An Alison Bergeron, Murder 101 Mystery by Maggie Barbieri
Review: University professor Alison Bergeron is confronted with two deaths — one clearly a murder — when she takes on the role of coaching the women's basketball team in Physical Education, the sixth mystery in this series by Maggie Barbieri.
The first dead body is the new inter-office mailman, who Alison was on the verge of fixing up with a colleague. He is found in the trunk of her car, and while she isn't implicated in any way in his death, it is suspiciously similar to a previously situation — the plotline of the first book in this series, Murder 101 — in which one of her students was found murdered, her body in the trunk of Alison's Volvo. The second dead body is that of the basketball coach, Michael Kovacs, also relatively new to the university and also relatively young to be the victim of a massive coronary. Alison is pressed into replacing him as coach — she once played on the team when she attended the school — and while the NYPD investigates the murder of the mailman, who wasn't really a mailman but a soldier for a local crime family, Alison soon discovers there may be reasons why Kovacs's death might not be as natural as everyone believes.
The first six to eight chapters of Physical Education are rather clunky, simultaneously trying to start a new murder mystery for Alison to solve while at the same time having a possibly unrelated dead body show up in the trunk of her car, causing her to reflect on a past experience with a mob boss. In a way, this also sets the tone for the book as a whole, that being too much going on at any given time. The overlapping and intersecting storylines are probably intended to serve as misdirection for each other — is any one more relevant than the other? — but it's all really a bit of a mess. Maybe if the plot moved forward at a faster pace this wouldn't matter so much, but it doesn't. The narrative often comes across as excessively wordy — and not in a good, literary way — and some scenes go on far, far too long. It's as if it were written with a heavy hand, as it were, instead of the lighter touch that it seems to demand. Universities make for great locations in which to set a murder mystery, and, to be sure, the author makes good use of it here, but it's not sufficient to compensate for the uneven plotting that comprises the first third- to half of this book, which eventually smooths out, though possibly not soon enough for some readers.
Acknowledgment: Minotaur Books provided a copy of Physical Education for this review.
Review Copyright © 2011 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Selected reviews of other mysteries by this author …
Minotaur Books (Hardcover), December 2012
ISBN-13: 9781250001887; ISBN-10: 1250001889
Location(s) referenced in Physical Education: New York City
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Physical Education by Maggie Barbieri — An Alison Bergeron, Murder 101 Mystery
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Publication Date: November 2011
List Price: $24.99