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The Brim Reaper (Style & Error Mystery #3)
Diane Vallere
Halls of Ivy (Halls of Ivy, #1) - Roland Nuñez In Halls of Ivy, Doctoral candidate Cheyenne Winters is visiting the fictional Sun Valley University, located in central Florida. The purpose of her four month visit is to conduct research to complete her dissertation. Things are not going as she expected, however. Upon her arrival to the campus, she was greeted by hostile administrators and the police investigating the suicide of a student. Undaunted, Cheyenne settles in and begins the process of interviewing 21 freshmen students on their college expectations, needs and experiences. Against her better judgment, Cheyenne finds herself becoming emotionally attached to several students. Then, another student commits suicide. This suicide sets off a chain of events that drags Cheyenne into the middle of the investigation, further alienating her from the administration and jeopardizing her research. What happens next brings to light a secret society, student bullying, and university corruption. Cheyenne must decide what is most important – her Doctoral dissertation and her professional future or doing the right thing and saving lives.

I liked this book. I like mysteries and this one kept me guessing. The character of Cheyenne was relatable and likable. I found myself wanting her to be successful and expose the problems within this fictional university. Because I live in Florida, the locales were familiar and I could relate all too well to the complaints about the weather.

There were a few flaws with this book that prevented me from giving it a rating of 5 stars. First, it was very long. It took me a very long time to read this book. At points, it felt like irrelevant things were being discussed just for the sake of lengthening the book.

Second, there were so many characters – 30 plus – that, other than Cheyenne, it was very difficult, if not impossible, to become attached to them. Some characters were given one chapter or one mention in one of the “transcribed interviews” and then never heard from again. Others were brought into the narrative in such a way that I couldn’t figure out who they were or how they fit into the story. With the plethora of characters, I had to keep going back in the book to recall who they were and how they fit in. This contributed to the amount of time it took me to read this book.

Third, the writing style was a little confusing. Nunez switched between four different points of view in the structure of the book. The book consisted of one page biographies written by the students, transcriptions of the interviews Cheyenne conducted with the students, a 3rd person narrative of events from Cheyenne’s point of view, and a 3rd person narrative of events from various students points of view. The timeline jumped around as well. We started with Cheyenne arriving on campus in January, jumped back to August with the students arriving on campus at the beginning of the academic year, then to the student written biographies, then to the narratives written from the students’ point of view, back to Cheyenne’s point of view, and so on. It made it very difficult to follow the sequence of events. I found myself wishing that I had kept a journal of characters that I could refer back to, which may have helped me to keep track of who was who.

Lastly, I felt like the book should have ended about 50 pages before it did. It seemed that after the mystery was solved, there was a lot of talking that was unnecessary and a final incident that was unneeded, and was never resolved. This book is the first of a series with the same characters, so perhaps the last 50 pages were setting up the reader for the next book.

Overall I did enjoy this book, and would recommend it.

Review by Rebecca Kinnie
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