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    Review of PHYSICAL EDUCATION by Maggie Barbieri

    MURDER 101

    Minotaur, November 2011

    College Professor Alison Bergeron is already running late when the campus security guard stops her to tell her that her car's trunk is ajar. Unfortunately, it's a dead body holding the trunk open... and this isn't the first dead body to turn up in Alison's trunk. Because Alison is involved, her cop-husband can't take the case, but Alison knows the other cops on the case and, for the most part, she's content to think she isn't a suspect. Alison doesn't mind doing a bit of amateur sleuthing, but she'd rather spend her time trying to track down who is destroying the reputation of her favorite priest than sorting out what looks like another mob murder.

    Alison is still adjusting to life as a married woman, and one of the things she does is attend her step-daughter's basketball games. Which doesn't exactly make her a basketball expert, but when the team's coach dies of a sudden heart attack, Alison is tasked to take over coaching the basketball team. Alison figures it's just as well that she's super-busy, because her husband Bobby Crawford's schedule has suddenly taken a turn for the worse... and he's coming home smelling of another woman's perfume.

    Author Maggie Barbieri (see more reviews of mysteries by Barbieri) deals with complicated situations (e.g., the Catholic Church's swing toward anti-woman and anti-gay) in a breezy and enjoyable style. Watching Alison try to figure out how to coach a basketball team is also fun and I would have liked to see more of this side of the story. While there is a lot to like about PHYSICAL EDUCATION, for me the plot didn't quite pull together. There is a connection between the murder setting the story into motion and Alison's investigations, but the connection isn't close and Alison's work never really leads anywhere. Likewise, the basketball angle was not really convincing (surely the university could have found someone with a bit of basketball experience to take over the coaching), and the coincidence of the team being connected to her investigation of the priest was a bit hard to swallow.

    PHYSICAL EDUCATION held my interest and kept me reading, but I really thought the story could have been improved by some judicious editing.

    Two Stars

    Reviewed 1/12/12

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