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Murder 101

Murder 101

3.8 48
by Maggie Barbieri

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Safely away from the chaos of Manhattan, St. Thomas, a small college on the banks of the Hudson River in the Bronx, is supposed to be tranquil, bucolic, and serene. Unfortunately, English professor Alison Bergeron has found it to be anything but. Recently divorced from a fellow professor and even more recently without a car---it was stolen---she has been hoofing it


Safely away from the chaos of Manhattan, St. Thomas, a small college on the banks of the Hudson River in the Bronx, is supposed to be tranquil, bucolic, and serene. Unfortunately, English professor Alison Bergeron has found it to be anything but. Recently divorced from a fellow professor and even more recently without a car---it was stolen---she has been hoofing it to school. One Friday evening, two NYPD homicide detectives drop by her office. The good news is that they found her beat-up Volvo; the bad news is that the body of one of the students in her Shakespeare seminar was in the trunk.

Not only are Alison's chances of getting the car back bleak, but suddenly she's the primary suspect on a list that includes, among others, the murdered student's drug-dealing boyfriend, Vince, and the girl's father's business rivals (he's head of an old Italian family . . .).

Accused of a crime that she didn't commit, Alison enlists her best friend, Max's, emotional support and services as an amateur sleuth. Their fumbling efforts to clear Alison's name could land her in even hotter water with Detective Bobby Crawford, the handsome investigating officer (and former altar boy)---not to mention the nuns at St. Thomas. . . .

Maggie Barbieri's charming professor and down-to-earth detective make an unlikely but lovable team in her delightful debut mystery.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
At the start of Barbieri's sparkling debut, Alison Bergeron, a divorced English professor who teaches at St. Thomas, a small Catholic college in the Bronx, is dismayed when her car is stolen, but she's stunned when handsome NYPD homicide detective Bobby Crawford informs her that it has been recovered-with the body of Kathy Miceli, one of her students, in the trunk. Alison becomes a suspect in Kathy's murder, but disturbing incidents like the ransacking of Alison's office help persuade Bobby she's innocent. The sassy banter between Alison and Bobby nicely balances the escalating tension of the murder investigation, which calls into question the integrity of Alison's philandering ex-husband, another St. Thomas professor. Romance, humor and suspense blend perfectly in this exceptional cozy, the first of what hopefully will be a long series. (Nov.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Having her car stolen is only the beginning of Alison Bergeron's bad day. When the police find the car, they also discover in the trunk the body of one of her students; her philandering ex-husband is picked up for questioning. In this debut entry of the ever-expanding world of chick-lit mystery, the characters are so irritating that any attempt at humor is spoiled. [See Prepub Mystery, LJ 7/06.] Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
An English professor finds herself both the target of a murder investigation and the object of the investigator's affections in Barbieri's mystery debut. Puking on a police detective's shoes isn't the smoothest move, but that's exactly how English professor Alison Bergeron greets the news that freshman Kathy Miceli's body has been found in the trunk of her car. And Bobby Crawford, owner of the shoes, is the good cop. The bad cop, a cranky guy named Wyatt in a bad suit, just wants to slap the cuffs on Alison. But Crawford prevails: He tails Alison patiently as her best friend, Max Rayfield, persuades her to break into LaSalle Hall and toss the room of Kathy's boyfriend Vince; he shows up at her house to ask just a few more questions; and finally he takes her down to his family's Seaside Heights beach house for a much-needed break. But even when Wyatt turns his attention toward others-including Alison's ex-husband, Ray, whose affair with the dead girl makes him an especially promising suspect-Crawford remains focused on Alison, whose experience with an unfaithful ex makes her wary of any blossoming romance. It's not until someone breaks into her office and stuffs her into the back seat of a Jeep that Alison realizes the police aren't the only ones to treat with caution. Alison is game enough, and her amatory life absorbing enough, to make you almost forgive the absence of authentic mystery. Agent: Deborah Schneider/Gelfman Schneider Literary Agents Inc.

Product Details

St. Martin's Press
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Murder 101 Series , #1
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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One 
"Your ass looks great in that dress."
Max is my best friend and that's her idea of a compliment. When she showed up at my office precisely at six, I was bent over the lowest drawer of my filing cabinet putting some exam booklets away. We air kissed because, as usual, she had three layers of Russian Red lipstick painted on, and I didn't have turpentine handy to remove her lip prints from my cheek. "Are you wearing a girdle?" She threw her briefcase onto one of my guest chairs and draped herself across the other one, throwing one leg over the arm of the chair. Max was in a gorgeous black dress and black shoes with red soles. She noticed me looking at them. "Christian Louboutin," she said. As if I knew what that meant.
I stood up and slammed my file cabinet shut and turned to face her. I wasn't sure if I should be flattered or insulted. "I'm not wearing a girdle." I paused a moment, not capable of lying. "Just control-top panty hose." I sat down behind my desk to tidy up before we headed off to the annual fund-raiser kickoff for the college where I teach and from which Max and I graduated. There was also to be a ceremony honoring Max--a rich alumna and proud donor of a technology classroom. Our school has an unwritten motto: "Keep your alumnae close and your rich alumnae closer."
I got a look at myself in the reflection of the windows next to my desk. I had worn my "good" dress--a sleeveless black sheath on which I had spent too much money five years earlier and felt compelled to wear everywhere in order just to get my money's worth--it's like the fashion version of amortization. I also had on nice black pumps, but I still didn't look like Max. I looked pretty good, for me. She's petite with long legs and a great body that has never been introduced to a piece of exercise equipment. She is a faithful practitioner of yoga, but I'm not exactly sure she practices it for the health benefits. She talks an awful lot about her yogi Brandon.
Max handed me a lipstick. "Just put a little bit on so you don't look quite so cadaverous." I gave her a look. "What?" she asked, indignant; comparing me to a cadaver, in her world, signaled concern. "These classrooms are leeching the life out of you."
She walked over to the tall windows at the end of my office. There is a small patch of grass behind the building, as well as a long flight of stairs that goes past the auditorium and into the building where I have my office and teach all of my classes, one of the three classroom buildings on campus. She perched on the bench that served as a covering for the radiator and crossed her legs. A group of students and a couple of professors, all male, were playing touch football on the little patch of grass behind the building.
"Is your week going any better?" she asked, referring to the fact that my car had been stolen and my divorce had become final all in the last five days. She tapped her foot to some unheard beat, admiring the bunch of twentysomethings and their bare chests.
"Who's the hunk in the striped shorts?" she said, leaning in close to the window before I could answer.
I followed her gaze. "Frank Johnson, head of the Business Department," I said, and sprayed on some perfume.
I looked at her. "Gay." I thought the vertically striped linen shorts and the Choose Life! tank top were a dead giveaway.
She leaned her face against the cool glass. "So? Your week?"
"I'm divorced, without a car, and walking to and from the train station. And everywhere I turn, I see my ex-husband with his newly bald head, goatee, and BMW. That pretty much sums up my week."
"Do you want me to have him killed?" she asked, losing interest in the pansexual football game and giving me her full attention. Seeing Ray, my ex, in a coffin surrounded by flowers was a fantasy I'm sure she had enjoyed for many years.
"Who are we having killed?" a male voice asked from my doorway. I turned around and saw that the voice belonged to one of a duo of men--both large, wearing guns, and holding shiny gold badges.
At five-foot-ten, I'm not used to being one of the smallest people in the room; rather, I usually tower over the little nuns and not fully developed coeds I encounter every day. These two were well into the six-foot-three or  -four range, and one of them looked like he hadn't had a good day in weeks. Or a decent night's sleep. The more pleasant-looking of the two was dressed in a brown tweed jacket, khaki pants, a white shirt, and a blue-and-gold-striped tie. He held out one hand to shake and the other to show a gold badge. Not sure what to do, I took both and was then in the uncomfortable position of holding both of his hands at the same time. I dropped the one that didn't hold the badge.
"Alison Bergeron?" he asked, and stepped into my office. Designed to hold me, my stuff, and maybe one other person, it was getting tight.
I clutched the badge, not looking at it. "Yes."
"Detective Crawford, NYPD. This is Detective Wyatt." He held his hand out to retrieve his badge.
The cranky-looking one grunted some kind of greeting. He was wearing a blue suit, and, when he sat down, I could see that he had on a beautifully tailored shirt with French cuffs that had his initials embroidered on them. He had light brown skin and very short black hair. He looked to be in his early forties and seemed to be the senior of the two officers. He took eyeglasses out of his pocket and put them on as he turned in his chair and perused the books on my bookshelf.
Max seemed to be in a trance so I introduced her. "This is my friend, Maxine Rayfield. We're on our way to an alumnae dinner," I babbled. "Max is being honored by the school."
"We won't take too much of your time. Can we sit down?" Crawford asked. He looked pointedly at Max and then back at me.
I motioned to the empty chair across from my desk, which fronted the bookcase that Detective Wyatt was examining. "Oh, she can stay. Max, sit down."
She continued to stare at Wyatt. He didn't seem to register that there was anyone else in the room. She turned and looked at me, and mouthed, "Married?" But I ignored her.
After several moments of silence while he looked at the books, Wyatt asked, "Joyce scholar?"
I was surprised. "Yes."
He shook his head. "I never got him."
"A lot of people say that. I did my dissertation on him." I immediately regretted sounding like Patty McSmartypants, but it was out there and couldn't be taken back. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Max shoot me a look.
He raised his eyebrows in what was an attempt at conveying respect or disgust at my arrogance, I couldn't tell which. I asked Detective Crawford if they had found my car.
"I actually have a couple of questions about that," he said, pulling out a leather-covered notebook and a pen. He leaned forward in the chair. "When was the car taken, as far as you can ascertain?"
"I already had this conversation with a couple of police officers from the Fiftieth Precinct," I said, trying to remain polite. According to my watch, Max and I had approximately seven minutes before we had to be at the cocktail reception before the dinner. The chair of my department, Sister Mary McLaughlin, was a stickler for punctuality, and I had lost some ground with her because of my divorce. I guess I now had "loose woman" written all over me. Yes, it's the twenty-first century. Except when you work for a nun.
He smiled. "I know. Detective Wyatt and I just pulled the case, and we thought we'd go over it again."
Max came to life. "Do they always send detectives to look for stolen cars?" With the flush in her cheeks extending all the way to her red-bottomed shoes, I wasn't sure she was going to make it through the evening. I was also quite sure that if they did send detectives wearing big guns and no wedding rings to look for stolen cars, her new Jaguar would be missing by morning.
He shifted slightly. "Well, not usually." He looked at Detective Wyatt, who took a British literature anthology off my shelf and began thumbing through it. "So, when did you realize it was missing?"
"I left my office at five-thirty on Monday, and it was gone. I usually park it in the lot right at the top of those stairs," I said, pointing out my window. A group of students ran down the stairs, stopping briefly to look at the touch football game in the yard. "I came back to my office and called the campus police who, I guess, called the real police."
Wyatt let out a laugh that sounded like a car backfiring. Crawford looked at him, and he recovered his stony composure, reading the table of contents of the anthology with an intensity it didn't deserve.
"What time was that?"
"What?" I asked, not sure what event he was asking about.
"When the police showed up?"
"Are you guys IAB?" Max asked, getting more excited by the moment. As the head of programming for a cable station, she watches a lot of television. Since her station had started showing repeats of NYPD Blue, I guess she thought she had the cop lingo down.
Crawford looked at her. "IAB?"
"Yeah, Internal Affairs."
"No," he said, and looked down at his notebook.
"It was by six, the latest." I pulled out my appointment book to see if I had written anything else down about whom I saw and when.
He jotted a note in his book and let out a little breath that was more of a time killer than an actual sigh. But, the look on his face told me that there was more to this than my car being gone. My stomach did a little flip.
"And where were you between four o'clock and five-thirty on Monday?"
I turned a couple of pages back in my planner and saw that that section was blank. I thought for a few moments. "I was down at the river planning for a class." I had had a class to teach on the Hudson River poets. I thought the river would provide inspiration. It hadn't. I reused a lecture I had given the year before that was a big dud and that had almost put me to sleep, never mind my students.
"Were you with anyone?" he asked as he wrote.
"No," I said, thinking that that might not be a good thing for me.
"Did anyone see you leave your office?" Wyatt asked.
I thought again. "I can't remember."
Crawford smiled again. "Try."
I felt a bead of sweat running down the indentation of my spine, even though my office was at a comfortable temperature. "I'll have to think about that. I can't think right now."
"Do you know a . . ." He flipped through his notebook, looking for information.
Wyatt stepped in. "Katherine Miceli."
"Yes," I said, and felt the blood drain from my face.
"How?" Wyatt asked, as Detective Crawford continued flipping through his notebook.
"She's in my Shakespeare class."
Wyatt looked at me. "When was the last time you saw her?"
I knew my schedule by heart because it was pretty much the same every semester. "I think it was Monday afternoon. The class meets on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday."
"Did you see her the rest of the week?" Crawford asked.
I reached into my top drawer and took out my grade book. I saw that I had marked her absent for Wednesday and Friday. I was teaching five classes this semester, including the Shakespeare class that was way out of my league. I was having trouble keeping all of it straight. "No, she was absent on Wednesday and today." My heart was pounding.
Wyatt looked perturbed. "Weren't you concerned when she didn't show up for class?"
"This is college, Detective. We don't get too concerned when students don't show up for class. We just figure they're cutting," I explained. "She also owed me a paper on Wednesday that I know she was having trouble with. I figured she cut class to avoid handing it in."
"I bet you never cut class," he said.
I ignored him and tried not to shift around in my seat to show my discomfort. "What's going on?"
Wyatt continued looking at the anthology. "Ms. Miceli is no longer with us."
"Did she transfer?" I asked. Crawford looked at me like I must be joking, but I was dead serious.
Wyatt looked up. "Would we be here if she had transferred?" He gave me an impatient look; I guess he had a point. "She's dead."
I took in a gulp of air. "How did she die?"
"She was murdered," he said. He slammed the book shut and replaced it on the shelf. Crawford pulled at his tie; the good-cop/bad-cop routine was one with which he was obviously familiar, but did not enjoy.
I heard a little squeak emanate from Max as she slid off the radiator cover. "You know what?" she asked, as she picked up her briefcase. "I think I'm going to wait outside." She slung her briefcase over her shoulder and shimmied through the three-inch space that existed between the detectives' knees and my desk, her back to them. I saw Crawford look away discreetly and move his knees to the side, while Wyatt remained fixated on her shaking ass. She faced me as she moved by them and contorted her face to convey her horror to me.
I waited until she left the room and closed the door before asking, "How?" My heart did that thing where it beats a few hundred times and then skips a beat. I took a deep breath.
"Don't know," Wyatt said. "Just found her. We're waiting for the coroner's report."
"Who found her?"
Wyatt was growing impatient with my questions. "What difference does it make?"
"What does this have to do with my car?"
Crawford, good cop--or at least, polite cop--reached into his pocket and took out a stack of photos. He held one up to my face. "Is this your car?" he asked.
I looked at the photo, and it was indeed my car. In the photo, it was dripping wet and covered in mud but, undeniably, my car. I nodded.
He put that photo on the bottom of the pile and held up another photo. I stood up behind my desk to get a better look. When I saw what I was looking at--the open trunk complete with bloodied body--a loud buzzing began in my ears.
I remember thinking about the soles of Max's shoes as I hit the floor.
Copyright © 2006 by Maggie Barbieri. All rights reserved.

Meet the Author

Maggie Barbieri is a freelance textbook editor as well as a mystery novelist. Her father was a member of the New York Police Department, and his stories provide much of the background for her mysteries. She lives in Westchester County, New York.

MAGGIE BARBIERI is a freelance editor as well as a mystery novelist. Her father was a member of the NYPD, and his stories provide much of the background for her novels.

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Murder 101 (Murder 101 Series #1) 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 48 reviews.
MissPrint More than 1 year ago
My mom reads a lot of mysteries. I don't, but I do pick up and bring home all of her books so I have some familiarity with the genre. Along the way I also have become interesting in a few series. When Mom finished Murder 101--Maggie Barbieri's debut mystery novel released in 2006--and recommended it to me, after laughing through most of it, I decided to give the book a try. Alison Bergeron is an English professor at St. Thomas College, a small Catholic school located just outside New York City limits. Unfortunately, that does little to keep Alison's car from being stolen. Matters only worsen when two homicide detectives with the NYPD inform Alison that her car has been found with a dead body inside--a body that belongs to one of the students in her Shakespeare class. Being car-less and newly divorced isn't bad enough, now she finds herself at the center of a murder investigation. Possibly as the prime suspect. Alison has no choice but to try and clear her name, even if the attractive Detective Crawford would prefer she stick to the classroom--for both their sakes. Murder 101 was really enjoyable. With Alison's first person narration, Barbieri has created an authentic and hilarious protagonist. The novel blends the madcap, action, quotidian, and even some romance to create a great story. The chemistry between Alison and Detective Bobby Crawford actually verges on the tangible it is so well written. Her characters are also loads of fun, each being fully realized and adding their own charm to the story. Alison's best friend, Max, provides an amusing counterpoint to Alison's more grounded and logical personality. My personal favorite character might have been Detective Wyatt who, though he did not get the most "air time" did have some of the best lines. Praise aside, it was not until a hundred pages into the story that I actually made a commitment to stick with the series in its later installments. Murder 101 is one of those novels that gets better, along with the plot gaining momentum as it moves along. Barbieri's narration and dialogue are witty and snappy to keep readers' attention and to keep them laughing. This is also the first mystery I've encountered with a college professor as the main character. As someone who briefly considered a career in academia, I was intrigued to see behind the scenes of a college professor's life. While the murder investigation is, of course, a big part of this book is Alison's life both at school and in terms of her budding relationship with Crawford. All in all, a really fun read. Alison's adventures (with and without Crawford) continue in Extracurricular Activities (2007).
hunneypreader22 More than 1 year ago
Interesting and likeable characters, well-written, fun, fast mystery-type read. I am getting hooked - up to book #4 in the series now.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It is a decent story but all the fainting and throwing up the main character did when upset was too much. I have never seen anyone in real life react to a stressful or scary situation by fainting or throwing up. The author didn't make her seem more real. It just made her seem like a drama queen in need of some serious therapy.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Although this was a light and entertaining read, the experience was marred by very poor text conversion. Often one has to guess at the word when it comes out on the reader as something unintelligible.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Don't think this has ever been proofread! Constant stream of incorrect word usage, incorect spelling, wrong capitalizations, etc. When I called to report it the "tech" told me to wait a week, reload? and it would all be corrected - Not so - don't waste your money unless you don't read very well, speak gibberish instead of a known language, and don't care how you waste your money - enough to make you move to the Kindle!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Love it
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Obvious spelling errors detract.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was not impressed with this book. It really didnt seem to focus on the murder or murderer but on how it affected the main character. There was no suspence at all. I also think this may hold some kind of record for how many time the word clogs was used. It was rediculous how many ways she managed to mention her ugly shoes.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good book about a recently divorced professor at a Catholic college and the trouble that ensues when she inadvertantely becomes involved in a murder investigation of one of her students. However there are horrible spelling errors throughout the book. Soononlythreestars :)
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A very good book.
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TheBookResortNY More than 1 year ago
Maggie Barbieri's debut has a nice blend of mystery, romance & humor. Alison Bergeron is a charming character that is not written in the stale, rehashed, cutesy cookie cutter fashion so many writer's try too hard to create. Maggie Barbieri made it a point not to veer in the opposite direction & make Alison Bergeron a bumbling amateur who just "happens" to stumble upon the "body". Alison has smarts & is just a regular woman going through the day to day trials & tribulations on this roller coaster we call life. Alison actually has emotions... get this she actually expresses them! Shocking, huh, to have a female protagonist cry, faint and throw up. Definitely no botox Barbie here or wannabe Stephanie Plum. Kudos x's 2 to Maggie. Heck, let me toss in a NYC whistle. Alison actually has human foibles. Bobby Crawford is not your typical in your face pompas, overexaggerated, bloated New York police detective. He is a down-to-earth pleasurable hero. Bravo, Ms. Barbieri. Alison's best friend, Max is a fun, spunky friend you'd want to call your own. Love her. Maggie Barbieri pulled no punches creating Alison's philandering ex-husband, Ray. He doesn't fall into the cliche category no matter how much his tail wags @ other fillies. Toss in a nutty stoner student, a mafioso dad & you have a cast of zany enjoyable characters. Ms. Barbieri does a fantastic job weaving in an amateur & professional texture to the investigation. I must admit, I was hooked. I found this academic whodunit to be delightful. I was ticked when I was interrupted while reading it. Grrr... Murder 101 is definitely one for fans of all mysteries.
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