Unjustified by Valerie Kossew Dunn


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In this debut thriller, a detective already undercover at a Connecticut college works the case of a dead professor with no shortage of suspects.

Police aren’t sure whether Whitney University professor Godfrey Mitchell’s shooting death is a murder or suicide. Fortunately for lead detective Jackson Blaustein, his former partner Dina Barrett is in a unique position to aid in the investigation. Dina, sidelined after taking a bullet, is posing as a Whitney student, sharing surveillance duties at the library to ensnare a librarian drug dealer. She also befriends the professor’s teaching assistant, Kelly Richmond, while Dina’s landlady, Freddie Hathaway, provides a lead: someone possibly angry over Mitchell’s whistleblowing 20 years ago. But that’s merely the start of an endless list of people who wouldn’t mind seeing the professor dead. Rumor has it that Mitchell, author of an immensely popular series of academic books, had graduate students handle the bulk of the research without giving any of them credit in print. And his philandering ways seem to have been fairly common knowledge, including his affair with a babysitter. As Jackson and partner Huey Gardner interrogate suspects, Dina balances her drug dealer case with interviews she’s conducting alone. The discovery of another professor’s body, unmistakably murder, surprises everyone, but it likewise puts the shrewd Dina too close to a killer and maybe in the line of fire. Dunn gets down to business straightaway, opening her tale with Mitchell’s bloody corpse and cops at the scene. The narrative’s brimming with police questioning people; even when the dual investigations intersect (they separately learn of an irate student named Curt Daniels), it’s an engrossing, meticulous examination of evidence. The story banks on happenstance perhaps a few too many times: Dina acquires relevant information by following two women into a restroom and eavesdropping on their stall-to-stall conversation. Nevertheless, Dina’s enthusiasm is infectious; she’s curious without being reckless, even when she winds up in danger. Best of all, she’s coolly professional, never skimping on her original undercover gig (a stellar subplot on its own) and readily acknowledging her mistakes, though she’s simply too good to make more than one or two.

An unparalleled detective in a no-nonsense mystery bubbling with tension until the final page.

Pub Date: May 16th, 2016
ISBN: 978-1-4917-9504-0
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: iUniverse
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 2016


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