I always appreciate authors who can draw upon their professional experiences, research skills, and love of books to create a fictional world that’s uniquely their own. Today’s featured author, Cindy Quayle, has done just that, combining her passion for mystery fiction—and cozy mysteries in particular—with a love of travel and adventure. To my way of thinking, Cindy’s debut work, Death on Cozumel Island, could be described as a “destination mystery.” I’ve added the book to my TBR stack; if you’re interested in kicking off your own summer reading with a cozy mystery set in a beautiful locale, read on!
Q&A With Cindy
What inspired you to write a cozy mystery?
When I gave birth to my first-born son over 16 years ago, I wanted something fun and light-hearted to read. My first cozy mystery book was by Joanne Fluke, and I loved that her main character was a strong, independent woman. I also enjoyed all the dessert recipes that were included.
Tell us about your amateur sleuth.
My main character, Claire O’Keefe, is an English as a Foreign Language teacher, which means she teaches English overseas rather than in the U.S.or other countries that speak English as their first language. Her half Korean and half Irish-American heritage influences her outlook on life and her self-esteem. Claire also deeply cares about her friends, and when they are wrongly accused of committing a crime, she does everything in her power to help them and solve the mystery.
How did you choose Cozumel as the setting for your first book?
I was inspired when my family went to the island for a scuba diving vacation three years ago and I realized it was the perfect place to set my first cozy mystery. It’s funny because before I wrote Death on Cozumel Island, I wasn’t able to finish a story. After our time on the island, though, the plot just fell into place for me.
What’s next in this series?
Yes! My amateur sleuth Claire returns to the Bay area, where she’s deeply involved in solving another mystery.
Praise for Death on Cozumel Island
“Fun debut in a new cozy mystery series…I look forward to seeing what will happen next for Claire.”
“Cozy mystery fans will love this. It’s a perfect beach or vacation read!”
“It’s the perfect blend of atmosphere, suspense, and intrigue. I’m looking forward to my next Claire O’Keefe mystery and excited to see where her next adventure takes her!”
Genre: Cozy Mystery Publication Date: February 22, 2023 Number of Pages: 246 ISBN-13: 979-8375789989 (paperback)
Cindy was born in Seoul, South Korea and grew up in Washington State in the Pacific Northwest. Her love for storytelling began in elementary school, when she was introduced to Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables.
Her professional background includes service in the U.S. Navy, where she learned to appreciate the cultural diversity of the people from myriad countries she was stationed in or visited during port calls. Currently, Cindy holds a faculty position in the Spring International Language Center at the University of Arkansas, where she teaches Intensive English language and other programs to international students.
Gobal travel and cross-cultural experiences, together with a graduate degree in Teaching English as a Second Language, provided a firm foundation for writing the Claire O’ Keefe cozy mystery series. Today, Cindy lives in Fayetteville, Arkansas with her husband, two teenage boys, and two mischievous beagles. To learn more about the series, you can follow her on Instagram or contact her through Facebook to order an autographed copy of Death on Cozumel Island.
In the interest of supporting authors who have encouraged and inspired me, I enjoy highlighting a variety of great books by terrific writers here on this website. That trend continues with Libby Fischer Hellmann, who is an incredibly prolific and award-winning author of both long and short fiction. Libby’s books cross the spectrum of crime fiction—suspenseful mysteries, PI novels, amateur sleuths, police procedurals, historical fiction, and thrillers that will keep you reading far into the night.
Want to know more? Check out Libby’s website and you’ll find her own bookstore where you can buy books at a discount. Her work is available in audiobook, Ebook, and personally autographed paperback formats. You can also find Libby’s books through her Amazon store.
With over 20 titles in print, Libby features one of her ”Backlist” novels every month or so in a short video. Here’s one:
In the past 25 years, the book publishing industry—and by extension, book sales and markets for authors—have undergone a massive transformation. Corporate mergers and takeovers consolidated many of the biggest names in the industry.
Technological advances saw traditional print publishing, while still dominating the industry, yielding market share to digital and audio production. Into this evolving landscape came the online “big box” retailers who muscled their way into the global marketplace, often to the detriment of small-town bookshops, “mom-and-pop” stores, and authors.
In 2008, the American Booksellers Association launched an initiative to support local communities and promote a nation-wide network of independent bookstore and connect authors and readers. Here’s a blurb from bookweb.org about the initiative:
The American Booksellers Association, a national not-for-profit trade organization, works with booksellers and industry partners to ensure the success and profitability of independently owned book retailers, and to assist in expanding the community of the book.
Independent bookstores act as community anchors; they serve a unique role in promoting the open exchange of ideas, enriching the cultural life of communities, and creating economically vibrant neighborhoods.
Locally owned, independent businesses pump money back into their communities by way of taxes, payrolls, and purchases. That means more money for sound schools, green parks, strong fire departments, and smooth roads, all in your neighborhood.
Independent bookstores have always occupied a special place in communities. Through IndieBound — and the Indie Next List fliers and Indie Bestseller Lists — readers find trusted, bookseller-curated reading options, newly discovered writers, and a real choice for buying.
IndieBound allows indie booksellers to communicate this vital role they play in their local economies and communities. It allows authors to show their dedication to indies nationwide, easily done by linking to thousands of indie bookstores through IndieBound.org. And it allows consumers to feel that their actions are a part of a larger picture — to know that their choices make a difference and that others are working toward the same goals.
I’m proud to support Pearl’s Books, our local indie bookstore located here in Fayetteville, Arkansas. The bookstore is named in memory of their beloved King Charles Cavalier spaniel. (Drop by the store and you’ll see a framed photo of Pearl on the table beside the entrance.) I visited Pearl’s today and was thrilled to see so many lining up to support Independent Bookstore Day. Here’s a photo I found on Pearl’s Facebook page:
What can you do when you’re fifty-six, unemployed, broke, and lonely?
That’s just one of the questions tormenting Harvey Hudson, former professor, academic author, and self-described “speculative historian” who’s spent decades pondering the “What-Ifs and Whys” of life. With no job prospects in academia, desperation drives Harvey to ego-crushing gigs like delivering balloon and candy bouquets while wearing bunny ears and a spongy red nose. Pizza deliveries came next; the tips helped him secretly support his mother, and soggy leftover pizza was better than Skittles and Snickers liberated from overloaded baskets. These career lows help explain why he accepts a job as a technical writer for which he has neither the skills nor the interest. That’s his first mistake on the job. His second mistake is outsourcing his work to India.
That decision lands him in a world of trouble when his actions capture the attention of international intelligence agencies, and he’s swept up in a covert operation to prevent a Russian cyberattack on the U.S. petroleum industry. The situation is further complicated by Harvey falling in love with the woman who’s doing the work he’s being paid to do, and who just might be a Russian agent as well.
The elements of cybercrime are set within competing realms of family, politics, and national security; the result is a rich, fast-paced plot that will keep you engaged from start to finish. Unexpected twists and turns in the action create a framework for well-developed characters whose unique personalities add shape and meaning to Harvey’s world.
Harvey’s obsession with the unanswerable what-ifs and whys of life creates an atmosphere that’s laden with moments of deep-rooted guilt, cynical introspection, suppressed desire, and comic desperation. The result is an entertaining and thought-provoking novel in which nothing is what it first appears. You’ll find yourself rooting for our accidental spy even while shaking your head over his behavior. And when the situation turns deadly serious, Harvey must find a way to save himself and those he loves from the consequences of his decisions.
The Accidental Spy Trailer:
Harvey Hudson is an emotionally scarred, fifty-six-year-old history professor who has lost his job, his wife and his self-respect. In desperation, Harvey takes a high-tech job for which he is totally unqualified. So he outsources it to India. Then Harvey discovers that a Russian intelligence agency owns the outsourcing company and are using him to launch a cyberattack on the U.S. petroleum industry. Harvey now finds himself in a world of trouble with the Russians and the FBI, and he has fallen in love with the woman from New Delhi who’s doing the job he’s outsourced—who might be a Russian agent.
Genre: Humorous Thriller with Literary Pretensions
Published by: Encircle Publications, LLC Publication Date: November 2, 2022 Number of Pages: 274 ISBN: 9781645994206
“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, And sorry I could not travel both.” Robert Frost, “The Road Not Taken”
Spy: “A person employed by a governmental agency to obtain secret information on a hostile country.” The Philips Dictionary of Espionage
Accidental Spy: “Some poor jerk dragged into a world of trouble.” Harvey Hudson
Chapter 1: Bunny Ears
Harvey Hudson released the steering wheel and swatted at the blue balloon (“Congrats! You Did It!”) that was banging against the back of his head. What was the ‘It’ for? Someone earned a law degree? Pulled off a bank heist? Successfully underwent potty training? All three? One day before turning fifty-six, and here he was, delivering balloons. How had he let this happen to him? He chewed on the last of the Skittles he’d swiped from a bulky candy basket attached to a red balloon shaped like a birthday cake. Too many sweets for some spoiled kid. He was doing the pudgy brat a favor. The Snickers bar was tempting. Maybe later. Harvey reached across the front seat, grabbed a handful of candy bars from the Skittle-less basket ($149), and dropped them into its modest neighbor ($39). He often shifted candy from larger baskets to lesser ones. He thought of himself as the Robin Hood of balloon-delivery individuals. He’d had just $87 in the bank a few weeks ago when he’d shambled past a help-wanted sign in the front window of the Rapid Rabbit Balloon Service. He paused and reread the sign. “Part-time Delivery Person Needed. Become a Rapid Rabbit!” Yeah, what the hell. He hurried inside before he came to his senses. He would have taken any gig—balloon-delivery specialist, male stripper, or get-away driver for a grizzled bank robber. With his part-time job delivering balloons and his full-time work as a beginning technical writer, Harvey could just stay afloat. His ex-wife had cleaned him out. He double-parked on a smart street of brick-front homes on Boston’s Beacon Hill. Hesitating, he clamped the hated bunny ears over his head and attached the spongy red nose. Sighing, he grabbed the $149 basket and, head down, ambled up the walkway and rang the bell. The balloon bobbed overhead, taunting him. The woman who opened the door was a slim and pretty brunette in her fifties. She had a narrow face and large, dark eyes. She was his boss at his day job. Also his high school sweetheart. Harvey wanted to disappear into the ground. Margo took a step back. “Oh.” Harvey pulled off the bulbous red nose and stuffed it into his shirt pocket. “Uh…this is where you live?” Margo shook her head. “I’m here with my daughter for a birthday party.” Harvey shifted from one foot to the other. “I’m…um…delivering balloons just for tonight to help out a buddy who had two wisdom teeth pulled this morning, a professor who lost his job the same time I did.” Margo blinked twice. “A sociologist,” Harvey added. Margo gripped the edge of the door. “Named Fred,” Harvey said. Margo nodded. “The guy took the job in desperation because he’s broke, recently divorced, and down on his luck,” Harvey said and realized he was describing himself. He handed the basket to Margo. Did she believe him? Probably not. Did the company have a rule against moonlighting? He’d soon find out. Margo poked around inside the basket. “There’s too much candy in here.” “At least there aren’t any Skittles.” Margo selected a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. “I’ve moved tomorrow’s team meeting up to 10:00 A.M. Did you get my email?” Harvey nodded. Was that her way of telling him that moonlighters don’t get fired? He hoped so. He was pathetically unqualified as a technical writer, and his job was in jeopardy. Harvey hated meetings. Sometimes he thought the software engineers asked him questions he couldn’t answer just to see him squirm. Many were kids in their twenties, making double his salary. And he hated lying to Margo. At least he could be honest about one small thing. “Actually, this is my night gig. I’ve had it for a few weeks.” Margo unwrapped the Reese’s, nipped off a corner, chewed and said, “Is that why I caught you asleep at your desk yesterday?” No, it’s because the job is so goddamn boring. He shook his head. “I wasn’t sleeping. I have the habit of relaxing and closing my eyes whenever I’m searching for the perfect way to convey a particularly difficult concept to our worthy customers.” “And snoring?” Margo was smiling now. That same cute smile from high school. He remembered it from the time they’d sneaked a first kiss in the back row of calculus class. The girl he’d loved and lost. She set the basket down and pulled a twenty from the side pocket of her slacks. “Um…would you…uh…accept a tip?” “No.” She shoved the bill into his shirt pocket. “Yes, you will.” Harvey shifted his weight to his left foot. A liar doesn’t deserve a $20 tip. At most, a few dimes and nickels, couch-cushion change. Margo finished the peanut butter cup in silence. He didn’t quite know what to say now. Yes, he did know. He should tell her the truth. He’d outsourced his job to India. Was that illegal? Probably not. But highly unethical. Would she protect him after he’d confessed? Unlikely, which meant he would lose his job. But living a lie was exhausting and just plain wrong. She’d hired him and trusted him. She deserved better. He cleared his throat, once, twice, a third time. “Margo, there’s something I have to tell you. It seems I—“ “Is that the balloon guy?” a young woman called from inside the house. “That’s my daughter,” Margo said and picked up the basket. A blue balloon bobbed on a string attached to the handle. “I’ll be right back.” Harvey stood at the open door, trying to think of some way to soften his upcoming confession. Or maybe just blurt it out and get it over with? “Happy birthday, Dad!” The daughter’s voice again from inside. “Candy and a kid’s balloon again this year! Are you trying to tell me something?” The daughter laughed. Harvey recognized the man’s voice. Tucker Aldrich was the CEO of the company where Harvey worked. He was also Margo’s ex-husband and a first-class dickhead. So, it meant the balloon and candy basket were for Tucker and not some child. Harvey was sorry he’d passed on the Snickers bar. The hell with telling the truth. Margo came back out, holding a glass of white wine. She leaned against the door frame. “What were you going to say earlier?” “Uh…that you’re an over-tipper.” “Only when the delivery person is a cute, curly-haired guy with a spongy red nose,” she said and sipped her wine. “Did I mention that the meeting’s moved to 10:00?” “Yes.” Silence, then Margo said, “Well, I’ll see you tomorrow.” She closed the door behind her. Harvey stared at the bronze horsehead knocker. He wanted to rip it off. The door too. He in fact wanted to tear the whole damn building down on Tucker’s head. Margo hadn’t forgotten that she’d told him about the meeting. Margo was incapable of forgetting. She was warning him to show up. Team meetings were a nightmare. The scruffy programmers spoke computerese, argued over stuff Harvey didn’t understand, and gleefully pointed out errors in his documentation. But way off in New Delhi, lovely Amaya understood, and with luck she might save his job. Tomorrow’s meeting would make or break him. Harvey shuffled down the walkway, his head lowered, his bunny ears slipping down his forehead. He’d been so shocked to see Margo that he’d forgotten to take them off. One of life’s bad moments. Still, she had called him cute. Yeah, sure. He was just hours from turning fifty-six, had found addional gray hairs while shaving that morning, and was thickening around the waist from too many Skittles and Snickers. Harvey climbed into his car and slumped in the driver’s seat. He was angry with Tucker for stealing Margo and angry at Margo for not offering him a glass of wine. But most of all, Harvey was angry with himself for letting her see him in bunny ears. When he’d first started making deliveries a few weeks earlier, he’d refused to wear them, then thought, what the hell? Doesn’t everyone at some time want to play the fool? There was no pressure to succeed, to show off, to one-up a colleague. What if everyone from a prisoner sitting out a life term to the President of the United States had to set aside one day a year and play the fool, to go out in public wearing a spongy red nose and bunny ears? What-Ifs and Whys had obsessed Harvey as a child, who from morning to night had trailed behind his father and mother and pestered them with questions. (What if there was a ladder to the Moon? What if everyone had four arms? Why is cousin Alice getting those bumps on her chest?) Later, he would turn his pestering curiosity into a profession. He thought of himself as a ‘speculative historian.’ (What if the Allies had lost the Second World War? What if Caesar hadn’t crossed the Rubicon? What if no one had invented the computer?) Harvey started the engine, reached over to tap the next address into the GPS, then leaned back. Why humiliate himself like this? His ex-wife had always insisted he was punishing himself in guilt over his younger brother. Harvey denied this, but he knew she was right. Enough. He had reached his lifetime quota of humiliation. Here’s another What-If: What if he quit this goddamn job? Harvey shut off the engine, climbed out of the car, went around back, and popped the trunk. A dozen balloons bobbed on basket handles, aching to go free. Harvey tied the spongy red nose to a balloon that read “Get Well Soon!” He cut it loose. Next, he liberated a black balloon picturing a racecar (“Turning Ten!”). Finally, he tied his rabbit ears to a cluster of white orbs trailing a banner that read, “Congrats, New Parents!” and set the bunch free. He watched until the last of the balloons caught the breeze and disappeared into the night sky. He slammed the trunk closed, climbed into his car, and right away started to fret. What if a balloon floated to the harbor for some sea creature to swallow (Headline: “Reckless Ex-Professor Kills Orca!”). Just one more reason to be angry with himself. *** Excerpt from The Accidental Spy by David Gardner. Copyright 2022 by David Gardner. Reproduced with permission from David Gardner. All rights reserved.
David Gardner grew up on a Wisconsin dairy farm, served in Army Special Forces and earned a Ph.D. in French from the University of Wisconsin. He has taught college and worked as a reporter and in the computer industry. He coauthored three programming books for Prentice Hall, wrote dozens of travel articles as well as too many mind-numbing computer manuals before happily turning to fiction: “The Journalist: A Paranormal Thriller,” “The Last Speaker of Skalwegian,” and “The Accidental Spy” (all with Encircle Publications, LLC). He lives in Massachusetts with his wife, Nancy, also a writer. He hikes, bikes, messes with astrophotography and plays the keyboard with no discernible talent whatsoever.
Fans of historical mystery novels are often attracted to stories which feature amateur sleuths, prominent settings, majestic homes, and set in a specific time and place in history. Award-winning author R. J. Koreto takes these elements and skillfully adds a contemporary twist to craft a mystery that’s sure to please any reader interested in stories that link past and present. The Greenleaf Murders includes all the classic elements of historical fiction and more. The story is set in contemporary New York City and centers on a high-society family still holding firm to their grand mansion built in the Gilded Age, and whose secrets might well lead to danger for people involved.
The contemporary challenges of renovating a historic home are exacerbated by the presence of an elderly family member who steadfastly refuses to move out, forcing the renovation crew to take place around her. Adding to the challenge is the unexpected reticence of the legal owner who is evasive about his vision for the home’s future with Wren Fontaine, the young architect hired for the massive task of restoring the mansion to its early glory.
What begins as an incredible opportunity to restore a once-magnificent Gilded Age mansion soon turns into something sinister upon the discovery of skeletal remains in the attic and a present-day murder that’s soon followed by another. When Wren—an introvert who prefers houses to living people—discovers the police are only interested in the present-day murder, she launches her own investigation and quickly learns the gun that killed the person hidden in the attic is the same weapon used to kill the person who was recently murdered.
The author weaves history and architectural details throughout the story; by doing so, the mansion itself takes on the role of character and delivers tantalizing insights and clues about the people who called Greenleaf House home for generations. The historical, social, and cultural norms of the Gilded Age come to life through Wren’s exploration of the mansion and her research into the past.
Every character lends a unique perspective to the story, contributing essential information that moves the plot forward. Relationships, alliances, and emotional ties are complex; the dialogue reveals some characters have shared knowledge and experiences while other relationships are formed as the story progresses.
Unlike some other mysteries, the suspense is subtle and builds slowly as bodies are discovered and the murders appear to be linked to the mansion and the Greenleaf family. When a third murder occurs, Wren realizes she must rely on her wits, knowledge, and deduction skills to solve a mystery spanning a century. Our sleuth must navigate the many twists and turns as she searches for the truth about the long-dead victim in the attic but for the current Greenleaf generation as well.
Young architect Wren Fontaine lands her dream job: restoring Greenleaf House, New York’s finest Gilded-Age mansion, to its glory days. But old homes have old secrets: Stephen Greenleaf—heir to what’s left of his family’s legacy—refuses to reveal what his plans are once the renovation is completed. And still living in a corner of the home is Stephen’s 90-year-old Aunt Agnes who’s lost in the past, brooding over a long-forgotten scandal while watching Wren with mistrust. Wren’s job becomes more complex when a shady developer who was trying to acquire Greenleaf House is found murdered. And after breaking into a sealed attic, Wren finds a skeleton stuffed in a trunk. She soon realizes the two deaths, a century apart, are strangely related. Meanwhile, a distraction of a different kind appears in the form of her client’s niece, the beautiful and seductive Hadley Vanderwerf. As Wren gingerly approaches a romance, she finds that Hadley has her own secrets. Then a third murder occurs, and the introverted architect is forced to think about people, and about how ill-fated love affairs and obsessions continue to haunt the Greenleafs. In the end, Wren risks her own life to uncover a pair of murderers, separated by a century but connected by motive. She reveals an odd twist in the family tree that forever changes the lives of the Greenleafs, the people who served them, the mansion they all called home—and even Wren herself.
Praise for The Greenleaf Murders:
“A delightful who-done-it in which the house is as engaging as the wonderful heroine. Readers will want to get lost in these rooms and these pages.”
Cate Holahan, USA Today bestselling author of Her Three Lives
“If you love houses and puzzles – which I do – you will be captivated by THE GREENLEAF MURDERS, the first in Richard Koreto’s new series. Equally sure-footed in the gilded age of the mansion’s heyday and the contemporary world of its decline, Koreto has woven a pretzel of a plot, introduced a charming new heroine, and whetted appetites for more grave deeds and grandeur.”
Catriona McPherson, multi-award-winning author of the Dandy Gilver series
“The Greenleaf Murders mixes a modern suspense mystery with the love of old-world mansions and iconic High Society. Buried secrets threaten a family clinging to their former glory as two murders surface, a century apart. Koreto weaves a story that creates the perfect tension between the beauty of the golden era and the fear of a killer in plain sight.”
L.A. Chandlar, national best selling author of the Art Deco Mystery Series
“One would think that a murder mystery featuring old homes, architecture, and rich blue bloods would be a dull read, but that’s not the case with R.J. Koreto’s finely-written “The Greenleaf Murders.” Filled with twists and turns and sharply-drawn characters, this well-done novel is very much recommended.”
Brendan DuBois, award-wining and New York Times bestselling author
Last night, Wren had dreamt she went to Manderley again. When she was fifteen, her mother had given her a copy of Rebecca, saying it was one of her favorites. A voracious reader, Wren finished it in a few days, but her reaction was not what her mother had hoped for. “Rebecca was horrible, but Maxim was no prize either. And the second Mrs. De Winter—kind of wimpy.” “You didn’t like anyone in that book?” asked her exasperated mother. “I liked Mrs. Danvers. I know she was insane, but she really appreciated the house. If people had been nicer to her, maybe she wouldn’t have burned it down. The best part of the book was Manderley. I’d have liked to live there, in splendid isolation, and Mrs. Danvers would take care of things. She was the only one in the book who knew how to do something.” Her mother just stared. What teenaged girl talked about living by herself in an ivy-covered British mansion? She kissed her daughter on her forehead. “Wren, you really are an old soul.” But although Manderley was her first love, Wren proved fickle, and also fell in love with Holyrood House, Blenheim Palace, and Versailles. A succession of guidance counselors worried about Wren, although she gradually learned to make friends, and even go on dates. However, nothing could replace her love for houses, and it was a foregone conclusion by college that she would become an architect like her father and spend as much time as possible working with houses and not people. And not just any houses, but the kind no one had lived in for a long time. As Wren approached 30, her father made her a junior partner and told her if he could close the deal with Stephen Greenleaf, he’d let her take full responsibility for Greenleaf House. Once the proposal they had worked on so hard had been completed, Wren couldn’t think about anything beyond spending her days in that Gilded Age gem, one of the largest private residences ever built in New York City. Over the years, like the second Mrs. De Winter, she dreamed of Manderley, never more than when she was hoping for the Greenleaf job. She came home late one evening after visiting a job site and found her father in the study of the home they still shared. Living at home had become a temporary convenience while she was at graduate school, which turned into a habit, as they liked each other’s company. Not that either would admit it. She watched him sketch. Although the firm had an office in midtown Manhattan, her father preferred to work in the study of their Brooklyn townhouse. For normal work, she knew it was safe to interrupt him, but not while he did the sketches—his avocation, his passion, just him and his pencils, creating columns and cornices, chair railings, and gargoyles. The only light poured from the desk lamp, illuminating the fine paper and her father’s high-domed forehead. She wanted to know if he had heard anything—but had to wait patiently. Eventually, the scratching stopped, and he put his pencil down. “If you haven’t eaten yet, Ada left her spaghetti and meat sauce in the refrigerator. She’s a fine housekeeper, but that particular dish is a little common.” “Only you would describe a dish of pasta as ‘common.’” “You know what I mean. And if you don’t understand the context, you shouldn’t be an architect.” “Fine. But I think it’s delicious.” “Yes,” he said, with a touch of impatience. “I didn’t say it wasn’t delicious. I said it was common.” He swiveled in his chair and smiled. “But you’re really here to ask if I’ve heard from Greenleaf? I told him today that we couldn’t put aside our other projects indefinitely. And that Bobby Fiore was the only contractor we could trust, and we couldn’t ask him to postpone other jobs, so with a few arguments about the price, he agreed.” Wren laughed, did a little dance, and punched the air. Then she ran and hugged her father, which he tolerated. “I knew you’d convince him. You are the most wonderful father.” “Wren. Take a seat.” He said it in his even, measured tone, the one he used for serious discussions. Wren wiped the smile from her face, pulled up a chair, and tucked a rebellious lock of hair behind her ear. In the half-dark room, he took her hands in his. “I have no doubt that you have the technical skills for this job. My concern is the personal skills. These are the Greenleafs. They were a force in this city when it was still New Amsterdam. We see their house merely as an architectural jewel. The family sees it as a symbol of how tightly they are tied to the history of this city. They are different from other people.” “People are people,” she said. “First of all, no. People are different. And even if you were right, people are not your strong suit.” “I’ve worked well with our clients,” she said defensively. “You referred to one of our clients as ‘a pompous bourgeois vulgarian.’” Wren rolled her eyes. “Let’s not go there again. I didn’t say it to his face, just to you.” “Do you think you hid your feelings?” “You’ve said worse,” she countered. Then realized she had lost the argument when his eyes went up to the framed certificate on the wall—the Pritzker Prize, often called the Nobel Prize of architecture. I’ve earned my right to arrogance. You have a long way to go. “Just remember that these people pay our bills. I know we often work to protect them from their own worse instincts, but let’s try to be a little more politic. Your mother used to say you lived in your own special world. But you have to join the rest of humanity every now and then. And that brings me back to Greenleaf House. This is the very important symbol of what was once one of the most important families in this city. Keep that in mind when dealing with Stephen Greenleaf.” “We’ve already had several meetings, don’t forget. He didn’t seem that unusual to me—runs his own asset management firm. I’ve dealt with Wall Street types before. It won’t be a problem.” “Wren.” Again, heavy on her name—all her life, this had been the sign of a serious conversation. “The Greenleafs made their money before there was a Wall Street. People like this are unusually touchy about their families and histories. Now that you’re actually starting, his behavior may change. There could be some emotional repercussions. To make this a success, you will have to watch out for those feelings and manage them.” “And you’re about to say—again—that I understand houses but not people.” “Let’s just say it’s more of an effort for you. You can work with people. You just don’t like to. But I made you a partner. So you can’t just do the fun parts of your job. You have to do it all.” “Yes, father,” she said. He was serious, so there could be no more pushback from her. No verbal fencing. He wanted her to live up to his expectations. “It isn’t your father who’s asking you, Wren. It’s the senior partner of this firm, Ms. Fontaine.” She nodded. “I understand, Ezra.” And then he lightened his face with a smile. “But before we move on to the particulars, there is one more piece of advice, this time from your father. It may be hard to remember in any residence we work on, but especially in one with more than 70 rooms, it is not just a house. It’s someone’s home. It was Mr. Greenleaf’s childhood home, in fact, and his aunt has lived there her entire life. You’re not very sentimental Wren—and that’s fine. Neither am I. But please remember that—it’s not just a building. It’s a home.” *** Excerpt from The Greenleaf Murders by R.J. Koreto. Copyright 2022 by R.J. Koreto. Reproduced with permission from R.J. Koreto. All rights reserved.
R.J. Koreto is the author of the Historic Home mystery series, set in modern New York City; the Lady Frances Ffolkes mystery series, set in Edwardian England; and the Alice Roosevelt mystery series, set in turn-of-the-century New York. His short stories have been published in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine and Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, as well as various anthologies. In his day job, he works as a business and financial journalist. Over the years, he’s been a magazine writer and editor, website manager, PR consultant, book author, and seaman in the U.S. Merchant Marine. Like his heroine, Lady Frances Ffolkes, he’s a graduate of Vassar College. With his wife and daughters, he divides his time between Rockland County, N.Y., and Martha’s Vineyard, Mass.