A CUP OF HEMLOCK by Clyde Curley


A Detective Toussaint Mystery
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The clues are few and the suspects are many in this whodunit by Curley (Raggedy Man, 2012).

History teacher Nicholas Lehrer is mysteriously shot dead in his classroom at Monroe High School in Oregon just before the end of the academic year, and detectives Matthew Toussaint and Missy Owens are assigned to investigate his murder. The killing of “Mr. Nick,” who seems to have been beloved by his students and respected by his fellow teachers, shocks the community. But as Toussaint and Owens dig deeper into the case, they find that not everyone was a fan of the 10-year teaching veteran. Lehrer made plenty of enemies due to his unconventional methods and his passionate opposition to new state standards that left no room for teacher discretion or students’ individual learning styles. The suspects soon pile up: There’s DeVon Carter, a once-promising senior who won’t graduate because of a failing grade in Lehrer’s class; principal Terry McManus, who resented the teacher for standing in the way of instituting the new standards; Molly Easley, the meth-addict mother of Lehrer’s former student who killed himself earlier in the year; high school football coach Joe Chudo, who loathed the instructor for convincing his star player to give up the sport; and Kenny Knutsen, a hotheaded father who complained that Lehrer was indoctrinating his daughter with ideas that went against God and country. Overall, this novel isn’t a revolutionary example of its genre; it moves forward at a rhythm familiar to anyone who regularly watches television detective shows. That said, it still packs a unique punch, thanks to the author’s insights from his former career as a high school English teacher, which makes it hard to put down. He effectively explores the tension between what government, administrators and parents think is best for young people and what actually is best for them. Readers who don’t have backgrounds in the world of education will have the sense of a curtain being pulled back, revealing a consequential, dramatic world they never knew existed.

A worthy, suspenseful crime novel set in the world of education.

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 2014


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