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Death by Dissertation

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Worth reading 😎

A cosy murder-mystery with relatable characters, eye-opening insights into the lives of deaf students, and a plot that keeps you hooked.

Death by Dissertation is definitely my kind of story.


It’s got a mystery at its heart with the death of Austin Price, it’s got an interesting cast of characters that keep you hooked, and a satisfying ending that ties everything up nicely.


But it’s not just like any old murder-mystery.


You’re not actually sure if Austin’s death was murder or just a horrible accident at first. And even when the police do confirm that they’re treating it as suspicious, there’s no evidence to point at any suspects in particular.


Most of these kinds of books have a list of suspects who, as the plot unfolds, each have their own possible reason for hurting the victim, with the murderer being revealed as one of these suspects at the end.


In this case, there aren’t many of the characters who you could consider suspects. Everyone is doing what they can to help Cassandra and the investigation instead of acting suspiciously.


I loved that about this book because it made it all the more intriguing as to what happened to Austin. It made me even more suspicious of people because they weren’t being suspicious (maybe I’ve read too many murder-mysteries), and kept me on the edge of my seat while reading.


Even though I did like most of the characters, Cassandra wasn’t always one of them.


I found her a bit condescending, especially at the beginning when we were meeting everyone else through her eyes. She looked down on a lot of her colleagues for not knowing the ins and outs of Hawaiian culture, which annoyed me a bit.


I understand that she felt they were being insensitive, but not everyone knows everything about every other culture. I think I felt that she could have just tried to educate them rather than looking down on them.


I also felt that at times the author was trying to wedge in her knowledge about Hawaii into parts of the story where it wasn’t necessary as if she wanted to prove that she had done her research no matter if it was natural for the plot or not. There was a line when Cassandra was going to visit the local farm that really stood out for me:


‘Although Hawaii's economy was largely supported by agriculture, Cassandra was a city girl at heart.'


Maybe it’s just me, but there was no need to mention the Hawaiian economy just to show that she was a city girl, it just felt unnatural for me.


In saying that, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and what it taught me.


I’ve never thought about how difficult college (and the education system in general) must be for deaf people so seeing their experience and how they have to navigate that was eye-opening.


(I also learned that goosebumps are also called ‘chicken skin’, which actually grossed me out if I’m honest, I much prefer ‘goosebumps’. It’s a bit less icky.)


Overall, Death By Dissertation is a great read, and I’m already looking forward to the next Cassandra Sato mystery.

Reviewed by

I've had a passion for writing and books since I was a kid, and I've been blogging about books on Rachel's Rambling Reflections for about 3 years. I've come to learn that there's no better feeling than finishing a great book and being able to share it with others who I think would love it too.

About the author

Kelly Brakenhoff is an American Sign Language interpreter, scone baker, half-marathon runner, chocolate lover, Hufflepuff, wife & mom, dog petter, Husker fan. view profile

Published on April 22, 2019

80000 words

Genre: Cozy Mysteries

Reviewed by