Fresh Meat: Death Makes the Cut by Janice Hamrick

Death Makes the Cut by Janice HamrickDeath Makes the Cut by Janice Hamrick is the second in the Jocelyn Shores cozy mystery series (available July 17, 2012).

Janice Hamrick won the 2010 Mystery Writers of America/Minotaur Books First Crime Novel competition for her novel Death on Tour, which featured teacher Jocelyn Shores on vacation in Egypt.

In this follow-up, amid all the craziness that comes with the start of the school year, Jocelyn intervenes in a fight between Fred Argus, a fellow teacher who is also the tennis coach, and an outraged parent. Then she discovers that her cousin and best friend Kyla has been sentenced to community service (the “why” will be important to the story later on) teaching a six-week seminar about girls in technology. And what better place to teach it, than in Jocelyn’s very own Bonham High School?

Close as the cousins are there is one thing that sometimes gets Jocelyn a little irritated. I’ll let her explain:

Although most people assume we are sisters, Kyla and I are first cousins. Our fathers are identical twins and we look enough alike to be twins ourselves. Maybe not identical twins, but we’d been mistaken for each other before, a fact that drove Kyla absolutely crazy. She would never admit there was anything more than a remote family resemblance. For my part I would have been happy if we looked even more alike, or rather if I looked more like her. Because, although I wouldn’t break mirrors, Kyla was drop-dead gorgeous—the kind of beauty that made men stop in the middle of the street to pick their jaws up off the ground. She was no fool either, and was fully aware of the effect she had on men. In fact, she shamelessly used it to her full advantage, telling me once that she hadn’t bought a drink for herself in five years. It might have made her obnoxious, but she was also completely charming. And to be fair, it didn’t seem to mean much to her other than as an entertaining diversion.

When Coach Fred is killed and Jocelyn is asked to take on his responsibilities with the tennis team, she wouldn’t have time to even wonder who killed Fred except that there is a rampant implication that he was dealing drugs and Jocelyn knows that is absolutely not true. Still, she has other troubles on her mind. Her no-show boyfriend, Alan, never seems to find the time to come for a visit, and to complicate that situation, she’s not thrilled with her reaction to the handsome detective on the case. Or, maybe, the problem is that she is thrilled.

Jocelyn resolves that her first priority is to the tennis team, and she starts by running interference with the drama coaches who are hassling a tennis player who is scheduled to appear in a theater production. Soon, the parent who gave Coach Fred such a difficult time shows up trying to intimidate Jocelyn. Then another teacher is murdered.

And you thought your high school had problems!

The level-headed Jocelyn Shores and her just-a-tad-zany cousin, Kyla, are extremely likable characters. I had a lot of fun spending time with them in Death Makes the Cut, so now I’m planning to find and read Death on Tour. I can’t figure out how I missed it when it was first released. Hopefully before too long, we’ll have a third novel available in this charming series.

Terrie Farley Moran’s recent collection of short stories, THE AWARENESS and other deadly tales, is currently available in e-format for the Nook  and the Kindle. Terrie blogs at Women of Mystery and her short story “Fontaine House” can be read in the August 2012 issue of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine.

Read all posts by Terrie Farley Moran for Criminal Element.

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