Constance Meccarello-Gerson was born in Poughkeepsie N.Y. She is a graduate of Florida Southern College with a BA in Acting. She also attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. HB Studio, Actors Studio, in NYC. She is a member of SAG, Alpha Gamma Delta, Alpha Si Omega. Her MFA in Acting is from Brooklyn College. She has appeared on TV, film, and on stage in NYC. For 20 years she taught as a mentor and teacher of English and Theatre arts for the New York City Department of Education and for the University at Santa Cruz. She also taught for ten years as a Speech Coordinator at Touro College. She was an executive at Bloomingdales. Her writing as appeared in Musings, also in the Best American Poets series. Murder at Hassle High is her first cozy mystery. Summertime Murder at Hassle High is her second cozy mystery in the Hassle High series. Currently she lives in NYC with her husband Alain, a parrot named Benji, and lots of fish.
“Dizzying romp through murder and mayhem.”
– Kirkus Reviews
The principal of a Queens, New York, high school is found dead in her office, and a middle-aged English teacher can’t resist participating in the investigation in Meccarello-Gerson’s debut cozy.
Maria Bruno arrives at the office of Principal Booth for a meeting. It’s early morning, and all is quiet. Slumped over a conference table is the much-hated Mrs. Booth, a letter opener sticking out of her back. Maria calls the police, and in walks Detective Viola, tall, dark, and handsome. Despite Viola’s frequent cautions to Maria to not investigate the case, they will, of course, wind up working in tandem. Viola will need all the help he can get: A student is stabbed during a rehearsal of Hamlet, and Maria (who winds up in the hospital a couple of times) becomes a target of the mysterious killer. The rumor mill kicks into full gear, and everyone on the staff has something to hide. Things heat up when we learn that Mrs. Booth was planning to retire—with a substantial financial cushion. Nefarious motives abound. The quirky plot is entertaining, well-paced, and filled with a large cast of malcontents, nearly all of whom are viable suspects. Maria is a likable protagonist, curious, feisty, a little self-deprecating, and constantly getting into trouble. Especially charming is her 10th-grade English class—the Nut Squad. There’s Roberto, who is taking her class for the third time, and his teenage cohorts, all incorrigible, all loyal to each other and Maria. The text, unfortunately, is laced with errors, including comma splices, missing words, strange phrasing (“The kid could not keep quiet for two minutes; more or less keep a secret”), and a confusing character misidentification.
A fun, twisty mystery that requires substantial editing.
Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2020
Queens, New York, high school principal Maria Bruno Cohen and police detective Joe Viola pair up again as Hassle High is struck by another wave of murders in this mystery sequel.
Sixtysomething Maria wasn’t supposed to work this summer. She and her husband, Al Cohen, have some work to do on their marriage, so they planned a river cruise in France for the end of August. Then a call comes from Dr. Kane, the school superintendent: Summer school principal Deb Jones has gone missing, and he needs Maria to fill in. As it turns out, Deb’s fiance, social studies teacher and coed softball team coach Frank Major, has also disappeared. The following morning, as Maria drinks some coffee prepared by her capable secretary/assistant Nan Summers, Joe walks into the office, as handsome as ever; in fact, he’s the reason that Maria’s marriage is floundering. Then Meccarello-Gerson’s (Murder at Hassle High, 2018) second series mystery really shifts into gear. Within a few pages, Frank’s body is found at John F. Kennedy International Airport, in the trunk of his pricey, bright red BMW M760i. Naturally, ex-cop and incorrigible sleuth Maria immediately joins the investigation, much to her husband’s displeasure. As the body count mounts and the list of possible suspects lengthens, she seeks help from the delightfully unmanageable “Nut Squad”—a group of aging, teenage class-repeaters who are totally devoted to her. Meccarello-Gerson’s principal protagonist is a fine narrator, who leads readers through a dangerous maze of jealous ex-lovers, blackmail, illegal gambling, and secret liaisons with edgy sarcasm and self-deprecating humor. The complicated plot threatens to become unwieldy at times, as assorted bad guys provide misdirection that keeps Maria and Joe off-balance. Happily, the romantic tension between those two lightens things up. One thing is certain: Hassle High will be a lot less interesting if the Nut Squad ever makes it to graduation. The book’s only sour notes are its numerous copy editing oversights (“ten thorty,” etc.).
A dizzying romp through murder and mayhem, and a pleasantly distracting beach read.
Publisher: Kurti Publishing
Review Posted Online: Jan. 1, 2020
In this third installment of a mystery series, a Queens principal, her gang of mischievous students, and some supervising teachers savor a wine-and-dine river cruise through France—until someone gets murdered.
Maria Bruno Cohen’s “Nut Squad,” that rowdy but artistic bunch of teens who have helped her solve two previous mysteries, has been offered a free trip by the owner of Tomato Cruises in exchange for providing entertainment for the other passengers. It is a cruise Maria and her husband, Al, have been planning as a chance to repair their shaky 30-year marriage. Unfortunately, in the middle of the group’s first night aboard, one of the students, Brady Naidoo, son of a South African diplomat at the United Nations, is found dead on the stage of the ship’s lounge. The scene is macabre: Brady has a forbidding mask covering his face and his ears have been cut off. When the ship docks the next morning in Chalon-sur-Saône, the French police come on board to investigate. Unfortunately, they discover a bloody scalpel hidden beneath Maria and Al’s bed. Time to call in handsome New York City police Detective Joe Viola, who happens to be vying with Al for Maria’s heart. He arrives the next day along with his beautiful partner, Juliet Smith. They came to Maria’s rescue in Meccarello-Gerson’s previous novels, and she and Al both need some serious help in this madcap adventure. Once again, the author assembles a vast array of suspects, ranging from the quirky to the greedy. All the passengers, it seems, have one thing or another to hide. The riverboat, with its daily port of call, allows for some nice extras. Readers are treated to several château tours at local wineries. And each of the boat’s gourmet dining experiences, which serve as opportunities for Maria to question passengers at the captain’s table, is followed by a few tempting recipes. Enjoyable, breezy prose and pleasantly sarcastic dialogue are well paced, despite being hampered by messy editing—there are some missing or incorrect words and in two places science teacher Vanna Hayes is referred to as “Vanilla.”
Death, romance, and some surprising twists in a fun read.
Page count: 211pp
Review Posted Online: Oct. 12, 2020
Two unlikely companions search for a kidnapped wizard in this children’s fantasy novel.
The land of Armera is orbited by the moons of Vesti, colonized long ago by wizards escaping the planet’s terrible wars. Armera survived these conflicts, and benevolent wizards have returned to the planet, forming a Wizards Council to broker relations between the two civilizations. But now, DeMartize—Vesti’s greatest wizard—has been kidnapped by the evil twins Kal and Sak, and the colony blames the council. With war threatening, the high wizard Mernes the Mad brings together his 14-year-old apprentice, Peterzik, and Cedric, a 14-year-old “hero rescuer and thief,” for the job of saving DeMartize. Peterzik’s knowledge and Cedric’s accomplished thievery make them the perfect pair. Guided by a vision from the council, the two set out on their long and dangerous journey across challenging terrain. They’re beset by many daunting creatures to fight, negotiate with, or trick to get past; these include the Snow King, a fire dragon, a water monster, and a kingdom of bats. And the duo will still have to defeat the powerful and wicked twins, hoping to rescue DeMartize before war is declared. Meccarello-Gerson has written several cozy mysteries. This book is her first fantasy novel, also rather cozy. Encounters are generally resolved without violence, and the story has a soft heart for animals. It’s a lighthearted and funny approach to the genre, as when Cedric appeases the Snow King—who appreciates the finer things in life—with haute cuisine (vanilla fudge ice cream). But grammatical errors, including sentence fragments (“Slipping to the ground and resting his back against the old friendly oak’s trunk and decided to take a nap”); clumsy narration (“His necromancy of instantly blast freezing became part of his building process”); and overly casual phrasing (“Enough on the dragon subject and let’s get back to Cedric”) make the novel feel hastily composed. Even the work’s map appears to have been drawn on a napkin.
An amusing series of vivid adventures, if a little slapdash.
Page count: 105pp
Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2021
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