Rima Ray’s Ruby Roy and the Murder in the Falls is a cozy mystery set at an upstate New York university.
Ruby, 29, is an absent-minded assistant business professor at Baron University located near Niagara Falls. The only child of a white Canadian mother and Indian father, she is self-conscious of her plus-size frame but comfortable dressing in a way that attracts attention. Her outfits combine designer suits with T-shirts and socks emblazoned with cartoon characters in a style she deems reflective of her personality, “Fancy yet whimsical, luxurious yet pragmatic, classic conservative yet colorful and childlike.”
Ruby enjoys a quiet life with her husband, a computer game designer. Her days revolve around teaching, online shopping, reading detective fiction, and binge-watching crime shows. When she stumbles upon the body of a murdered colleague, that calm existence is shattered. She even worries she may wind up implicated. Worse yet, she fears an unflattering photo might accompany news of her arrest, “It was one thing to be deemed a murderess, Ruby thought, but another thing to be an ugly one.” Despite her risk-averse nature, the killing of a second faculty member prompts Ruby to investigate the slayings.
With its quirky amateur detective, humor, lack of gore, and small community setting, Ray includes elements typically found in cozy mysteries while imparting a modern sensibility. In addition to ethnically diverse characters, references to Indian culture infuse the narrative, and elements of the pandemic’s remote lifestyle form an integral part of the plot.
Ray also touches upon body image and beauty standards by integrating these topics in a lighthearted way into Ruby’s inner thoughts. These digressions, however, sometimes slow the pace. A humorless prologue also seems incongruous with the playful tone of the story that follows.
Despite these minor flaws, Ray succeeds in creating an entertaining and suspenseful mystery with an interesting sleuth. A promising debut, Ruby Roy is a quick read that should delight cozy mystery fans.
Also available as an ebook.