In The Trap
(Hazel & Maeve: The Campus Mysteries, #1)
Publication date: May 10th 2022
Genres: Adult, Mystery, Suspense
For Hazel, an introvert with a knack for people watching, campus life is awkward and hard and…lonely. That is, until she starts to let her guard down around her roommate, Maeve—who’s fun and has a wicked flair for drama. Could there be more than just a friendship here? Maybe. But Hazel has a lot of family trauma to work through before figuring out the other big parts of her life. For now, she’s just happy to have someone to talk to.
All seems to go well until a night in the Trap—the university’s green space—leads to a tense encounter with some drunk guys. When one of the guys ends up dead, Hazel is implicated, and she and Maeve set out to solve the crime before police can connect either of them to it. But how can two amateur sleuths put together a solid case to hand over to the police in time? By following the campus online diaries, that’s how.
Set at the beginning of the internet age, people are just starting to share all their deepest, darkest secrets via the World Wide Web, yet the assumption of online anonymity may be a critical mistake. As the perpetrator posts their criminal diary for public consumption, Hazel and Maeve scramble to use technology to piece together the murderer’s identity. Can they hack their way out of becoming suspects? And if so, could they ever go back to their boring majors?
“The rain subsided a little; its pounding beat softened to a patter, and Aunt Liddy relaxed her shoulders. She punched the radio back on, and the soothing tones of “I Can See Clearly Now” filled the car.
As Aunt Liddy hummed along, I worried a hangnail on my thumb, savoring the little sting of pain. It reminded me who I was, where I was going, and that I was doing it alone. The road stayed slick with water and sounded like its own river as we drove over and through puddles.
Suddenly, a sharp bite stole my breath as I lurched forward in my seat, the seat belt digging into my collarbone and chest. Aunt Liddy put her arm in front of me as if that would be enough to stop my head splitting against the windshield. The dashboard was mere inches from crushing the bridge of my nose.
She stomped the brakes and yelled and cursed. Bright red taillights filled our windshield, sparkling and reflecting in the last of the raindrops that hadn’t been swiped away. The back of our car started to edge around. Back and forth, fishtailing as Aunt Liddy tried to gain control. Her face flushed pink, expression strained.
Life was supposed to flash in front of my eyes, but I hadn’t lived long enough for anything to really show up. I saw my mom smiling and heard my dad laughing, and nothing more. Were they—and everything they’d been through—all my life had amounted to?
Miraculously, Aunt Liddy steadied the car. She laid on the horn. It blared long and loud.
“Did you see him? He cut me off!”
The truck in front of us was massive, with a set of mud flaps showing the curving silhouettes of two naked women. Classy. The truck driver stuck his middle finger out the window.
“Stupid dick.” Aunt Liddy drew in a deep breath. “He’s gonna get someone killed.” She turned to me. “I’m sorry. Are you okay, hun?”
I could barely breathe. My heartbeat pounded in my throat and ears. My eyes watered and felt as though they were barely in their sockets. But sure, I was fine and said as much. That stupid song continued. Its singer insisted life was all clear blue skies and obstacles could be seen from far off, which was a damn lie. Trucks came out of nowhere, and so did bad people. Red flags didn’t look like red flags until after the fact.”
Jessica Cranberry lives in the Sierra Nevada foothills with her family and spends days striking a balance between parenthood, teaching, editing/proofreading, and writing–suspense novels and eclectic short stories mostly. When she’s not doing those things, she’s reading, attempting to garden, or hiking around town. She’s an okay baker, and has been known to paint on occasion.