Judy Alter's two earlier series of cozy mysteries have been well-received, and now she brings a new set of fascinating characters to her readers in The Perfect Coed. Dr. Susan Hogan, a college English professor close to tenure review in Oak Grove, Texas, has noticed an unpleasant odor emanating from her car in the past few days. Knowing her car is woefully overdue for cleaning and that there could be a five-day old Thai food takeout transforming into a scientific study somewhere in there, she plans to clean the car on the weekend.
Susan's boyfriend, Jake Phillips, is also police chief of the Oak Grove campus and has been her lover for two years, despite administrative boundaries that discourage relationships between staff. But Susan, who can easily be called prickly, is not one to conform to rules as others might. When Jake calls Susan out of class, she's annoyed by the interruption as he tells her the foul trunk odor has been reported to him four times that day and asks for her permission to open the trunk. She agrees and Jake discovers the body of a campus coed who has been missing for a few days.
Susan becomes a prime suspect and despite the fact that campus and town police are investigating the murder, when Susan realizes she's being stalked and attempts on her life begin, she decides she must find the killer. This leads to conflict between Susan and Jake as he wants her to stay completely away from the investigation; she thus becomes less than forthright with him about sharing the information she learns.
When Susan breaks her ankle in an accident intended to do her much greater harm, her Aunt Jenny, somewhere in her seventies, hears about it and calls to tell her she's driving the five hours to Susan's house to stay with her awhile. Susan is conflicted because, while she dearly loves Aunt Jenny, she treasures the solitude her home provides her and, often, Jake. Aunt Jenny will not hear "no," however; she soon arrives, and easily endears herself to Jake and other town residents, including a retired, recently widowed judge. Aunt Jenny becomes an important part of solving the mystery, as well, as she charms and cooks fabulous meals for everyone who enters into her life in Oak Grove.
Judy Alter's cozies always move through mysterious twists and turns at a strong pace, and the characters and events in The Perfect Coed carry on her tradition. For any cozy mystery reader fan, The Perfect Coed is a delightful read from start to the surprising ending, and makes me hope we've not seen the last of Susan, Jake, and Aunt Jenny.
Check out our interview with the author of The Perfect Coed.
Judy Alter is the author of many books for both children and adults. A Ph.D. in English, she taught at Texas Christian University and then, for twenty years, directed TCU Press, the book publishing program of the university. She retired in 2010 and turned her attention to writing contemporary cozy mysteries. She is the author of the Kelly O'Connell Mysteries and the Blue Plate Cafe Mysteries. Alter is the single parent of four grown children and grandmother of seven. She lives in Fort Worth, Texas with her Bordoodle, Sophie. Visit her website & her blog.
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