Anyone who has taught a basic English or creative writing course will recognize some of the characters and situations in Killer Frost, a debut mystery by Judy Hogan.
Most of the book takes place at a financially and academically distressed historically black college in North Carolina. An idealistic untenured professor wars against the administration to bring ill-prepared but determined students up to standard and to give gifted ones a chance to soar. He brings in Penny Weaver, a dedicated white writer/teacher, to take over both the remedial and the creative writing classes.
Hogan obviously knows both groups of students well, and some of her best scenes involve teaching rather than detecting. Finding the killer takes second place to rescuing the students from poor teaching, bad conditions, and the burnt-out and corrupt staff. The victims’ behavior had given faculty and students reasons to want to murder them.
The major subplot revolves around Penny’s disconcerting attraction to the professor who hired her (both are happily married). A more effective subplot involves her difficult relationship with her single-mother daughter.
Some of the numerous characters in Killer Frost live on the page. Unfortunately some students get lost in the classroom, and neighbors overpopulate Penny’s diverse community. Most talk too much and act too little—until the fast-paced climactic scene, which ends with a satisfying twist.
Killer Frost, by Judy Hogan, Mainly Murder Press, 2012, 244 pp., $15.95 in paperback and $2.99 in e-book; ISBN: 978-0-9836823-8-7. For more information about the writer, her work, and where to buy the book, go to http://judyhogan.home.mindspring.com.