A high school English teacher is flummoxed by a colleague’s murder.
The first day of school is always a challenge, even at schools in affluent suburbs. But Liz Hopewell, a 10-year veteran of Valerian Hills H.S., hardly expects to begin the fall term by discovering the body Dr. Marcia Deaver, an even more senior faculty member, shoved under a desk. Marcia, a talented teacher and gifted Shakespeare scholar with a bent toward conspiracy theories, had her share of enemies. She’d recently left her husband for a younger man. The other members of the English faculty feared her sharp tongue. Even Liz, who admired her scholarship, found her deeply unpleasant. Parents complained about her harsh grading. There was even a rumor that she was about to be reassigned to the middle school. But along with Marcia’s body, Liz finds a folder of lesson plans so riddled with inaccuracies that punctilious Marcia couldn’t possibly have created them as actual instructional guides. Convinced that the folder holds the key to Marcia’s death, Liz forages through locked offices and interviews potential suspects. But unlike many DIY sleuths, Liz is keenly aware how dangerous her inquiries are. She’s also aware that both her detached husband, George, and the strangely attentive Detective Harriman see her activities as foolhardy. She’s afraid of her own investigation, but she’s also afraid not to move ahead, because as long as the murderer is unidentified, he or she remains a threat.
Exposing and pushing back against the girl-sleuth conventions makes this series debut both familiar and quirky. Robbins reveals just enough about her heroine’s life to make her appealing while leaving enough unresolved to whet the appetite for a follow-up.