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.