3 out of 4 stars
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Murder at Hassle High by Constance Meccarello-Gerson is a mystery novel that follows the antics of determined teacher Maria Bruno as she attempts to catch a killer in her school while trying to avoid becoming his next victim. After finding the school principal, Mrs. Booth, slumped over a table with a letter opener sticking out of her back, Maria calls the police. The detective in charge of the case turns out to be Joe Viola, Maria’s ex-fiancé. Knowing her background as a former police officer, Viola warns Maria not to investigate the incident. When one of Maria’s students is found stabbed to death, Viola feels compelled to work the case with her as Maria becomes even more determined to find out who is behind the killings. Will Maria uncover the truth before she becomes the next victim? Can she stay focused enough to catch the killer, or will her growing attraction to Detective Viola become a fatal distraction?
The plot premise sounded so good that I jumped at the opportunity to review this book. As much as the book did not live up to my expectations, it was an easy read. The story developed at a fast pace, with enough plot twists to keep you guessing who the real killer was. I admit the author did an excellent job of misdirection. The plot twists were so good that when the killer was eventually revealed, no one saw it coming.
I had a few issues with the book. To begin with, I must point out that the book was submitted for review in an audio format. My first issue was the narration. The author poorly narrated the book, and I could barely get through the story. Mispronounced words and funny intonations or inflections often made it challenging to determine what was said or how some phrases or sentences were meant to be interpreted. This issue alone almost ruined the book for me. Also, you can’t tell the characters apart as they all sounded the same. The narrator did not appear to put in the effort to voice them differently or was unable to do so. A professional narrator would have made a world of difference.
Additionally, in my opinion, Maria’s character was not well-developed. She was supposed to be a respectable, happily married middle-aged teacher with a wry sense of humor. Instead, she came across as a bit petty and somewhat juvenile. With regards to her feelings for and interactions with Detective Viola, Maria especially sounded like a dramatic, petulant teen with a silly schoolgirl crush. The story could have done without her endless swooning, which only served as a constant source of distraction from the story. If this was meant to be funny, it fell short. She regularly referred to his good looks at every opportunity, even in inappropriate situations. It got particularly tiresome to listen to, and I couldn’t stop myself from rolling my eyes at how ridiculous Maria sounded.
These issues notwithstanding, Murder at Hassle High was a good mystery novel. As it was an audiobook, there were no typographical or grammatical errors that I can point to besides what I already mentioned above. This book would be a fun read for mystery genre enthusiasts. I rate this book 3 out of 4 stars. I am compelled to deduct a star due to the poor narration.
Murder at Hassle High
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