If you’ve been around here for long, you know I love my cozy mysteries! Today I’m sharing a series that I discovered a few months back, along with an author chat.
The Braxton Campus Mystery series, by James J. Cudney, is a book series centered around a man named Kellan, his family, and the community around Braxton — the town and the college.
You may remember I did a cover reveal for the third book a while back. Now I’ve had a chance to read it, and wanted to share a bit more about the series as a whole!
Kellan Ayrwick is a 30-something single dad, who leaves his work and home in California, and with his daughter, returns to Braxton. Upon coming home, he reunites with his family, finds a job teaching at Braxton College, and somehow keeps falling headfirst into strange circumstances and suspicious deaths.
In book one, Academic Curveball, we meet the Ayrwick family and quite a few people connected with Braxton College. At this point, Kellan is coming home just for a visit, to attend his father’s retirement party. Here’s a summary:
When Kellan Ayrwick returns home for his father’s retirement, he finds a body in Diamond Hall’s stairwell. Unfortunately, Kellan has a connection to the victim, and so do several members of his family.
Soon after, the college’s athletic program receives mysterious donations, a nasty blog denounces his father and someone attempts to change students’ grades.
Someone is playing games on campus, but none of the facts add up. With the help of his eccentric nana, Kellan tries to stay out of the sheriff’s way. But who is behind the murder?
Once that case is solved, and we’ve been introduced to new characters and some curious discoveries, it’s on to book two, Broken Heart Attack. In this installment (slight spoiler alert!), Kellan has decided to make a go of staying in Braxton and is now working at the college. But as before, things don’t exactly go according to plan:
When an extra ticket becomes available to see the dress rehearsal of King Lear, Kellan tags along with Nana D and her buddies. But when one of them dies of an apparent heart attack in the middle of second act, Nana D asks Kellan to investigate.
With family members suddenly in debt and a secret rendezvous between an unlikely pair, Kellan learns that the Paddingtons might not be as clean-cut as everyone thinks.
But can Kellan find the killer, or will he get caught up in his own stage fright?
Finally, it’s on to book three, Flower Power Trip. In this book, Kellan is thrown headfirst into yet another Braxton mystery:
At a masquerade ball to raise money for renovations to Memorial Library, Kellan finds a dead body dressed in a Dr. Evil costume.
Did one of Maggie’s sisters kill the annoying guest who’d been staying at the Roarke and Daughters Inn, or does the victim have a closer connection to someone else at Braxton College?
As Kellan helps school president Ursula bury a secret from her past and discover the identity of her stalker, he unexpectedly encounters a missing member of his family. Everything seems to trace back to the Stoddards, a new family who recently moved in.
Between the murder, a special flower exhibit and strange postcards arriving each week, Kellan can’t decide which mystery in his life should take priority. But unfortunately, the biggest one of all has yet to be exposed – and when it is, Kellan won’t know what hit him.
This has been a very fun series to read. As I’ve mentioned, it’s rare to find a cozy series with a male protagonist, so it’s brought a different perspective. Kellan is a great dad and his little girl Emma is charming and precocious. I think by far my favorite is Nana D, Kellan’s maternal grandmother. She still lives on a farm in the Braxton area, is running for mayor, and still has plenty of time to meddle in everyone’s life, and to work hard at finding a suitable young lady for her grandson.
Kellan became single again when his wife was killed in an accident. Through the series, though, he also learns her death didn’t happen exactly as it had appeared, and that many things about the incident were hidden from him… including some family mob ties!
It’s enjoyable that the mysteries are layered on top of one another… there is a case to be solved in each book that stands alone, but Kellan deals with other themes that run through the series as a whole: finding answers about his wife’s death, keeping Nana D in check, missing family members, and campus politics. It makes for a deeper, more satisfying story.
I’d recommend this series to any cozy mystery lover. It has well developed characters, interesting family dynamics, and entertaining cases to be solved. And yikes… does Jay know how to write a twist! Each installment has ended with a big “WOW” that has left me wanting more!
Catch up on the Braxton Campus Mysteries here:
New installments now available (updated October 2021):
By the way… these books are also on Kindle Unlimited! If you’re a member, add these books to your list! Not a member of Kindle Unlimited, but interested in trying it out? Click here to learn more!
Now… let’s learn a little more about the author! James J. Cudney, who often goes by Jay, is a talented writer who published a few books before tackling this cozy mystery series. He’s not just a writer, but also a prolific reader, a book blogger and Bookstagrammer, and more! I “met” Jay on social media when I started blogging and have come to enjoy his books, and also value his recommendations! I was fortunate enough to do a mini interview with him recently that I’m excited to share with you!
1. This series is set on a college campus in a small town. What made you choose to use that setting and to include a host of characters in higher education? Did you draw inspiration from a real place?
2. Most cozy mysteries have a female protagonist, but your books feature a 30-something guy as the main character and amateur sleuth. What’s one thing you really want your readers to understand about Kellan? Did you base him at all off yourself, or do you share any characteristics?
3. You’ve only been writing full time for a few years. Have you always been a writer? What was it like making the leap to writing as a career?
4. You’re not only a novel writer… you’re also an avid reader and book blogger! (Note: We’re in the second half of April and James has already read *70* books this year!) How do you carve out that much time to read, and how do you balance it with everything else?
5. The fourth book in the Braxton Campus Mysteries is coming out in June. Can you give us a hint or two about what’s in store?
6. Finally… other than your book coming out, of course, what are you really looking forward to this summer?
Well, I for one can’t wait to see what that new series entails, but first I’m looking forward to the fourth book (and hopefully more?) in the Braxton Campus series. Many thanks to Jay for taking time out to share with us… visit him at his website, where you can find book information, as well as social media links if you’d like to give him a follow!
I hope you’ve enjoyed this little detour into Braxton… look for more cozy mystery talk in the coming weeks, as well as spotlights on some of summer’s biggest books.
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