair for art and travel. Alice Kovacs is a tall, dark haired, and ambitious girl who has known suffering in her young life with the death of her immigrant father. Charlie Flournoy has worked hard to rise from his humble, blue collar origins to spite his belligerent father. Rufus Storrow is a professor and house master known for his red hair, pristine appearance, and adherence to routine. All these divergent characters are drawn together in the setting of Harvard’s campus, where Storrow is a professor and Georgia, Alice, and Charlie are friends with varying ties to Storrow’s life, both personal and professional. When Julie Patel, one of Storrow’s bright students, is murdered by an unknown assailant on campus, Storrow is assumed to be guilty due to his matching the description of the killer and the disagreement he and Julie had in the public setting of his classroom. With Julie’s death marking each of these characters lives, they fall out of touch and are drawn together at various times throughout the following decade, mostly related to Julie’s early and violent demise.
The fundamentals of the story are all there: exploration, murder, school, and sex; however, the execution of a compelling narrative falls short and instead offers a lackluster mystery and character study. With a narrative that roves omniscient from character to character to gain their perspective on the events occurring in their lives, there is an opportunity for this technique to offer intrigue, but it was less intriguing and more cumbersome as a reader is led fumbling blindly through the story as it builds. It was easy to dislike the characters, and a couple had some qualities that engendered sympathy, but they were not easy to connect with as they remained more stereotyped than realistic (despite their realistic dialogue with one another). The writing in the novel was good, but it was hard to stick with the story with detestable characters and a lack of development toward a resolution of Julie’s murder case.
Overall, I’d give it a 3 out of 5 stars.