Cozy Review: The Influencer, by Frankie Bow


The Influencer (Professor Molly Mysteries)by Frankie Bow

About The Influencer

The Influencer (Professor Molly Mysteries) 
Cozy Mystery
10th in Series 

Publisher: Hawaiian Heritage Press (March 17, 2021)
Print length : 205 pages

Digital ASIN: B08QW3QL54 

In Which Professor Molly Learns There Is, In Fact, Such a Thing as Bad Publicity

It's spring break. Donnie's taken the baby to visit relatives on the mainland, and Professor Molly finally has time to catch up on the assessment paperwork she owes the Student Retention Office.

Molly's new renter is a social media star seeking privacy in remote Mahina. The arrangement seems to be working out--until her celebrity renter disappears. Molly and her best friend Emma dutifully call in the Mahina PD and try to stay out of the way. But when fame creates its own reality distortion field, everyone has an angle and nothing is as it seems.

 My Review:

Frankie Bow knows how to spin a story, and her writing is top-notch. If I felt a little out of touch at the start due to jumping from the 3rd in the series to the 10th (what? Molly's married with a baby? Huh?), characters and circumstances were sufficiently developed in this book to keep me from getting wholly lost. It does make for a little more challenging beginning for someone jumping in, but I think that Bow strikes a pretty good balance between maintaining the independence of this book and alluding to the backstory from the other nine books.
The story has a generous touch of humor, with a hint of the absurd (or am I just hoping that social media influencers aren't that... tacky?). My favorite line may have been, "Wouldn't a beef jerky stick with  a soul be even worse?" I'll leave you to imagine the context, though I am definitely adding "soulless beef jerky stick" to my repertoire of insults.
I did have my usual slow start, in part because of my sense that I was missing something (I'll recommend reading the series in order, which is how this slightly obsessive reader usually does things). Mostly, my slow start was due to my limited attention span; once I settled down to a good session of reading the way I used to, the story pulled me in and went fast--perfect reading for a rainy day. The mystery itself ended up being a mix of things I saw coming and things I never saw coming, a mostly satisfying blend that perhaps tended a little too much toward the "I thought so" end of things.

My Recommendation:
This is a really enjoyable series by a very competent writer. I enjoy the Hawaiian setting and, even more, the academic setting, coming from an academic background myself. I recommend it for those who like light, fun, but still smart mysteries, with a bonus if you like Hawaii.

About Frankie Bow

Like Professor Molly, Frankie Bow teaches at a public university. Unlike her protagonist, she is blessed with delightful students, sane colleagues, and a perfectly nice office chair. She believes if life isn’t fair, at least it canbe entertaining. In addition to writing murder mysteries, she publishes in scholarly journals under her real name. Her experience with academic publishing has taught her to take nothing personally.


We are pleased to have Frankie Bow drop by for a little interview today.

First question's easy: What are your books about?

I set out to write what I wanted to read more of: wry academic murder mysteries. Some examples: Mary Angela, Kelly Brakenhoff, Sarah Caudwell, Amanda Cross, Cynthia Kuhn, Kathleen Reardon. Although it’s not strictly a murder mystery, I loved Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher. Public higher education is expected to be a lot of things to a lot of people, and we have to keep a straight face while dealing with some absurd contradictions.

“Our position is, yes, Mister Yamada, your wonderful idea for a Golf Course Management major is going through, and before you know it, we’ll be putting out graduates who are ready and willing to work at your resort. And also, no, Senator Kamoku, of course we’re not considering offering a major in golf as a taxpayer-subsidized sop to our most powerful trustee. The very idea.”

What do you do when your legislators and your donors have different ideas about what you should be doing, and you’re financially dependent on both of them?


Who is the audience?

The Professor Molly Mysteries are categorized as cozies, and they technically are: amateur sleuth, small town with colorful characters, no sex or violence onstage. Because of the campus setting, many of the readers who enjoy the books are current or retired educators. But readers who want a story where justice is done and cheaters never prosper should look elsewhere.


What is the best thing about being a mystery writer?

After a frustrating day at work, I can come home, sit down at my computer, and ask myself, “Okay, who needs to die?”


I will admit to taking some pleasure in killing off characters in my own work! 

Personality-test time: If there’s a spider in the corner of the room, do you a) panic, b) have to drop everything until it is removed, or c) hope it’s planning to eat the more annoying bugs that get in?

Definitely c. I am pro-spider. Here in Hawaii, we have no cold season to cause a bug die-off. You’ll find all kinds of creeping, whirring, clacking things in your house. As scary-looking as cane spiders are (for example), they eat our giant flying cockroaches. I’m rooting for the spider every time.


Ugh. Giant flying cockroaches. Yeah, I’ll root for the spiders, too!

Final question: What’s the weirdest thing you’ve had to research for one of your books?

Setting up my own online essay mill! This is where students pay to have their homework done for them. It’s a huge problem with online learning or really with any assignment that isn’t done right there in the classroom. Because each job is written to order, a plagiarism-checker won’t flag it. There’s a subplot in The Influencer involving an essay mill. I researched available domain names and found that was available. I bought the domain name and set up the site! (Go on, try it!)


I checked it out! Beautiful. Since I was an academic in a former life, I share Molly’s agony over chasing plagiarists. I hope she always wins over the Student Retention Office as well as over the devious (or lazy) students!

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FTC Disclosure: I was given an electronic review copy of The Influencer as part of a Great Escapes free blog tour, in exchange for my honest review, not for a positive review. The opinions expressed are my own and those of no one else. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising." 


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