Lesley A. Diehl used to be a professor of psychology and university administrator, but when she retired, something more enticing called to her—murder. Raised on a farm in Illinois, Lesley now lives in a small cottage in the Butternut River Valley in upstate New York and in the winter she migrates to rural Florida. While she spends a lot of her time writing, she is not always bent over her computer – she gardens, cooks and is renovating her 1874 cottage with the help of her husband, two cats and her resident ghost, Fred, who gives artistic direction to the work. Lesley is the author of several short stories and a number of mystery series including the microbrewing series (A Deadly Draught; Poisoned Pairings), a rural Florida mystery series (Dumpster Dying; Grilled, Chilled and Killed),and A Secondhand Murder, the first in The Eve Appel mystery series. I am thrilled to have Lesley here today with a guest post and be sure to leave a comment for a chance to win a Kindle copy of MURDER IS ACADEMIC. Welcome, Lesley.
Murder Is Academic: Yup, it’s based upon my career a college professor
Lesley A. Diehl
Readers sometimes ask me where I get my ideas from. For some of my books the ideas arise out of situations I encounter. My microbrewing series came about when I toured a local microbrewery where our guide took us past a room with an open fermenting tank and informed us we couldn’t go in there because the yeast gave off carbon dioxide. My response to this information was to ask, “Could you kill someone in there?” And then I went on to write a scene where one of the workers was locked in just such a room. He survived, but I’d already killed someone else in the beginning of the book. For my books set in rural Florida, alligators, cowboys, swamps and hurricanes define the area, so my protagonists must deal with all these, whether it’s doing a two-step with a handsome cowboy in a local bar or encountering an alligator on a picnic.
Murder Is Academic is based upon my career experiences (the first one, before I became a writer). I was a professor of psychology for over twenty-five years and retired early to move with my husband to New Mexico. I missed being with students. I do believe they kept me young, and life surrounded by them is never dull. The book features a protagonist, Dr. Laura Murphy, who is very like me back when I juggled classroom instruction with research. She is dedicated to her teaching and to her research, which, like me, she accomplishes in collaboration with her students. And then, of course, murder and a bit of passion enter the picture. Laura falls for a road construction worker who rides a motorcycle. What could be further from her experience? Far from her world, yes, but since my hubby also rides, I understand the lure of the road on a bike. Laura is not me, however. She is younger, prettier, more adventuresome, nosier, more passionate about everything and filled with a know-it-all attitude that will be challenged as she tries to help her detective friend solve the murder of her college’s president.
Some readers may say I am too tough on college administrators (hey, I only killed one of them in my book!), but I have been one myself, so I know what the life of a dean or a vice president is like. And, to be fair, I don’t only kill off the president in the book, I take out faculty too. This is an equal opportunity murder mystery.
It would be unfair to say I dislike administrators in general. I’ve met some quite competent ones, people I’d never think of killing in real life or in a book, people who are dedicated to their work and suffer with dignity the incompetence of their bosses. Administrators have bosses. Faculty have department chairs, who can be ignored most of the time and who, if they identify with administrators are seen as traitors and spies by the faculty, but if they identify with faculty are seen as incompetent and untrustworthy by administrators. Not always is this true, but often enough that the chasm between the two reminds me of what’s happening in our congress. If I seem conflicted on the issue of who’s the good or bad guy, the faulty or the administration, it’s because I can see both sides. And I created Laura to see both sides also. That’s often what gets her into hot water. It’s within this political microcosm that murder is committed, not once but twice. Laura is just the gal to find the killer…at some danger to herself.
If it sounds like I’m happy to be out of academe, that’s only partially true also. I still have dreams of being in the classroom, delivering a lecture on some topic in developmental psychology. And the lecture is one of my best! Of course, I also have dreams about my department chair castigating me for failing to show up for my class the entire semester. That’s a stress dream if ever there was one, and something I never did.
I am happy to be writing about my former career in academe. I think it’s a particularly rich area and makes a fine setting for a murder especially if you have someone as nosy and savvy as Laura to track down the killer.
Murder Is Academic
(Laura Murphy Mystery Series)
by Lesley A. Diehl
File Size: 1626 KB
Print Length: 223 pages
Publisher: Lesley A. Diehl (March 29, 2014)
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Laura Murphy, psychology professor, thinks there’s nothing she likes better than coffee and donuts on a summer morning until she says yes to dinner with a Canadian biker and finds herself and her date suspects in the murder of her college’s president. Laura’s friend, the detective assigned the case, asks her to help him find out who on the small upstate New York college campus may be a killer. The murder appears to be wrapped up in some unsavory happenings on the lake where Laura lives. A fish kill and raw sewage seeping into the water along with the apparent drowning suicide of a faculty member complicate the hunt for the killer. And then things become personal. The killer makes a threatening phone call to Laura. With a tornado bearing down on the area and the killer intent upon silencing her, Laura’s sleuthing work may come too late to save her and her biker from a watery grave.
I enjoyed the book. Quite a bit of academic politics as a disliked college president is murdered. I felt I could have known the main characters better. The book is a first in a series but it feels as if it was further on (which is a complement, actually) – I looked to see if there were any earlier I could read because I felt I was missing the usual ‘learning curve’, for lack of a better term, in getting to know the characters. Laura Murphy is a somewhat flawed protagonist for a cozy, she sleeps with a total stranger on the first date. And the detective friend is somewhat unusual in that he actually encourages Laura’s snooping – although he does seem to regret that later on. Well written, will keep you guessing, I will look forward to further installments in this series. And while it is not something I usually comment on – I really, really did not like the cover which would have been more suited to a much lighter, much more humorous type of cozy. ♥♥♥♥
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