Minotaur, Dec 7 2010, $24.99
English Lit college professor Alison Bergeron is on her way to meet her boyfriend’s parents for the first time following a marriage proposal from her beau NYPD Detective Bobby Crawford that she has not yet answered. To calm her nerves, she stops for java at her favorite coffee house Beans, Beans. As she opens the door, two men inside the shop tumble out in a brawl that looks as if each wants to kill the other. The professor is knocked down in the melee and left with a black eye.
The brawlers George Miller and amoral blogger Carter Willmott ignore Alison and continue their fight as the former is furious over the latter’s constant nasty negative commentary on him. The fight abruptly ends when George hammers Carter in the head; the nasty blogger falls dead. The police arrest George charging him with manslaughter; Alison witnessed the deadly fight so will testify in court. Although she saw first hand what happened, Alison has doubts the head shot was the killing blow as Willmott has numerous angry enemies over his odious on line commentary and the car of the blogging beast blew up during the fight. George’s wife Ginny voices her doubts to Alison, who begins sleuthing.
Fans of romantic mysteries will enjoy the latest Murder 101 amateur sleuth (see Final Exam) as readers will muse over how tough it is to get a good cup of coffee. The heroine is a brave soul whose detective boyfriend believes she has good instincts in terms of solving homicides, but poor instincts in terms of not being the next victim. Although readers will wonder why the autopsy failed to determine actual cause of death and why the professor decides to investigate, Third degree is an enjoyable caffeine cozy.