Extra Credit Review
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During the holiday season, we all get our fill of family togetherness. So, after a long day of our own family dysfunction, it’s nice to be able to enjoy the antics of someone else’s dysfunctional extended family with author Maggie Barbieri’s latest Murder 101 mystery, Extra Credit.

English professor Alison Bergeron thought her life was finally perfect. But her happy new marriage to NYPD Detective Bobby Crawford came with a couple of stepdaughters—which means that she’ll never be able to escape Crawford’s ex-in-laws.

Alison tries to embrace the situation, inviting the whole crazy family over for her stepdaughters’ birthday. But their long-lost uncle, Chick, arrives with $5,000 for each of them, causing a stir in the family that escalates when Chick is found dead in a dingy apartment with $250,000 hidden in his mattress.

Crawford’s ex, Christine, refuses to accept that Chick’s death was a suicide. And after a series of break-ins, Alison begins to wonder whether someone killed Chick for his money—and is now coming after anyone who might have it.

The latest Murder 101 mystery hits pretty close to home for Alison. Not only does it mean spending a little too much time with Crawford’s ex-wife, but it also means that Crawford is spending a little too much time with his ex-wife—and that makes Alison more than just a little bit uncomfortable.

But that’s not the only personal storyline running through the novel. At the same time, Alison finds her best friend, Max, growing more and more distant—and when tragedy strikes for Max, it separates the two even more. Although Alison’s relationship with Max has absolutely nothing to do with the mystery, it adds some depth to the story. This isn’t just a one-off mystery; it’s an ongoing series—and Barbieri wisely devotes part of the novel to further developing her characters and their relationships. Though the story is often funny—with its eccentric nuns and plenty of family dysfunction—it might surprise you with its heart, too.

Meanwhile, you’re sure to enjoy following Alison on her latest adventure. Though the mystery isn’t exactly taut, Alison makes it an entertaining read. After all, she’s an easy character to like. She may teach at a Catholic college, but she’s no nun. She’s wry and sarcastic and more than a little bit irreverent. Most importantly, though, she’s unapologetically curious. When something strange happens around her (which is often), she can’t help but investigate. Of course, her curiosity often gets her into trouble with Crawford—and it tends to get her (and her friends) kidnapped from time to time, too—but that’s just a part of what the series so entertaining.

Like the other books in the series, Extra Credit is a light and casual mystery—but, with its intriguing mystery, its easy sense of humor, and its likable characters, it might just keep you reading past your bedtime.

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