Review of INDIE Ebook Broken Heart Attack – Book 2 of the Braxton Campus Mysteries series by James J. Cudney #Brainfluffbookreview #BrokenHeartAttackbookreview

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I thoroughly enjoyed the first book in this series, Academic Curveball – see my review here, so when I realised the second book was already out, and given the major cliff-hanger ending, I got hold of this one.

When an extra ticket becomes available to attend the dress rehearsal of Braxton’s King Lear production, Kellan tags along with Nana D and her buddies, sisters-in-law Eustacia and Gwendolyn Paddington, to show support for the rest of the Paddington family. When one of them appears to have a heart attack in the middle of the second act, Nana D raises her suspicions and asks Kellan to investigate who killed her friend. Amidst family members suddenly in debt and a secret rendezvous between an unlikely pair, Kellan learns the Paddingtons might not be as clean-cut as everyone thinks. But did one of them commit murder for an inheritance?

Cudney’s smooth, readable style scooped me up and swiftly drew me back into life on Braxton campus. While you might initially flounder slightly if you hadn’t had the pleasure of reading Academic Curveball, Cudney ensures you’ll soon make sense of what is going on – and indeed, there’s plenty to keep poor Kellen on the back foot.

His main relationship is with his feisty, sharp-tongued grandmother, Nana D. I really like the intergenerational dynamic within the story. Kellen’s grandmother isn’t introduced just to give us a few smiles at his expense as her snarky replies leaves him waving in the wind, Nana D is important to the story as a character in her own right. I also like the fact that the victim is one of her elderly friends – and that her death is investigated with the same rigour as the hapless youngster in the previous book. Far too much casual ageism is exhibited within this genre, so encountering Cudney’s take on the older characters in his story is refreshing change.

The mystery is nicely twisty, with plenty of potential suspects. I also liked the character development moving forward through the series – while the Sheriff was extremely hostile towards Kellen’s involvement in the previous book, she becomes less so during this investigation, as Kellen proves his worth and gains her rather grudging trust. Once more, Cudney’s skill in handling the whodunit is apparent, while I had a couple of candidates in mind for the wicked deed – neither of them were responsible and yet the culprit had a solid motive.

Any niggles? Well, I was floored by the revelation at the end of the first book and very eager to find out exactly what had happened – to the extent of skimming the first few pages to discover the outcome. If I have a grizzle, it would be that this major plotpoint was slightly squeezed out of the story at the expense of the investigation. So I’m hoping the next book will put Kellen’s personal issues right in the centre of the story, because I’m very keen to see him finally face up to that cauldron of regret, anger and thwarted love…
9/10

14 responses »

  1. Hi,

    Thank you so much for this wonderful review. I love that you highlight the grandparent relationship, and how Kellan handles his nana’s 70-something friends. It’s interesting… I hadn’t realized it until you just said it now… I’m writing the 5th book now, and almost all the main characters are in their 70s. I must connect well with this crowd in my head! 🙂

    J

    • I’m so glad you like the review, James. I was fascinated that you featured this age-group and made it plain that despite her edges, Kellan also gets a great deal from his relationship with his grandmother. And yes – I zeroed in on it, because it’s exceptional for older folks to be depicted in such a very positive light.

  2. For some reason, your description of the “feisty, sharp-tongued grandmother” made me think of Maggie Smith’s Dowager Countess from Downton Abbey, which endeared this character to me immediately and made me want to learn more . 🙂
    Thanks for sharing!

    • It is so much fun – and a real part of the originality is the concentration on the older members of the community. The thing is – I don’t think the author was making a conscious point, which means it naturally runs through the spine of the story.

  3. You nailed this one Sarah. I have read the full series so far and love each book. I love the development of the characters and their relationships and how that fits in with the mysteries.

    • Yes – I’m looking forward to catching up – this is definitely a series I am going to continue. You’re right – while the mysteries are enjoyable, it’s the dynamic around the relationships that actually power the action, which I thoroughly enjoy:)

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