Third Degree Review
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St. Thomas College professor Alison Bergeron has seen her share of mysteries—so it shouldn’t be such a shock when she wanders into town for a cup of coffee and ends up witnessing a man’s death. But before she even makes it into the coffee shop, Alison finds herself caught in the middle of a fist fight between George Miller, the head of the town’s public works, and wealthy (and snarky) blogger Carter Wilmott. With one last blow, Wilmott collapses dead.

What looks like a simple case quickly blows up—literally—into a whole lot more. After the fight, Wilmott’s car explodes, leaving Alison to wonder if there’s more to Wilmott’s death than just a simple fist fight.

Though George Miller is arrested for manslaughter, his wife is intent on proving his innocence—and she wants Alison to help.

Of course, the last thing Alison needs is another mystery to solve—because her friend and colleague, Father Kevin, has suddenly gone missing. Not only that, but she still hasn’t responded to her boyfriend’s marriage proposal—and he’s starting to get more than a little frustrated.

Like Final Exam, the previous book in author Maggie Barbieri’s Murder 101 series, Third Degree is another enjoyably offbeat mystery. This time, the story focuses less on the school (and its students and faculty) than it does on the lives of the residents of the nearby small town—but its small town charm still makes for a light and cozy read.

The mystery itself is light and rather simple—and it isn’t all that difficult to figure it out. But, once again, Barbieri’s characters will keep you reading. Alison is lovably eccentric—without crossing the line into obnoxious. She’s just a little bit nosy—and her inquisitiveness tends to get her into all kinds of amusingly awkward situations.

Even more than the mystery, Alison’s little quirks and her tangled personal life add interest to the story. Boyfriend Crawford gives it a touch of romance and drama (though sometimes a little too much drama). Best friend Max is often infuriatingly selfish, but a subplot involving her producing a reality TV show about crime-fighting Hooters waitresses definitely adds some humor. And although Father Kevin and the rest of the St. Thomas faculty spend most of this story in the background, it’s clear that they’ll return with more drama and on-campus intrigue in the next installment—and I’m already looking forward to reading more.

Though it isn’t a particularly clever or thought-provoking mystery, Third Degree is a light and entertaining read—just what the doctor ordered for a little post-holiday downtime.

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