Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Strong characters and setting, good mystery
Cons: Pacing a little off in the plot at times
The Bottom Line:
A first semester
Filled with lots of death, danger
In this good debut
Lila Starts Teaching – to Murder
Over the years, there have been several mysteries set at colleges that have crossed my radar, but I’ve never picked one up. I finally enrolled in one with The Semester of Our Discontent, and I’ve learned my lesson – I should have done this sooner.
Lila Maclean has just gotten her PhD in Literature and is excited to be settling into her first semester teaching at Stonedale University in Colorado. She’s extra please since her cousin is also on the English department faculty. She’s not so happy with her department chair, Dr. Roland Higgins, however. When she suggests a course in detective fiction, he not only shoots her down but essentially tells her to be quiet.
Lila and her faculty mentor are walking into a department meeting just hours after Lila’s ill-fated meeting with Dr. Higgins only to find him stabbed to death on a table in the department library. When the rumors start flying that she knows more than she is letting on, either to protect someone or because she herself is the killer, Lila begins to try to find the killer. But the clues she finds appear random, and no one seems willing to help her. Can Lila find the killer?
The book gets off to a fast start with Lila finding the dead body by the end of the first chapter. However, I did feel the book had some pacing issues as we went along. We do get some very interesting clues and the secrets the Lila uncovers are good, and the climax does resolve all the plot threads and wraps everything up nicely.
Lila is a wonderful main character. Her natural curiosity is perfect for getting involved in a murder, and her motive to keep poking around is very strong. We are introduced to a great group of characters as well. Some of them already feel like friends, and the rest will provide some interesting sub-plots as the series progresses now that they aren’t suspects in this case.
The setting came alive for me. This may be a fictional college, but I felt like I was really there. And as the semester wore on, I could feel the crispness in the air as late summer turned to fall as well.
This is a debut mystery, but the writing is strong. That’s hardly a surprise since author Cynthia Kuhn is an English college professor herself.