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Book details
  • Genre:FICTION
  • SubGenre:Mystery & Detective / Women Sleuths
  • Language:English
  • Series title:Nan St. Claire Novels
  • Series Number:1
  • Pages:190
  • eBook ISBN:9781623095628

Anything for an A

A Nan St. Claire Novel

by Cee Emerson Polk

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Dr. Nan St. Claire is an English professor at one of the best universities in the country, Duke University. Nan is a runner and adoring companion to three animals: her loving dog, Miss Virginia, PhD (Pretty Hound Dog), and her two tolerating cats, Rochester and McMurphy. (Anyone who can remember the novels which feature the characters for whom the cats are named deserves a prize.) Nan is 20-something, single although looking, and trying hard to be a good Catholic in a world in which sometimes Catholicism doesn’t make much sense, especially since she curses like a sailor, lives next door to a creepy peeping Tom, and has a slight crush on her gay best friend. As do many women, she has body-image issues and despairs of her “Honor Roll chest” (straight As) and swears she can feel the fat growing on her rear end when she misses a run. Nan, although earnest and genuinely nice, has an interesting, amusing, and slightly ironic outlook on life, love, and religion—(but not on Miss Virginia--she’s too perfect for irony.) When one of Nan’s former students is found drowned in the wading pond in the Duke Gardens, Nan finds herself becoming involved, not only in the murder, but also with the extremely good-looking and available detective assigned to the case. And just as the reader will not find any gruesome details relating to corpse dismemberment or bloody, mutilated body parts, neither will the reader find any overly graphic sexual scenes. (After all, the author’s mother is going to read this.)
Anything for an A, the first in a series of light, chick lit mysteries, does. The main character, Dr. Nan St. Clair, is a young English professor at Duke University. She is funny, smart, earnest, and irreverently reverent. Struggling with doing what is morally correct, she sometimes finds that she has to create her own way because “the rules” don’t cover every situation she encounters. Although she prays a lot—for guidance, for wisdom, for a date--she doesn’t always get an answer. She and her beloved menagerie (one dog and two cats) live across the street from Samuel, a boundary-stepping octogenarian who constantly forces Nan to question the “Love thy neighbor” Biblical passage. Sipping wine with her best friend, David, a homosexual engineer with a wicked sense of humor, is one of her favorite ways to pass the time. In the book—and in the series—sex and violence do occur, but for the most part, they happen where they should happen, namely, offstage. Nan does not have an easy life: She has all the issues most intelligent, single women have—career, weight, men, spirituality, and weight (did I mention weight?)—but these issues never overpower her or make her lose her sense of self. Just as no “real woman” would deign to be classified, Anything for an A also defies a label: The manuscript is funny but raises serious issues; it is spiritual, but Nan doesn’t always rely on the Bible to make her decisions and, in fact, at times wittingly goes in another direction; it is a mystery, but no cliffhanging twists and turns defy reality; it is a romance, but the guy gets away at the end. It is a fun read, however, and the audience winds up caring about Nan and her life. In Anything for an A, one of Nan’s favorite students is found drowned in a wading pool on campus early Saturday morning. Alcohol is found in her bloodstream, although the student hadn’t been known to drink. On Monday, Nan discovers a worrisome message the student had left Friday afternoon on Nan’s office voicemail. After placing a call to the police, she meets the wonderfully—and disturbingly--handsome detective, Adam Exbridge. Although Adam doesn’t believe that the death is purely an accident, Nan is the one who finally discovers the truth, which puts her in danger—although, as killing off the heroine would make creating a series difficult, everything works out in the end.
About the author
Cee Emerson Polk, PhD, adventurer, scholar, athlete, has taken on the hardest challenge of her life: writing a mystery novel. When Dr. Polk, a former Naval officer, is not scuba diving, sky diving, or race-car driving, you may find her skeet shooting, belly dancing, or even playing the mascot at the local Single A baseball team. As a Fulbright scholar, she taught American literature classes at a university in a formerly Communist country in Central Europe, and she added off-trail skiing, white-water rafting, and relaxing in co-ed, clothing-optional saunas to her list of regular activities. (She’ll be honest—the co-ed saunas were really her favorite.) At home in Virginia, she is an associate professor of English, as well as being a marathon runner and tri-athlete, having completed 13 marathons, two half-Ironman competitions, and one Ironman, proudly finishing third in her age group. She also is a devoted Catholic, as well as being a strong supporter of animal rights. Although she has published three books, two academic studies and one memoir, as well as contributing regularly to the largest newspaper in the Hampton Roads area, she decided to venture into the world of fiction and write a mystery novel. She completed extensive research, reading all works involving Alex Cross, Alex Delaware, Kay Scarpetta, Stephanie Plum, Archy McNally, Kinsey Millhone, and every other name in contemporary detective fiction she could find. (She decided to forego visiting morgues, prisons, police stations, and other such places—reading at home with a nice glass of Merlot in her hand seemed much more civilized).