Academic Curveball (Braxton Campus Mysteries #1)4 Stars

Expected publication: October 15th 2018 by Creativia

This is the third book I have read by James Cudney, and this is quite a different book from the other two. There are some similarities, such as a dysfunctional family, but this is a cozy mystery, with some humour. Kellan Ayrwick is a single father following the death of his wife in an accident. He has returned home for his father’s retirement celebration as well as to meet and talk to a woman who has a story for the reality television show he works for. The woman, who promised to give some dirt to Kellan’s boss on trouble behind-the-scenes at Braxton College, ends up being killed, Kellan steps in and begins to investigate. With the help of an old friend and head of security, Collin, the begrudging tidbits of information from the sheriff, the case heats up before the murderer is found.

Many of the characters in this book were extremely unlikable. Kellan’s parents were too busy to spend time with family members and had actually driven several siblings away. Even though Kellan’s sister Eleanor lived in town, there was no relationship between her and her parents. In fact, Eleanor and Kellan really didn’t have much of a relationship either, they met up when one of them wanted something from the other one. Then there is Nana D. She is the humour in the story. She is a smart, sassy, busybody who loves Kellan and in her own way helps him figure things out. Add in the college employees, many of them rather bitter and nasty, some students who were involved in the mystery and you have an intersting mix. This was a good mystery dealing with sports, college politics, families, flawed characters with a huge surprise at the end. There were enough of red herrings to keep me changing my mind about the culprit and their identity was a total surprise as well as the motive. It made sense when it was all laid out though. My one complaint is that this is a longer book than most of the cozies I have read, but there was enough to keep me reading. Kellan is a great MC, with a lot of baggage yet to be unpacked. I am very interested to see where this series will go next, especially with the surprise at the end. The author generously provided me with a copy of this book to read. The rating, opinions and ideas are my own.

About the Book (From Goodreads): When Kellan Ayrwick, a thirty-two-year-old single father, is forced to return home for his father’s retirement from Braxton College, he finds the dead body of a professor in Diamond Hall’s stairwell. Unfortunately, Kellan has a connection to the victim, and so do several members of his family. Could one of them be guilty of murder? Then he finds a second body after discovering mysterious donations to the college’s athletic program, a nasty blog denouncing his father, and a criminal attempting to change student grades so the star baseball pitcher isn’t expelled.

Someone is playing games on campus, but none of the facts add up. With the help of his eccentric and trouble-making nana weeding through the clues, Kellan tries to stay out of the sheriff’s way. Fate has other plans. Kellan is close to discovering the killer’s identity just as someone he loves is put in grave danger of becoming victim number three. And if that’s not enough to wreak havoc on his family, everything comes crashing to a halt when his own past comes spiraling back to change his life forever.

In this debut novel in the Braxton Campus Mystery Series, readers discover a cozy, secluded Pennsylvania village full of quirky, sarcastic, and nosy residents. Among the daily workings of Braxton College and the charming Ayrwick family, Kellan weighs his investigative talents against an opportunity to achieve a much sought-after dream. When this first book ends, the drama is set for the next adventure in Kellan’s future… and it’s one you won’t want to miss.

About the Author: James is my given name; most call me Jay. I grew up on Long Island and currently live in New York City, but I’ve traveled all across the US (and various parts of the world). After college, I spent 15 years working in technology and business operations in the sports, entertainment and media industries. Although I enjoyed my job, I left in 2016 to focus on my passion: telling stories and connecting people through words. I tend to write in the contemporary fiction and family drama genre with elements of mystery, suspense, humor and romance. To see samples or receive news from my current and upcoming books, please subscribe with your email address at my website:

I’m an avid genealogist (discovered 3K family members going back about 250 years) and cook (I find it so hard to follow a recipe). I love to read; between Goodreads and my blog at, I have over 700 book reviews which will give you a full flavor for my voice and style. On my blog, I started the 365 Daily Challenge, where I post a word each day that has some meaning to me, then converse with everyone about life. There is humor, tears, love, friendship, advice and bloopers. Lots of bloopers where I poke fun at myself all the time.

A bit of humor: Everything doubles as something else when you live in NYC. For me, it’s the dining room, my favorite space in the apartment, where more than just my cooking is on display! As I look out the windows onto a 12th floor terrace, various parts of nature (trees, bushes, flowers, bugs & animals) inspire me to write.