FROM KIRKUS REVIEWS/Category: COZY MYSTERY | MYSTERY & DETECTIVE/Posted Online October 29 2020
In this second installment of a mystery series, a professor searches for answers when a body is found in her ransacked house.
At Rutherford College in Coowahchobee, Florida, history professor Ariadne Caulfield and English professor Judith Sheridan, both in their 50s, are fast friends. As Braendlin described in their first adventure, Love and Death in Venice (2016), the two became entangled in sinister criminal doings last summer, when Judith met her partner, Suzanne Hanks. (Ariadne was widowed a few years earlier.) This September, the friends are co-teaching a women's literature course. One evening, Ariadne returns home to a shocking discovery. In the classic mystery novel tradition, there's a man's body in the study. It's Randall Medina, an English department adjunct, but what on earth is he doing there? The room has been tossed, suggesting he was robbing the house, though Ariadne has no valuables and can't seem to find anything missing. Investigating the crime is the attractively rugged Sheriff Beaufort "Beau" Hammell, 62. As events unfold, he questions students and teachers, developing a mutual attraction with Ariadne. Meanwhile, dark plans are hatched by a woman with a grudge against one student. Retired English professor Braendlin shows her familiarity with academia, such as its gossip, tenure-seeking professors, and underpaid adjuncts. She also vividly evokes the story's Northern Florida setting, from bathtub-warm ocean water to pulled-pork sandwiches. A few references are dated (for example, an answering machine), and dialogue can be overcooked: "I wouldn't mind having a tryst...but not out here in this oppressive insect-infested jungle." That said, the novel offers a nicely balanced plot, including deft character sketches, a blossoming romance for Ariadne with Beau, and a few surprises, including late-breaking drama arising from cleverly sown seeds.
An appealingly cozy whodunit in a well-observed setting.