Reviewed by Viga Boland for Readers' Favorite
Good mystery, suspense and thriller writers know that the best way to keep a reading turning those pages is hold off the "big reveal" for as long as possible, even to the near end. That's exactly what Jana Rieger does in A Course in Deception. In fact, she holds it off for so long that just when you think you've figured out who's behind all the problems she is facing in her university sleep research lab, surprise! It's not who you thought after all.
But that said, a little like a train slowly pulling out of a station and then gathering speed until it's nearly running away on the tracks, A Course in Deception starts gradually. We meet the protagonist, Mackenzie, and get a close look at what a warm, loving person she is. We share humorous, even private moments between her and her husband, Stephen. We sense an intriguing relationship between her and her co-researchers like Luke, and as the story gathers momentum, we pick up on the petty jealousies, greed and power struggles that are part of all careers where everyone is wanting to get ahead, be recognized and become rich. And therein begins the mystery of rats dying in the lab, and a beloved co-worker, Anbu, suddenly dying in an accident when the story opens.
As Mackenzie battles lies and deception, trying to unravel who is creating havoc for her in both her professional and personal life, to the extent that she is barred from her lab pending an investigation, Jana Rieger touches on social issues that are part of too many lives: grown children fearful of their parents' disapproval; power-hungry people who stop at nothing to get what they want; and institutions that will let integrity and honesty take second place to financing projects. Because of these other themes pursued through good characterization by Jana Rieger, A Course in Deception becomes more than just another enjoyable fiction mystery.