James W. Ziskin is a freelance writer. A linguist by training, Ziskin has a bachelor of arts and a master of arts from the University of Pennsylvania in Romance languages and literature. For five years, he was director of New York University’s Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò, where he collaborated with an impressive catalogue of Italian writers, journalists, and academics on cultural and educational events.
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Ellie Stone is a professed modern girl in 1960s' New York City, playing by her own rules and breaking boundaries while searching for a killer among the renowned scholars in Columbia University's Italian Department.
"If you were a man, you'd make a good detective."
Ellie Stone is sure that Sgt. McKeever meant that as a compliment, but that identity-a girl wanting to do a man's job-has throttled her for too long. It's 1960, and Ellie doesn't want to blaze any trails for women; she just wants to be a reporter, one who doesn't need to swat hands off her behind at every turn.
Adrift in her career, Ellie is back in New York City after receiving news that her estranged father, a renowned Dante scholar and distinguished professor, is near death after a savage bludgeoning in his home. The police suspect a routine burglary, but Ellie has her doubts. When a second attempt is made on her father's life, in the form of an "accident" in the hospital's ICU, Ellie's suspicions are confirmed.
Then another professor turns up dead, and Ellie's investigation turns to her father's university colleagues, their ambitions, jealousies, and secret lives. Ellie embarks on a thorny journey of discovery and reconciliation, as she pursues an investigation that offers her both a chance at redemption in her father's eyes, and the risk of losing him forever.
"An engrossing debut in what promises to be a fascinatingly complex series set in the 1960s. With abundant academic flair and somber references to the Holocaust and World War II, Ziskin successfully pulls off a nuanced plot sure to appeal to both fans of academia and Mad Men."
“In Ziskin’s version of the classic ‘noir’ novel, the scene of the crime is a trendy Manhattan high-rise rather than a dive in LA or ‘Frisco.’ What’s more, his murder victims are learned academics rather than crooks, so they cross the infernal river just once without first going up the creek. Most surprising for our expectations in the noir genre is that Ziskin’s protagonist is not a boozy, disheveled, and raunchy has-been, but a beautiful, chic young woman and raunchy wannabe.”
—John Freccero, professor of Italian literature, New York University
“Styx & Stone is a knockout! Vivid period detail, a clever plot revolving around a stolen academic manuscript, and a memorable protagonist add up to one of the year’s best mystery debuts. Readers will want to see a lot more of Ellie Stone, a reporter who can hold her own with the boys—even when it messes with her heart—at the start of the ‘Swinging Sixties.’”
—Lynne Raimondo, author of Dante’s Wood