I remember in my college career being fascinated by the study of linguistics - the underlying structure beneath any language. I mention it because it may be one of the reasons why I found this week's book on the Classic Mysteries podcast, "Double Negative," by David Carkeet, to be so fascinating. You can listen to the full review here.
Carkeet's novel is relatively new, having first appeared in 1980, but it's still fresh and surprisingly fair, along classic lines: it's a murderous puzzle, and we are given clues to help us find the right answer, along with the book's hero, linguist Jeremy Cook. He is one of the linguists at a place called the Wabash Institute, which conducts its studies of pre-language within a day-care center located on the premises. Cook and the others are trying to learn how toddlers acquire language and the mechanisms they use to understand basic concepts. There is a murder: one of Cook's colleagues - and the killer is nasty enough to leave the body in Cook's office. In a marvelous twist, one of the most important clues is provided by a toddler, and I can't think of another book that uses pre-language sounds in a similar way to find a killer.
It's an enjuoyable book - a lot of humor and a good, classic mystery - in fact, as the St. Lous Post Dispatch notes (in the blurb on the back cover of this edition), "the plot [is] as unusual and engaging as any from the Golden Age of the classic detective story." Agreed.
"Double Negative" has been re-released by the Overlook Press (which provided me with a reading copy).
(UPDATED to add tags. D'oh!)