Publication Date: January 23, 2014
In New Math Is Murder newly divorced local newspaper columnist, Colleen Caruso, is ready to get back in shape. She dons her jogging gear sets out and literally trips over the dead body of the local algebra teacher. Who wants him dead and why? As suspects multiply Colleen tries to stay away but then the mega-hot new editor wants her to write a column following the investigation. How can she say no? As the investigation progresses perhaps the better question is how can she survive?
The author, Jo-Ann Lamon Reccoppa, gave me a copy of this book in exchange for my review.
New Math is Murder is a fun read. Most genres have their formula. In the cozy genre a character stumbles into a mystery (in the case of Colleen, stumbling is literal) and has an in on the case whether through local law enforcement or pure doggedness. Colleen is a hesitant heroine. She’d like nothing more than to forget about the case. The best things about cosies is that they pit unlikely heroes against cases, and in the case of Colleen, she’s the least likely of heroines as she can’t get away from the body or case fast enough. New Math is Murder is the first book in a new series and falls victim of that first book curse to an extent. We’re getting to know Colleen as she encounters her first case and much of the book is fighting against further involvement, when any cozy reader knows that soon she will embrace or pursue it. If the main character in a cozy series isn’t at least a little proactive in their involvement, they read as the unrealistically least lucky person in the world after a few novels.
The author is getting to know the character. The character is getting comfortable in his or her world. The supporting characters that tend to be a little out there are making their first impressions, and making them in a way that can sometimes be too over the top for readers. Reccoppa balances her extraneous characters well so that you can see how they’d be annoying to Colleen, but remain entertaining for the reader. As outlandish as they are, not a single character grates on the reader’s nerves. They love and support Colleen, and we know that’s what she needs in her life and are happy for her and delight a bit in her discomfort.
The author’s biography says that she drew on her life experience to create Colleen and the supporting odd cast of characters, and they do have the feeling of authenticity. Early on Colleen says that her 16-year-old daughter “…. was scrutinizing (her) every word like she was sizing (her) up for a mental competency hearing.” (Page 5). In that moment a bond was built between this reader and the character. My 12-year-old looks at me in the same way, and I know exactly what she’s talking about. Reccoppa has a wonderful sense of humor and a keen skill at turning a picturesque phrase. On Page 93, Colleen is being pursued and waves for the driver behind to pass. “The driver, infatuated with my rear bumper, refused the invitation.” Reccoppa paints a clear picture with her style, and the flow of the story is smooth and consistent if the firework moments are few. There’s no reason the author should send her main character into a state of shock that would throw off the story.
I was waiting for a romance element in the story, not because it’s expected of the genre, but because it seemed imminent in the story. Colleen seemed to have chemistry with a few characters and perhaps that element will come later in the series, but readers not comfortable with the character playing a long game will be disappointed. To add that complication this early would have read as trite, so as a reader, I’m happy she didn’t go there just yet. Colleen needs time, and most readers will be delighted to give her that leeway.
Reccoppa is a professional writer and her technique reflects that. There were some formatting issues with the review copy that I received, which is not uncommon for review copies and unlikely reflects in the finished product. Beyond the minor formatting issues, the book is perfectly polished. Told in the voice of the character there are some concessions to the way people speak.New Math is Murder hits all of the high points of a cozy and does it well. Reccoppa manages to keep the story light, the characters fun and the mystery fresh. I really enjoyed reading this first installment in the Jersey Girl series and look forward to what comes next for Colleen and crew.
Jo-Ann Lamon Reccoppa is a New Jersey-based freelance journalist. New Math is Murder is her first novel.
Read and excerpt and buy New Math is Murder by Jo-Ann Lamon Reccoppa on:
Read a review of the second book in the Jersey Girl Cozy Mystery: Hide nor Hair.