Phi Beta Murder (2010) by C. S. Challinor
Scottish barrister Rex Graves heads to Florida where his son, Campbell, is attending college. Their last phone conversation has led him to believe that something is bothering the young man and he's looking forward to some father-son time. Maybe Campbell will confide in his old man. But Rex has just arrived when something more serious crops up. The RA for Campbell's dorm is found dead behind a locked door--an apparent suicide. When Dixon Clark's parents learn that Rex was first on the scene (he broke in the door) and that he has a law background, they ask him to investigate. Initial conversations with Campbell and his friends lead him to believe that there is more to the death than meets the eye. But that means there is a murderer loose on campus and he fears his son may be in danger as well.
To make things even more complicated, Rex's ex-girlfriend, Moira, shows up. She tried to talk to Rex before he headed for the States, but he wasn't having any. She left him behind in Scotland to do charitable work in the middle east...and took up with another man out there. Now that that man has left her, Moira thinks they can just pick up where they left off. But Rex has moved on to another relationship and isn't interested. But Moira is ready to do what she has to in order to get Rex back...
Juggling an investigation and an insistant ex is difficult enough when one is at home, but handling matters in another country adds an extra element of challenge. Fortunately, Rex has experience in amateur investigations and his instincts lead him to conversations with the right people. Now he just has to find the evidence to back him up...
Challinor gives us an interesting twist on the locked room mystery and does a pretty good job with red herrings and clue placement. And I do appreciate a mystery with an academic bent to it. The plot itself is a good one, but I wasn't taken with the whole Moira side-story. I'm not a big fan of so much personal conflict in the lives of the lead detectives--which is probably why I prefer Golden Age mysteries. The conflict is always centered on the mystery, providing motives and red herrings. The detective is there to do just that--detect. It's nice for the detectives to have a bit of depth to their character but ongoing emotional drama doesn't generally add to a mystery for me (there are some exceptions), especially when it doesn't really add to the story. And I don't feel like Moira adds much here. ★★★
First line: From Blackford Hill, the volcanic formation of Arthur's Seat resembled a pair of buttocks.
Last line: Campbell groaned dramatically and slumping in his seat, covered his ears.
Deaths = 3 (one car accident; one hanged; one cancer)