Welcome to the series where I will be sharing a selection of book reviews I have posted in the last few years. I would like to take the opportunity to showcase books that I have enjoyed and their authors and if you have not read the books, I hope it will encourage you to check them out.
This is my review from 2019 for the third book in the Braxton Campus Mysteries: Flower Power Trip.. by James J. Cudney
About the book
At a masquerade ball to raise money for renovations to Memorial Library, Kellan finds a dead body dressed in a Dr. Evil costume.
Did one of Maggie’s sisters kill the annoying guest who’d been staying at the Roarke and Daughters Inn, or does the victim have a closer connection to someone else at Braxton College?
As Kellan helps school president Ursula bury a secret from her past and discover the identity of her stalker, he unexpectedly encounters a missing member of his family. Everything seems to trace back to the Stoddards: a new family who recently moved in.
Between the murder, a special flower exhibit and strange postcards arriving each week, Kellan can’t decide which mystery in his life should take priority. But unfortunately, the biggest one of all has yet to be exposed – and when it is, Kellan won’t know what hit him.
My review for Flower Power Trip – a well written and compelling mystery. September 2019
Having read the previous two books in The Braxton Campus Mysteries, it was great to catch up with familiar characters, and find how they have moved on in the short time since the last story. Considering that it is only four months into Kellan Ayrwick’s return to the town, he has been kept busy sleuthing. As the police chief, April Montague, keeps mentioning, people do seem to be dropping dead rather more frequently since his return. But is her frosty demeanour towards his intrusion into her investigations beginning to thaw?
With a costume fundraiser and a prominent flower show being organised in the university grounds, it is not a great time for another murder, especially when Kellan stumbles upon it and a possible killer. The official investigation is hampered by lack of evidence and with a tacit agreement from the police chief, Kellan is back to sleuthing to uncover secrets from the past, and shady dealings by both residents some of the newcomers to the town.
Running parallel to the story is the continuing mystery surrounding the death of Kellan’s wife, Francesca, daughter of mobster and his wife Vincenzo and Cecilia Castigliano. Who is sending those nostalgic postcards?
Kellan’s grandmother is as feisty as ever as she prepares for the mayoral election and continues to interfere in the lives of those around her. We are introduced to the extended family of existing characters from the previous book, adding fresh faces and another layer of intrigue to the fabric of the story. After three Braxton mysteries, this eclectic group of people is beginning to feel like a community I would not mind joining.
I pride myself on being able to spot the culprit pretty early on in a murder investigation, but James Cudney introduces enough red herrings to keep us amateur sleuths busy and barking up the wrong tree. The climax to the story was excellent and we have been left with a cliffhanger that encourages a swift purchase of the next book in the series Mistaken Identity Crisis… which is now lined up on my reader.
The author has created characters that are easy to relate to and enjoy and the plot is well paced. The reveals give you only just enough to whet your appetite and keep you guessing until the last page. I recommend that you begin with Academic Curveball and enjoy the same journey that I have been on, getting to know the family and friends of Kellan Ayrwick and the Braxton Campus.
Also by James J. Cudney
James is my given name; most call me Jay. I grew up on Long Island and currently live in New York City, but I’ve traveled all across the US (and various parts of the world). After college, I began working in technology and business operations in the sports, entertainment, media, retail, and hospitality industries. Although I enjoy my job, I also want to re-focus on my passions: telling stories and connecting people through literature.
In 2017, I published my debut novel, Watching Glass Shatter, a contemporary fiction family drama with elements of mystery, suspense, humor, and romance. The sequel, Hiding Cracked Glass, released exactly three years later in 2020. I’ve also written another family drama novel, Father Figure, and created the Braxton Campus Mysteries, a light investigation series about a humorous thirty-something guy dealing with murders and the drama of a small town. I am currently co-authoring a book with a surprise writer and finalizing the next Braxton Campus Mystery, both set to be released in early to mid 2021.
What do I do outside of writing: I’m an avid genealogist (discovered 2K family members going back about 250 years) and cook (I find it so hard to follow a recipe). I love to read; between Goodreads and my blog at This is my truth now, I have over 500 book reviews which will give you a full flavor for my voice and style. On my blog, I started the 365 Daily Challenge, where I post a word each day that has some meaning to me, then converse with everyone about life. There is humor, tears, love, friendship, advice and bloopers. Lots of bloopers where I poke fun at myself all the time. Even my dog has a weekly segment called “Ryder’s Rants” where he complains about me. All these things make up who I am; none of them are very fancy or magnanimous, but they are real and show how I live every day.
A bit of humor: Everything doubles as something else when you live in NYC. For me, it’s the dining room, my favorite space in the apartment, where more than just my cooking is on display! As I look out the windows onto a 12th floor terrace, various parts of nature (trees, bushes, flowers, bugs & animals) inspire me to write. Ryder, my 10-year old shiba inu, usually lays on my feet, growling when I shift positions too many times or when I forget to share my food! Although he’s only 20 pounds, he’s quite strong and pushy. But how else can you pen the best story possible without these things by your side?
Thanks for dropping in today and I hope you have enjoyed this review from 2019. I have since read the other books in the series and can highly recommend. Thanks Sally.