C. S. CHALLINOR – Phi Beta Murder. Rex Graves #3. Midnight Ink, trade paperback; 1st printing, 2010.

   This one had the allure of featuring a well grounded albeit amateur detective, by which I mean one who’s not a gourmet cookie shop owner first, and a solver of mysteries only as the occasion arises — the case being a locked room mystery to boot. Neither promise was quite fulfilled, but the story was interesting enough for me to stay with it through to the end.

   The detective is Scottish barrister Rex Graves, whose previous two adventures I have not read. (There are now eleven novels and two novellas.) He’s in Florida where his son Campbell is in college, and in whose dormitory another student is found hanged to death in the room directly above.

   The school authorities want this incident chalked up as a suicide — the doors and windows were all locked from the inside — but the boy’s parents ask Graves to learn more, if he can. [Plot Alert] The locked room aspect is not played up, and is eliminated very quickly when Rex obtains some plans of the building and sends Campbell up through the duct work to obtain the dead boy’s computer.

   There is a little bit of hand-waving going on here. How would a visiting father have the clout to obtain such building plans so quickly to be of any use to him? The relationship that exists between father and son is a lot more interesting, and so are the problem Rex has with his love life. His current girl friend is upset that his former lover has followed him to Florida, and when the latter is rejected, she tries to commit suicide herself.

   But I don’t read mysteries in which the love triangles therein are more key to the story than the mystery. Challiner’s writing style is smooth and breezy, but I didn’t find enough at the core of this one to be tempted to read another.