I have a number of challenges on the go and several books to read for each one piled up but when Margot Kinberg’s second Joel Williams novel arrived on my doorstep on Friday I decided it had to skip to the top of the TBR list even though I can’t count it for any of my challenges.
Just as with the first installment in the series, Publish or Perish, this book opens with a series of deliciously intimate portraits of people at Tilton University whose lives are interconnected in interesting ways. Among the deft depictions we meet student Serena Brinkman, a violin major whose campus fame is on the rise and who is in the running to win a major music competition. Michelle Park, also a gifted violinist and Serena’s rival, is under immense pressure from her parents for whom the only acceptable outcome at the competition is a win. Troy Brinkman is Serena’s cousin and friend but he’s having money troubles causing him a lot of stress. Marcie Bratton is a dormitory advisor to Serena and her roommate Tessa who dreams of a career in the military but worries about a secret she has that might prevent her from fulfilling that dream. One of the Music Department’s staff covets Serena’s antique Amati violin and seems to think such a beautiful object is wasted on Serena and one of the campus newspaper’s photographers does not take kindly to Serena’s rejection of his romantic advances. Of course things do go horribly wrong, this is crime fiction after all, and although at first the death which occurs appears to be an accident the Police and one of the university’s professors, ex-policeman Joel Williams, do accept that it was murder and start investigating.
Once again Margot Kinberg has created a delightful whodunnit with a plethora of clues, red herrings and potential suspects. The book drew me in immediately as it revealed snippets of information about all the players with nice pacing and a really strong sense of credibility. Both the university setting and the day-to-day lives of the cast of mostly young characters all felt very realistic to me. When a writer of Kinberg’s calibre creates this kind of picture it starts to seem perfectly reasonable that multiple people would see murder as the solution to their particular problem and, for me, that’s what makes a thoroughly enjoyable whodunnit. Though I did chuckle at the beginning when several sets of parents select Tilton University believing the small town setting would be safer for their children than a big city. If only they were crime fiction fans they’d have known not to trust those idyllic looking small towns!
Unlike many of the great tomes being published these days, the book comes in at a very satisfactory 202 pages which just goes to prove that a good writer can tell a good story without requiring the deforestation of a small country to provide the paper and I’m also impressed by the fact that you could easily read and enjoy this book without having read the first book in the series (though you should read that one too, you just don’t need to in order to understand what happens in this one).
I can wholeheartedly recommend this book, especially to those of you who like a good puzzle to solve and enjoy matching wits with the professionals as they unravel the clues. Perhaps you’ll have more luck than I did at predicting the culprit in this fine novel.
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My rating 4/5
Publisher: Publish America ; ISBN: 9781448971213; Length 202 pages; Setting: America, present-day
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My review of Margot Kinberg’s first Joel Williams novel Publish or Perish.
Margot Kinberg shares thoughtful and intriguing ideas about what makes crime fiction tick at her excellent blog Confessions of a Mystery Novelist.