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ODU Administrator Publishes Second Murder Mystery

By Brendan O'Hallarn

Dan Hennelly has stuck with the familiar - and the academic -- in publishing his second novel, "Stairway to Death."

The long-time Old Dominion University administrator has set his new book on the same fictitious campus - Chesapeake Bay University -- that was the setting for his first novel, "Fatal Knowledge," published in 2012.

Hennelly, academic services analyst with Old Dominion's Office of Academic Affairs, tells another sordid tale of revenge and murder.

""Stairway to Death" uses fictional Chesapeake Bay University as a backdrop for murder, just as Colin Dexter used Oxford University as the setting for his Inspector Morse mysteries," Hennelly said. ""Stairway to Death" explores the foibles of academia, as well as following the clues to solve a murder.

In "Stairway to Death," professor Alex Collinge is found bludgeoned to death in a stairwell, leading to a complex web of investigation, featuring an estranged ex-wife and children, a spurned lover and other characters on campus.

After the late professor's wife and son are charged with murder, professor Andy Stanard, the amateur sleuth who is the protagonist of both novels, gradually unravels the case. "He quickly tumbles down a twisted trail into the dark secret of a vicious killer," the book's foreword notes.

Hennelly wrote and published both novels using iUniverse, a print-on-demand publisher based in Bloomington, Ind. The book can be purchased through Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

In 2012, Hennelly received an award from the University's Dream Fund, which helped with the cost of publishing his first novel.

Much of the inspiration for his books comes from his days as a student at the College of William and Mary, Hennelly said. He began writing his first book, "Fatal Knowledge" in 2000 late in the evenings, after his wife and three sons were in bed, or early in the mornings on weekends. Hennelly said he didn't even tell his family, including wife Mary Bride, a retired librarian, until he had been working on the project for a year.

"I'd always wanted to write a novel and in 2000 began my quest. My ambition was not to write the great American novel; I just wanted to write a novel that someone would enjoy reading on the beach," Hennelly said.

Hennelly will do a book signing for "Stairway to Death" at the University Village Bookstore at noon on Thursday, March 23.

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