About the Book
Death by Dissertation (Cassandra Sato)
1st in Series
Setting – Nebraska
Emerald Prairie Press (April 17, 2019)
Paperback: 355 pages
Digital ASIN: B07PKRD658
Ambitious Cassandra Sato traded her life in Hawai’i for a dream position as Student Affairs VP at Morton College in tiny Carson, Nebraska. She expected the Midwestern church casseroles, land-locked cornfields, and face-freezing winters would be her biggest challenges, but it’s her job that’s rapidly becoming a nightmare.
A deaf student is dead and the investigation reveals a complicated trail of connections between campus food service, a local farmer’s beef, and the science lab’s cancer research. Together with her few allies, Cassandra must protect the students caught up in the entanglement.
Dealing with homesickness, vandalism, and a stalker, Cassandra is trapped in a public relations disaster that could cost her job, or more. No one said college was easy.
There are many cozy mystery series set on college campuses, so authors have to work hard to make their stories unique. In Death by Dissertation, our protagonist Cassandra Soto have left Hawai’i for a job in Carson, Nebraska. I know winter there is milder than in the Upper Midwest where I live, but come on Hawai’i!!! It was that hook that first caught my attention.
As Student Affairs VP at Morton College, I am sure Cassandra can handle the weather and cornfields instead of the ocean, but I bet she never imagined finding one of her students dead. A deaf student that was working in a science lab doing cancer research.
His death is suspicious and Cassandra finds herself in the middle of the investigation while trying to do her job and her boss’s job because he has traveled to China and stay on top of all the homecoming week festivities. Worried that she could lose her position she keeps pushing forward but is put to a real test as she tries to discover who killed her student and why.
Cassandra Sato waded through everything that was thrown at her like a rockstar. To take the job of Student Affairs VP it is a given that she is ambitious and smart, but she is having a hard time fitting in in small-town Nebraska. She looks different than anyone else in town and she dresses more formally. Her home is vandalized and she is threatened and told to go back where she came from. But she handles it because this is her dream job and if she is ever going to be a college president she needs to stay calm and deal with all types of people.
Meg O’Brien is Cassandra’s longtime friend and an ASL interpreter at Morton College. My daughter uses American Sign Language at work, in fact, my grandsons can sign and understand many words too, although it is not part of their daily lives. I have always been interested in it. The author is an ASL interpreter herself and I like the way she puts that part of herself into the story and the character of Meg while raising an understanding of what deaf students encounter in college and going into the workforce.
I did enjoy some of the unique phrases of speech used by Cassandra, some were easily translated but some left me scratching my head. The interactions between Meg and Cassandra were realistic and some were laugh out loud funny. Their shopping trip to get Cassandra proper clothing for Nebraska was full of humor.
Ms. Brakenhoff is a very detailed writer which I felt was very necessary for this story due to the scientific theme. Many parts of the college and community are connected and play into solving the mystery with a wide variety of suspects. Her details also helped me to get a clear picture of all the characters. The pace she sets is relaxed until it starts to ramp up as more and more clues start to fall into place,
This series is off to a marvelous start. I can’t believe this is Kelly Brankenhoff’s first novel. She is an author to watch.
About Kelly Brankenhoff
Kelly Brakenhoff is an American Sign Language Interpreter whose motivation for learning ASL began in high school when she wanted to converse with her deaf friends. As an American Sign Language Interpreter with more than twenty years of experience, Kelly’s worked in college classrooms for fifteen different majors. From traipsing across muddy farm fields to stomach-churning medical procedures, and stage interpreting for famous figures, Kelly’s community interpreting interactions number in the thousands. Unfortunately, once she’s stepped away from the job, she usually forgets 90% of what happened. Which helps her keep confidential information safe, but also makes it really hard to grocery shop for more than 5 items without a written list.
Kelly wants to live in a world filled with peace, love, and joy, where people who can hear learn enough sign language to include deaf people in everyday conversations and work. Where every deaf child has early access to language and books with characters like them, and dark chocolate is cheap and plentiful.
When she’s not interpreting or writing, you can find Kelly cheering for her favorite Husker teams or training for half-marathons because she really likes dessert.
Her first mystery, Death by Dissertation, released April 22, 2019.
Purchase Link – Amazon
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Praise forDeath by Dissertation (Cassandra Sato)
by Kelly Brakenhoff
Death by Dissertation is a great start for a debut author and I can’t wait to see what other adventures await Cassandra Sato.
~Only By Grace Reviews
Death by Dissertation was so great!!! I love cozies but I’m always looking for something different that stands out. Death by Dissertation didn’t disappoint in any sense.
~The Layaway Dragon
If you’ve ever struggled to fit in at a new job, or if you just enjoy a wry and compelling mystery, pick up Death By Dissertation. The academic personalities were so recognizable that I couldn’t help but laugh (and cringe). I can’t wait for the next installment!
Death by Dissertation has collegiate spirit, a complex crime, scientific exploration, an avaricious killer, and a gifted gumshoe.
~The Avid Reader
Death by Dissertation is an engaging mystery with puzzling clues that introduces readers to a plucky protagonist . . . Author Kelly Brakenhoff is to be commended for her insider observations and realistic portrayal of campus politics and life in a small college town.
~Book Club Librarian
Find yourself caught up in this heartwarming academic cozy mystery featuring a strong and determined female sleuth.
~Mallory Heart’s Cozies
This story is engaging and keeps you a bit on the edge of your seat as you watch for clues and try to figure out just what was up.
~My Reading Journeys
This book is very detailed and I thought the author did a good job on character development and providing just enough information to keep the reader engaged but not so much detail that a reader might lose interest.
Wow! What a brilliant start to what I hope will be a long series! Kelly Brakenhoff pulled out the Cozy stops and wrote a page-turner and a half.
~A Wytch’s Book Review Blog
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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of this book. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”