Someone at Professor Laura Murphy’s college appears to be playing a joke on her by planting sexually explicit stories in her research results, but the joke turns deadly when one story details the recent stabbing murder of a coed. Laura’s close friend, Detective Derrick Pasquis from the local police, asks for her help in interviewing the prickly suspects who resist intervention from outside the campus community. Eager to search out clues, Laura ignores warning signs that playing amateur sleuth may jeopardize her newly developing romance with Guy. And of course her usual intrusive manner puts her at odds with everyone on campus—colleagues, the college administration, the head of campus security and fraternity members. Is there no one Laura can’t offend in her eagerness to find the truth? The closer she gets to solving the crime, the more it appears that the past—the coed’s, that of a prominent faculty member and Laura’s own—is the key to the murder. Caught in an early winter blizzard, Laura must choose between wandering the mountains and freezing to death or taking her chances with a killer clever enough to make murder look like the work of an innocent student.
Lesley A. Diehl
Hi. My name is Laura Murphy, and I’m delighted to tell you what I think is really going on with the bodies I’ve stumbled onto in my area, you know the ones in Murder Is Academic and Failure Is Fatal. I know this is a small town, and we should be isolated from some of the nastier criminal elements, but I think having a college campus in the town attracts individuals, not only because of the educational opportunities and also because of the beautiful country setting, but because some folks think this is a perfect setting to engage in illegal activities. They think no one in this backwoods area is smart enough to catch them. It’s an arrogant attitude that I know the authorities around here hate, and for good reason. My buddy, Detective Derrick Pasquis with the local police department is about as smart as they come. And, of course, he has me to help him when he goes astray, which he never thinks he does. If he didn’t have me to smooth the way on campus, the faculty, always suspicious of any interference in their affairs, would never say two words to him.
Now here’s the thing about my involvement in these murders. Some think I am incapable of “smoothing” any way because I’m such a renegade on campus, a woman with an attitude and the mouth to go with it, but I can make nice when I want to. I mean, I’ve got a man in my life. And good friends. That’s proof someone finds me, if not pleasant, at least tolerable, maybe even likeable. I’ll admit I do make waves especially with the males at the college who think they are smarter and more accomplished than I am. You know what I mean, the puffed up types. And because I’m not only a psychologist, which seems to scare the bejesus out of some of them but also associated with the Women’s Studies Program, they cross their legs, figuratively I mean, when I approach. I am particularly intolerant of faculty sexually harassing students. In fact, my students in Failure Is Fatal, are working on a research project to study this campus issue, and I think it’s been sabotaged because it hits too close to home with some who have a reputation for coercing students into their beds. That really doesn’t explain the murder of a coed and how the description of the murder scene found its way into my research, but I know it’s related somehow.
And don’t get me started with some of those frat guys. Not all of them, of course, but I met a few of them who seemed to be hiding more than women’s panties under their mattresses. The frat parties are also places where women can find themselves coerced into sexual encounters when they’ve had too much to drink. I’m particularly pleased when I see many of the men on campus like the ones who help with my research and who support rape awareness programs and respect themselves as well as women. Lots of men participate in “Take Back the Night” walks against rape, and women don’t see them as wimps but find them highly desirable as friends and partners—a hint to all you guys who wonder how you can make yourselves more attractive to women. But we still have a long way to go on campuses educating our students about sexual harassment.
I know it’s not easy for the man in my life, Guy La France to put up with my nosy nature, but he’s done pretty well up to this point. We both have children from our former marriages and they are important to us, so we try to make time for the kids (my son recently married) as well as for ourselves. That’s not easy since he lives in Canada and I live in Upstate New York. The drive’s not bad in the summer, but the winter months as you will see in Failure Is Fatal are brutal for the long commute on weekends. I think we both ask ourselves if this relationship can last. We’re coming to the point where we have important decisions to make because we can’t keep on long distance.
Murders take a toll on relationships especially if one person likes to get herself in the middle of the investigation as I do and the other is not so interested in finding the bad guy or gal. I’ve noticed one interesting thing about chasing down a killer: I lose weight. I’m short, quickly approaching becoming “a woman of a certain age” (I handle hot flashes by sticking my head in the freezer), am a bit plump, and I adore chocolate-covered donuts. But when I’m tracking down a murderer, I forget about food, well, food isn’t as primary as it usually is. I don’t know why I find snooping around in crime such a compelling thing, but I’m beginning to think it’s because my life as a university professor is all too cerebral. I think I’m more of an action gal than I previously realized.
Well, we’ll see what the future holds. I’m due for a sabbatical next year which may change my life somewhat. I may try to spend more time with Guy in Canada. Barring a murder intervening, of course. For now, there are no dead bodies on the horizon so I think I’ll make myself a cup of tea and finish the box of pastries my friend Annie dropped by my house this morning. Oh, goody. There’s a chocolate one left. Join me?
About the Author
Lesley retired from her life as a professor of psychology and reclaimed her country roots by moving to a small cottage in the Butternut River Valley in upstate New York. In the winter she migrates to old Florida—cowboys, scrub palmetto, and open fields of grazing cattle, a place where spurs still jingle in the post office, and gators make golf a contact sport. Back north, the shy ghost inhabiting the cottage serves as her literary muse. When not writing, she gardens, cooks and renovates the 1874 cottage with the help of her husband, two cats and, of course, Fred the ghost, who gives artistic direction to their work.
She is the author of a number of mystery series (Microbrewing Series, Big Lake Mystery Series, Eve Appel Mystery Series and the Laura Murphy Mysteries), a standalone mystery (Angel Sleuth) and numerous short stories.
Visit her on her website: http://www.lesleyadiehl.com