top of page
  • N. N. Light

Shade by H. N. Hirsch is a recommended read #LGBT #LGBTQ #mystery #bookboost

Title Shade

Author H N Hirsch

Genre Mystery; LGBT

Publisher Pisgah Press

Book Blurb

A modern murder mystery. Assistant Professor Marcus George, a young, gay Harvard faculty member striving to find his footing in the Ivy League, is drawn into investigating the murder of one of his former students, the son of an elite Massachusetts family. Centered on the tense, competitive world of academic politics, the narrative vividly captures the publish-or-perish standards of academia, the strictures of life in exclusive enclaves in Boston and Kennebunkport, and the gay subculture along the New England coast. As he investigates the murder, Marcus stumbles across academic and financial corruption that could ruin several lives -- even as he falls into a tender and heartwarming love affair that will change his own. Hirsch's first novel is a beautifully realized, gripping tale in the classic style of the murder mystery genre.


At first he did not think it would be anything, just a quick meal with a former student. He didn’t know a young life was about to end, or that his own life was, in a way, just beginning.


Marcus George stood on the stairs of Widener Library, halfway up, waiting. He was sweating, more from nerves than from the early-summer heat, though he cursed himself for wearing his corduroy jacket, the sort of jacket that was almost a requirement at Harvard back then, part of the uniform of a serious young scholar.

He tried to think of something cool and refreshing and looked around at the old, graceful trees. Harvard Yard was full of people lounging on the grass, talking, laughing. Summer school students were eating bag lunches on the steps of Memorial Church. As usual, he envied the nonchalance of the young.

Two colleagues smiled at him from the bottom of the stairs. Marcus smiled back, his best junior faculty smile, and gave a little wave. They were no doubt on their way to the faculty club for lunch: Deena Echols, newly tenured, and Sidney Hawley, who had been at Harvard for decades. Deena’s smile was tight, dismissive; she had been friendly toward Marcus while she was a lowly untenured assistant professor, but now she was one of the elect and had no time for him. Harvard was full of these subtle signs of its class system. To look busy, Marcus pretended to shuffle some papers in the outside pocket of his briefcase.

Damn preppy. Where the hell is he?

He put his briefcase down on the concrete, loosened his tie, then picked up the briefcase, walked to the bottom of the steps, and considered the rest of his day. PhD oral at 3:00. The obligatory drink after. Then home, alone, as usual.

Looking around Harvard Yard, Marcus wondered how much longer he would have a place here. He glanced up at the library entrance, thought about going to his carrel, but it was just a wire cage looking out on a dreary courtyard, not a real office like those given to the senior faculty. No, he thought, I can’t sit in there right now, too depressing, I’ll grab lunch by myself.

And then he saw Trip emerge from the library entrance at the top of the stairs. He was tan, wearing a polo shirt and chinos, and looked like a model for Banana Republic. He was smiling broadly and waved.

His full name was Addison Cornell Howard III, but everyone called him Trip. Marcus remembered smiling to himself when he first saw the name on his class roster—a true blue blood. Three names, all interchangeable, were the sure sign. It could be three first names, like David Herbert Donald, one of the more eminent Harvard historians, or three last names, like Endicott Peabody Saltonstall, an alum and politician after whom a senior prize had been named. Either way, three interchangeable names were a dead giveaway. Marcus might have been in the club himself except that his parents hadn’t bothered to give him a middle name, he’d grown up working-class, and he was Jewish.

He’d assumed Trip would be the usual spoiled preppy, slightly sneering, above it all, a varsity athlete who cared nothing for his classes, knowing his future was secure. But Trip was different. He was a serious student, diligent, always prepared, insightful, and he wrote concise, razor-sharp essays. Marcus had been the adviser for his senior honors thesis on Abraham Lincoln, and Trip had just graduated magna cum laude. He had written a bold and interesting thesis, tying Lincoln’s early, possibly homoerotic relationship with Joshua Speed to his later ideas about brotherhood and fraternity. It was a subtle work, delicately written, not overplaying the possibility of a physical relationship between Lincoln and Speed, but not underplaying it either. It was well done, original.

Trip was openly, proudly gay, and stunningly beautiful to boot. Tall, muscular, light brown hair that turned blond in the summer, with a smile that could win him the elective office he would no doubt someday seek, continuing the family tradition. His older brother was already a state senator. Among his ancestors were well-known figures from Massachusetts history on both sides of the family, including a U.S. senator, a governor, and a famous abolitionist.

Marcus hadn’t been able to suppress the jolt of attraction he felt looking at Trip, listening to him speak in class or one-on-one during office hours. He tried not to let it show, of course, but they seemed to be playing the usual game. Yes, I know you’re attracted to me, Trip’s manner subtly suggested, but we won’t discuss that or do anything about it. Yes, I know you’re gorgeous and gay, Marcus telegraphed, but you’re a student and I’m a professor, end of story. It was a game Marcus had played before, sometimes reluctantly, sometimes willingly, and by now he recognized its contours and rules.

Buy Links (including Goodreads)

Author Biography

A graduate of the University of Michigan, with advanced degrees from Princeton University, H.N. Hirsch is the Erwin N. Griswold Professor of Politics Emeritus at Oberlin College in Ohio, where he also held a joint appointment from 2005-2014 in Comparative American Studies; served as Acting Chair of the Department of Politics in 2010-2011; and was Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, 2005-06. He began his career at Harvard, where he was Head Tutor in the Department of Government; he later served as Director of the Legal Studies Program at Macalester College; and chaired the Department of Political Science at the University of California at San Diego and at Macalester. He is the author or editor of Office Hours: One Academic Life (2016); A Theory of Liberty: The Constitution and Minorities (1992); and The Enigma of Felix Frankfurter (1981/2014); and editor of The Future of Gay Rights in America (2005). Among his areas of legal expertise are Constitutional law and jurisprudence; modern political theory; and gender and sexuality.

Social Media Links


bottom of page