A wacky stepfamily distracts a college professor from her boring job.
Most Ph.D.’s would kill for a tenure-track position at a university in New York. But Alison Bergeron (Physical Education, 2011, etc.) has a long litany of complaints about her post at St. Thomas University. The students are lazy, her boss, Sister Mary McLaughlin, is a martinet, and her colleagues wear ridiculous sweaters adorned with appliqué pumpkins and fail to appreciate her rapier wit. The only bright spot is Mary Lou Bannerman, an older creative-writing student who burns to pen a novel about her husband’s murder and who brings Alison coffee and muffins from really good bakeries. No wonder Alison gets sucked into the untimely death of her husband’s ex-wife’s brother. First, Chick Stepkowski disappears without a trace, resurfacing just in time to hand Alison’s twin stepdaughters, Erin and Meaghan, $5,000 apiece at their 19th birthday party. Days later, he’s found dead in his cheesy Mount Vernon apartment with $250,000 stuffed in his mattress. Despite his suicide note, his sister Christine insists that Chick was murdered. When Chick’s ex-wife, 6-foot exotic dancer Sassy Du Pris, threatens to burn down the house Christine shares with her new husband, Tim, and his four troll-like children, Alison thinks maybe she’s right. Or right enough to talk her best friend, ex-priest Kevin McManus, into confronting Sassy at a strip show. Alison’s so absorbed in the Stepkowskis’ dysfunction that she neglects her other best friend, Max Rayfield, with disastrous results—although not as disastrous as her attempt to ferret out a killer.
Sorting out her priorities might not be such a bad idea for Alison, now on her seventh and least focused foray into amateur sleuthing.