Murder complicates a college professor’s already stressful life.
Mahina State University is far from paradise for Molly Barda. The ceiling in her office is crumbling, her office furnishings are limited to a desk, a coffee maker, and a yoga ball, her students are barely literate, and her dean, Bill Vogel, thinks the appropriate punishment for plagiarists is an opportunity to rewrite the offending paper. As a member of the Department of Management in the College of Commerce, Molly is forced to mingle with “our Friends in the Business Community” at events like the breakfast honoring Jimmy Tanaka, “The Most Hated Man in Hawaii.” The owner of Merrie Musubis, a fast-food chain whose signature dish is Spam sushi, Tanaka uses his fortune to do things like raze the historic Hanohano Hotel and build a concrete monstrosity in its place. Tanaka’s breakfast does have its upside. Molly gets to sit with handsome Donnie Gonsalves, owner of Donnie’s Drive-Inns and Tanaka’s chief rival for Mahina’s fast-food dollar. But the meal is marred by two unfortunate events: Tanaka’s absence and the presence of a plastic skull theatrically perched atop a fruit tray. The second causes heartburn for Molly’s ex, Stephen Park, a theater professor whose notoriously disorderly prop room is eyed as the source of the prank skull. Molly’s colleagues Pat Flanagan and Emma Nakamura repair with her to her office—which does, after all, boast a coffee maker—to mull Tanaka’s disappearance. But when the police discover that the prank skull isn’t a plastic prop after all, the Student Retention Office’s rules for consumer-friendly faculty behavior are suddenly the least of Molly’s worries.
Molly’s debut is a smart and welcome addition to the teaching-college-is-murder genre.