Goodreads summary (review below) of The Professor by Lauren Nossett:
For fans of Tana French, The Professor investigates the darkest corners of academic ambition, lies, and obsession.
On a spring afternoon in Athens, Georgia, Ethan Haddock is discovered in his apartment, dead, apparently by his hand. His fatality immediately garners media, not because his death reflects the troubling increase of depression and mental health issues among college students, but because the media has caught the whiff of a scandal. His professor, Dr. Verena Sobek, has been taken in for questioning, and there are rumors his death is the result of a bad romance. A Title IX investigation is opened, the professor is suspended, and social media crusaders and trolls are out for blood.
Marlitt Kaplan never investigated love affairs. A former detective turned research assistant, she misses the excitement of her old job but, most of all, the friendship of her partner, Teddy. When her mother, a professor at the university and colleague of the accused professor, asks for her help, she finds herself in the impossible position of proving something didn’t happen. Without the credentials to interview suspects or access phone records, she will have to get closer to a victim’s life than ever before. She quickly finds herself in his apartment, having dinner with his roommates even sleeping in his bed. But is she too close to see the truth?
In her relentless pursuit to uncover the mystery behind Ethan’s death, Marlitt will be forced to confront the power structures ingrained in the classroom against the backdrop of a historic campus and an institution that sometimes fails its most vulnerable members.
Reason #1 Pacing
*Before getting down to the review, I would like to note that I loved the first book featuring Detective Marlitt Kaplan. The Professor just didn’t hit the mark. Also, when reviewing a book in a series, I like to mention whether or not the book can be read as a stand-alone. While The Professor can be read as a stand-alone, there is information in The Resemblance that is key to the story (and I’ll get to the harm in this later).*
The Professor starts in a captivating way. I found it interesting and was excited to read another Lauren Nossett book with Detective Marlitt Kaplan. It dives right into the heart of the story. Unfortunately, the pacing doesn’t hold up to the beginning. The Professor becomes erratic and, at times, sluggish. If I had been reading a hard copy and not listening, I fear I would’ve skimmed pages at different points. It felt like it took forever to get to the solution.
Reason #2 Plot/Mystery
The plot had a lot of potential, with the mystery surrounding a student’s death and possible affair with his professor. As the summary suggests, many themes can be interwoven. They include self-medicating, mental health, and power dynamics in the classroom. However, while they are addressed, they aren’t explored deeply. Meanwhile, the mystery loses the plot (pun wholly intended) about halfway through the story. This is part of the reason it becomes sluggish. Lauren Nossett goes down one too many rabbit holes, and quickly, there are more and more suspects that don’t seem to have any connection to the mystery. At some point, I tried to remember what state I was living in and then realized it was the state of confusion.
Reason #3 Time Lines/POVs
Usually, having multiple timelines and points of view is one of my favorite mystery structures. It adds to the mystique of current events. However, it just didn’t work in The Professor. It isn’t a matter of labeling. Every POV is labeled clearly, except “her” and “him,” but that isn’t the problem. Labeling them “him” and “her” should provide more intrigue. However, how those POVs are written becomes messy and confusing. I don’t want to spoil anything, but by the time I figured out who “him” was, everything had gone off the rails. So, it just added to the story’s confusion, sluggishness, and downward spiral. Lauren Nossett doesn’t pull it off.
Thank you to Flatiron Books and Macmillan Audio for an advance copy of The Professor by Lauren Nossett, released on November 14th.
Reason #4 Characters
This is the part where The Professor, as a stand-alone alone, doesn’t work. Along with the lack of development of the themes, there is a lack of growth in the characters. In a series, you expect the author to build on the story and the characters’ arc. This never happens. Let alone the fact that one of the most compelling characters from The Resemblance, Teddy, is left out of The Professor.
The returning characters stay stagnant from The Resemblance to The Professor. The new/side characters aren’t examined enough to make you care about their trials and tribulations. A stand-alone is born when an author can include some backstory from the previous book without slowing it down. It doesn’t help that nowhere in the book, or the summary, is it mentioned that The Professor is a sequel.
Reason #5 Epilogue
This last part will be short because I don’t want to spoil anything. However, to say the epilogue doesn’t make sense is an understatement. It is a shame because the very last twist is actually well done. The epilogue sabotages it. You end up rolling your eyes and forgetting that final twist. Lastly, it is evident that Lauren Nossett is setting up a third book in this series, but the cliffhanger is non-existent. There is one sentence, and by the time you get to it? You don’t care. Overall, the shallowness of the entirety of The Professor makes you not care about much, at all.