Academic Curveball by James J. Cudney

Book Blurb


When Kellan Ayrwick returns home for his father’s retirement from Braxton College, he finds a dead body 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? 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 adds up. With the help of his eccentric and trouble-making nana, Kellan tries to stay out of the sheriff’s way. And if that wasn’t enough already, his own past comes spiraling back to change his life forever.

In the debut novel in the Braxton Campus Mysteries Series, you’ll discover a cozy, secluded Pennsylvania village full of quirky, sarcastic and nosy residents.


My Review


This is the first book of James that I read and I absolutely loved it. After reading the first paragraph, I knew that James was going to add another fan to his list. I loved his writing style. Informal and classy. The story is as narrated by Kellen. Kellen also reminded me of Arthur Hastings for some reason. They had few things in common – blurting out more than necessary in the wrong place and the wrong time (especially the first time he meets Inspector Flatman), loving and caring father, getting reprimanded for not controlling his tongue.


Let me do a character analysis before giving my final opinion.

Kellen Ayrwick – widower; daughter – Emma; (late)wife- Francesca; works for the television show Dark  Reality; his boss Derek is an absolute jerk; everybody seems to forget to tell him things – his parents do not tell him that his two best friends Maggie and Connor are now working at Braxton Campus; Connor, Eleanor (Kellen’s sister), Lorraine, Alton, and even coach Oliver seem to be a tad-bit secretive; the strained relationship that he shares with his father; the lovely relationship he shares with his maternal grandmother – Nana D; Chief April cold-shouldering  or insulting him.


Wesley Ayrwick – a strict father; emotionally distant; secretive upto some extent; I felt that Kellen is trying really hard to prove that he’s a good son but somehow Wesley doesn’t seem to be impressed.

Eleanor – A loving and caring sister

Violet – A loving and caring mother who follows recipes by the book.

Nana D – A loving, caring, funny, tech-savvy, cool-dude-kinda-attitude grandmother. She almost (always) sets Kellen with the wrong girl. Last time it was a two-time bigamist and this time … well, read the book to know who it is this time. And her pies and scones and jams – yum!!

Other characters include Lorraine – Wesley’s assistant; she’s almost like an aunt to Kellen. Myriam – a no-nonsense woman who can get on your nerves. Derek – can I say, horrible boss? Alton and Abby Monroe – their relationship was going through a rough patch and Coach Oliver seemed to be playing a nice little double game!

Maggie and Connor – Kellen’s best friends – they were all together at Braxton a couple of years ago. Maggie and Eleanor’s decision, in the end, is definitely a recipe for disaster. And Chief April – well, she definitely lives up to her name -angry. (Associating April with the season summer)

Kellen’s in-laws play a very important role too. With their ‘connections’ and their so-called import-export business, there is something fishy here!


The ending was excellent and unexpected. I am really looking forward to reading the next book in this series. I want to know more about the final statement that Eleanor makes. The story starts on a slow note but picks-up pace halfway through the book. This is a unique cozy mystery – cozy series with a male lead. I liked the blend of changing grades overnight + murder + students competing for the major/minor Baseball League + most of the suspects being secretive about something. The identity of the perp was unexpected!

My favorite character is Nana D – no doubts about that. I am looking forward to reading more about Kellen’s life before moving to Braxton, especially the one that involved his in-laws. Overall, it was a very good and interesting read; Unique and one-of-a-kind cozy mystery.


My Rating


Language/Writing: 4.5/5

Plot/Story: 4.5/5

Character development: 4.5/5

Ending: 5/5


Overall Rating: 4.5/5


Book Details


Title: Academic Curveball (Braxton Campus Mysteries #1)

Author: James J Cudney

Publication date: 15 October 2018

Genre: Cozy Mystery



Thank you, James, for the ARC.

8 thoughts on “Academic Curveball by James J. Cudney

    1. Thank you, Marie. 🙂 Yes, he is. This is the first book that I read and I just loved his writing. 🙂

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