Stay of Execution by Kellie Larsen Murphy

Stay of Execution by Kellie Larsen Murphy
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Mystery/Suspense, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (311 pgs)
Rated 4 stars
Reviewed by Snapdragon

Little Springs was just a small college town, the kind of town where everyone knew everyone and violent crime was nonexistent—until a series of rapes and murders at the college. After an outbreak of fear and hysteria, only the arrest and conviction of Leo Spradlin, the “Co-Ed Killer,” could end the terror.

Years later, Spradlin is suddenly cleared based on unshakable DNA evidence, and no one is more surprised than Detective Mike Cancini. As new questions surround the identity of the true “Co-Ed Killer,” Cancini struggles to accept his role in the conviction of an innocent man. Suspicions mount when Spradlin’s release coincides with a fresh wave of rapes and murders at the college, eerily reminiscent of the original crimes. Cancini is drawn back to Little Springs, caught in a race against time to uncover the identity of the latest “Co-Ed Killer” before the next girl dies…

Stay of Execution opens every bit as grim as we expect from the title. It’s a small town and the conviction rang true, way back when, and a little matter of changing evidence isn’t going to change people’s minds. They know who the guilty party is.

Detective Michael Cancini is devastated to see this old case fall through: it was a seriously dark case, involving the years-ago deaths of five young women. New evidence came to light, and it changes everything…and unknown to him, a young reporter, Julia Manning, has also decided to investigate.

Eerily, we can see into the minds of all three: the two ‘on the case’ as well as the killer. Ms. Murphy presents these viewpoints skillfully, and we slowly begin to puzzle out this crime, both from the strictly evidence-collected side, as well as from the motivation side. We also get a strong sense of public opinion; a sense of the fear running through the small town. There were the rapes and murders and now there might be… revenge? The possibility of revenge amps up what is already an eerie mystery to one more fitting in the ‘thriller’ category.

The forensic evidence, faults with DNA testing, and what caused the re-examination of evidence is thoroughly discussed, in an interesting and informative way. Fans of the facts-based contemporary mystery/whodunits will really enjoy the discussions focused on forensics. The case doesn’t dwell long on forensics though; various characters carry the story forward at speed. The local barkeep knows everyone, or he knows someone who knows someone. Regular old gossips supply some information, too. There’s a real sense that everyone’s business is known and discussed, but for some things… it’s not.

The author’s maddeningly casual approach to pronouns makes you guess about who is meant, on occasion. It wouldn’t be so irritating if the story weren’t so riveting! However, it’s a small complaint, in an otherwise well-plotted, well-written mystery. Do put Stay of Execution on your to-read list.


  1. Thanks for hosting me today!


  1. […] Please see our review of this book HERE. […]

Speak Your Mind