Last year Janice Hamrick debuted with Death On Tour, a book that won the Minotaur/MWA First Novel competition and introduced us to Austin high school teacher Jocelyn Shore who had to solve a murder on her discount tour through Egypt. The book’s mix of Hitchcock style thriller and romantic comedy, infused with Hamrick’s eye for human detail, made a great read for fans of light mysteries as well as winning over some of us hard boiled fans. With her latest, Death Makes The Cut, Janice Hamrick proves that it wasn’t just beginner’s luck.
In the first book, Jocelyn mentions her experiences as a teacher helps her solve the crime. In the new book, Hamrick puts Jocelyn right in her element with the murder of the tennis coach on the first day of school. The plot deals with possible drug dealing, a Twilight-like movie being shot on campus, school politics and angry parents all putting her own life in jeopardy.
Jocelyn also finds herself in a love triangle. She starts to wonder about her feelings for Alan, who she met in Death On Tour, when the investigating detective, Colm Gallagher, makes himself available for her. There is a very funny scene when the two men meet one another with Jocelyn in between them. Even her ex-husband shows up.
Where Hamrick excels is in her use of the school setting. She shows the gossip between Jocelyn and her fellow educators with ease and believability. She depicts them having as many cliques as the students. She weaves the school politics, bureaucracy, and general soap opera atmosphere into the plot, proving that people are most vicious when the stakes are so low. She also looks at the happiness the job can bring, especially when Jocelyn becomes the defacto tennis coach.
In Jocelyn Shore, Janice Hamrick has given us a character worth following. She is a smart, every day woman dealing with situations that are over her head in a believable way. What makes her even more relatable is the way she becomes frustrated by her own emotions as much as she’s frustrated by the corner criminals back her into. Start reading and before long you’ll see why it’s not just Alan and Detective Gallagher falling for Jocelyn Shore, it’s readers, too.
MysteryPeople welcomes Janice Hamrick to BookPeople to speak about and sign Death Makes the Cut this Friday, July 27 at 7pm.