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.
It’s August in the Berkshires, and the area is suffering from a terrible drought. As wetlands dry up, the perfectly preserved body of a local man, missing for forty years, is discovered in Wolf Bog by a group of hikers that includes Kathryn Stinson. Who was he and what was his relationship with close friend Charlotte Hinckley, also on the hike, that would make Charlotte become distraught and blame herself for his death? Kathryn’s search for answers leads her to the discovery of fabulous parties held at the mansion up the hill from her rental house, where local teenagers like the deceased mingled with the offspring of the wealthy. Other questions dog the arrival of a woman claiming to be the daughter Charlotte gave up for adoption long ago. But is she really Charlotte’s daughter, and if not, what’s her game? Once again, Kathryn’s quest for the truth puts her in grave danger.
Praise for Wolf Bog:
“Wheeler’s deep sense of place—the Berkshires—illuminates a deftly woven plot and a quirky cast of characters that will keep you glued to the pages until the last stunning revelation. It’s always a pleasure to be in the hands of a pro.”
Kate Flora, Edgar and Anthony nominated author
“When a long-lost teenager turns up dead, a cold case turns into hot murder. A deliciously intriguing Berkshire mystery.”
Sarah Smith, Agatha Award-winning author of The Vanished Child and Crimes and Survivors
Genre: Mystery/Amateur Sleuth/Suspense Published by: Encircle Publishing Publication Date: July 6, 2022 Number of Pages: 336 ISBN: 164599385X (ISBN-13: 978-1645993858) Series: A Berkshire Hilltown Mystery, #3 Book Links:Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Read an excerpt:
Charlotte’s brow furrowed as she stared at the bog. “There’s something down there. A dead animal or…?” She raised her binoculars to get a better look.
“Where?” Wally asked. She pointed to a spot on the peat at the edge of the water. Wally had barely lifted his binoculars when Charlotte cried, “Oh, my God, it’s a body!” And took off toward it.
“No, don’t go there!” Wally grabbed at her, but she eluded him. When Charlotte was almost to the body−−if that’s what it was−−she began to sink into the bog. She waved her arms and twisted her legs, trying desperately to get out, but her struggles only made her sink deeper.
Kathryn’s heart seized. They had to rescue Charlotte, but how without getting stuck themselves? Brushing past Wally, Steve started down the slope. Wally caught him, pulled him back, and handed him over to Hal Phelps. “You stay put. Everyone else, too. I’ve had experience hiking around this bog, and I think I can get her out. Stop struggling and try to keep calm,” he called down to Charlotte. “Help is on the way.”
Wally made his way carefully to where Charlotte stood, caught in the mire. He tested each step before putting his full weight on it, backtracking when he deemed the ground too soft. When he was a few yards away, he stopped.
“This is as far as I can safely come,” he told Charlotte. He extended his hiking pole and she grabbed it. Then, on his instructions, she slowly and with great effort lifted first one leg, then the other out of the muck and onto the ground behind her. Wally guided her back to the others, following the same zigzag pattern he’d made when descending. Charlotte went with him reluctantly. She kept glancing back over her shoulder at what she’d seen at the water’s edge.
Kathryn trained her binoculars on that spot. Gradually an image came into focus. A body was embedded in the peat. The skin was a dark, reddish brown, but otherwise, it was perfectly preserved. Bile rose in her throat.
Charlotte moved close to Kathryn. “You see him, don’t you?” Her face was white, her eyes wide and staring.
“See who?” Wally demanded.
“Denny,” Charlotte said. “You must’ve seen him, too.”
“I saw something that appears to be a body, but–” Wally said.
“So there really is a dead person down there?” Betty asked.
“It looks that way,” Wally said grimly. “But let’s not panic. I’m going to try to reach Chief Lapsley, though I doubt I’ll get reception here. We’ll probably have to leave the area before I can.”
“We can’t just leave Denny here to die,” Charlotte wailed.
“Charlotte,” Wally said with a pained expression, “whoever is down there is already dead.”
She flinched, as if he’d slapped her across the face. “No! I’m telling you Denny’s alive.” She glared at him, then her defiant expression changed to one of uncertainty. “Dead or alive, I’m to blame. I’m staying here with him.”
Excerpt from Wolf Bog by Leslie Wheeler. Copyright 2022 by Leslie Wheeler. Reproduced with permission from Leslie Wheeler. All rights reserved.
An award-winning author of books about American history and biographies, Leslie Wheeler has written two mystery series. Her Berkshire Hilltown Mysteries launched with Rattlesnake Hill and continue with Shuntoll Road and Wolf Bog. Her Miranda Lewis Living History Mysteries debuted with Murder at Plimoth Plantation and continue with Murder at Gettysburg and Murder at Spouters Point. Her mystery short stories have appeared in numerous anthologies. Leslie is a member of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime, and a founding member of the New England Crime Bake Committee. She divides her time between Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the Berkshires, where she writes in a house overlooking a pond.
In Dangerous Deeds (book #2 in the Waterside Kennels series) Maggie Porter’s dog Sweet Pea rescues an injured stray kitten she finds beneath the dock. Although Maggie initially describes him as “not much more than bones and fur” the kitten turns out to have a tiger-sized attitude and soon claims the kennel—and Sweet Pea—as his own.
Whether real or fictional, kitties certainly make life interesting for us! Here’s an excerpt of the tale of one kitty who earlier this year joined the household of award-winning mystery author Susan Cox. Susan admits finding the new addition to be a challenge. As she says, “I’m used to poodles–and poodles are very smart–but this cat seems ‘nuclear physicist smart’ and I’m not sure I can keep up.”
Read on to learn the latest in The Middy Chronicles. (Middy, by the way, is short for Midnight.)
I can’t sleep tonight (although Middy’s sleeping just fine, thanks), so I thought I’d let you know how Middy and I are doing as we spend more time in each other’s company due to social distancing and lockdown and such. Short form spoiler–we’re doing fine.
For a cat who was an outdoor cat until a few weeks ago, scrounging for bugs on the driveway and drinking from sprinklers, Middy has entered wholeheartedly into indoor life. When I open the door to offer her an outing she dithers in the doorway (the better to let in as many mosquitoes as possible) and then declines my invitation. I’m not sure why, but outdoors has been crossed off her list of acceptable places to visit. Indoors however, preferably in a patch of sunshine, is the bomb.
THE RED DOT LASER THINGY:
She’s figured out I’m responsible for the red dot laser thingy, and stares at the pen in my pencil pot when she feels like chasing it. I of course immediately leap to do her bidding which is how it should be, she tells me. The red dot laser thingy was cheap, so I found I had money left over to spend on other things.
I bought her two new dishes because…I have no idea why. I have a bunch of little bowls that have been working just fine, but they don’t match and they’re not cute. The impulse to buy the matching pair of very cute square bowls (they were $59 each, btw) was something to do with the availability of one-click ordering, and a fairly large helping of guilt about the mis-matched bowls. Not that she’s ever said anything about them, but a person knows, somehow.
So far the things she likes to eat include tomatoes, apples, canned chili (with sour cream), Havarti cheese, roast beef, yellow mustard, mashed potatoes, tomato soup and Pepperidge Farm coconut cake. She likes her tea with milk, and lemonade holds a strange fascination for her. I hasten to add, before you call the SPCA, that these are mere morsels and licks, not huge helpings. The things she doesn’t like to eat include milk, ice cream and chocolate.
This week I bought her a chic new litter box because, while the other one was fine, it didn’t have much in the way of panache. And panache, I’m sure you’ll agree, is a critical component of one’s litter box. The new one is a top entry one and it looks nicer in the guest bathroom. After worrying that she would find switching to the new litter box stressful, I watched her hop in and use it before I could do any of the things Google recommends as helpful to the transition. I may use the old one–although “old” is stretching it when describing something that’s only a few weeks old–for raising seedlings in the garden. So there’s that.
I found her a cute black collar with gold moons on it and a tiny bell and a half moon charm with a little cat on it. The collar looks so incredibly cute I may buy her a couple more in different colors. For the first few hours she found the bell distracting, sure it was chasing her and not too happy about it, but we persevered and now she seems to appreciate being fashion forward. She looks completely adorable.
I’ve been trying to get some writing done on my laptop, which I suspect Middy is unhappy about, because she tends to stamp around on my keyboard a lot. So I’ve been tearing out pages of my notebook and crumpling them up for her to chase. I’ve also made her a couple of “enrichment” toys by cutting holes in my Tupperware and filling them with small balls, and I made her some pompoms on strings to hang from the dining room chairs. I found a packet of shiny gold and silver plastic coins in the kitchen junk drawer and I toss them around for her to chase and kick the crap out of. She likes that. The house seems a bit like a Traveller’s encampment, but we’re both happy with the stylin’ Boho look of the place.
Even though tonight it’s eluding me, I do generally sleep quite well until about 5:30 every morning. FYI, this is about three hours before my preferred time for getting out of bed. For a cat who doesn’t even weigh five pounds, Middy has extraordinary strength and powers of hypnosis or something. She purrs so loudly I can’t possibly sleep through it, insists on head rubs and ear scratches, and then drags me into the kitchen to prepare her breakfast. So, I do that and then, if she doesn’t want to play with the red dot laser thingy, I sometimes go back to bed for an hour.
In short, Middy and I are learning to give and take. She is taking pretty much everything she wants; while I’d give nearly anything for a couple of extra hours sleep in the morning.
Note: Middy’s story and photographs are the exclusive property of Susan Cox and may not be used without the author’s express written permission.
Susan Cox is the author of The Man on the Washing Machinewhich earned the winning place in the First Crime Novel competition jointly sponsored by the Mystery Writers of America and Minotaur Books. Watch for The Man in the Microwave Oven (next in the Theo Bogart Mysteries) scheduled for publication this year. In the meantime, you can keep up with Susan (and Middy!) on her website and via Facebook.
If you like complex characters, strong plots, and a touch of humor, be sure to check out Susan’s work!
I’ve heard it said there are close-knit groups of owners and handlers in obedience, agility, conformation, and (I imagine) just about every other dog-related activity. That seems to apply to the world of dog-related fiction, too. Our conversations and emails and social media accounts tend to be chock-full of All Things Dog. We commiserate through the rough times while we’re slogging through drafts, edits, rejections, and rewrites. We encourage and support one another through publication and beyond, and we celebrate when success comes knocking for any one of us. Today, we’re celebrating the latest award earned by author and fellow dog lover Sue Owens Wright.
The Maxwell Medallion is the Dog Writers Association of America’s prestigious award for excellence. For many, it’s considered the most celebrated award recognizing outstanding writing across myriad media–from newsletters to magazines to blogs to books (and a whole lot more). You can see the entire list of nominees and category winners here. To learn more about DWAA, visit their website.
If you’re already familiar with this series, enjoy this behind-the-scenes look at the experiences and inspirations for the books. If Sue is a new-to-you author, I’m glad to have this opportunity to introduce her. If you enjoy mysteries with a regional flair (this one’s set around Lake Tahoe) and love Basset Hounds, here’s an author you’ll want to meet!
Sue Owens Wright
Q&A With Sue
You’ve won three Maxwell Awards from the Dog Writers Association of America. What were they awarded for?
Since 2001, I’ve been nominated 12 times for the Maxwell Award and have won this prestigious award twice before for the best writing on the subject of dogs: Best Magazine Feature in 2003 and Best Newspaper Column in 2005. In 2004, I received special recognition from the Humane Society of the United States for a magazine feature I wrote about stray dogs in Greece. Four of the five books in the Beanie and Cruiser Mystery Series have been nominated for a Maxwell, but this is my first win for a novel, a dream come true. Third time’s a charm.
Why do you write about dogs?
Dusty and me
My relationship with dogs goes back a long way. I had a dog when I was still in the womb. I have an old black and white photo of my mom when she was pregnant with me. In the photo with her is a tan mutt named Dusty. When I was born, there was Dusty, who would be my constant and best companion throughout childhood. I’ve never been without a dog since, and my bond with canines is unbreakable. I’ve lived with dogs, slept with dogs, traveled with dogs, and been sick as a dog with dogs, furry empaths who have been a great source of comfort. I’ve rescued dogs, and they rescued me right back. It stands to reason that I would spend my life writing about woman’s best friend. If there is such a thing as destiny, then for me it came with a friendly bark and a wagging tail.
What else have you written?
Poetry was actually the first writing of mine ever to be published when I was in college. Besides the Beanie and Cruiser mysteries, I have written some nonfiction books, including “150 Activities for Bored Dogs,” “What’s Your Dog’s IQ?” and “People’s Guide to Dog Care.” I also wrote a historical thriller, “The Secret of Bramble Hill.” For a decade, I wrote an award-winning pet care column for Inside, a Sacramento publication. I’ve written essays that were published in newspapers, magazines, literary reviews and anthologies, most notably “Fightin’ Words—25 Years of Provocative Poetry and Prose from the Blue-collar PEN,” along with Norman Mailer and other literary luminaries. I was a columnist and senior writer for Comstock’s Magazine. I have written science articles for a technology magazine and also wrote film scripts for an educational firm.
In what ways are your fictional dogs, Cruiser and Calamity, like your real dogs?
I’ve had eight basset hounds over the years, all but one of them adopted, and they have provided me with plenty of material for my fictional canines. My two rescued male bassets, Bubba Gump and Beau (he graces the book cover of “Ears for Murder” along with my now 16-year-old female, Peaches), inspired the Cruiser character, also a rescue. True to his breed, Cruiser is devoted, easy going, tenacious and stubborn. These low-slung hounds tend to make great speed bumps around the house for their people to trip over—and I have. Calamity, the troublesome basset hound introduced in my fourth book, “Braced for Murder,” is a composite of my two most challenging rescue dogs, “Crazy” Daisy and my fearful little Peaches. Daisy was the worst of the two; I sometimes refer to “Crazy Calamity” in the book. Like Calamity, both Daisy and Peaches were the unfortunate victims of puppy mills and backyard breeders who failed to properly socialize them as puppies. Daisy was an inbred anomaly that no amount of socialization could have helped. She was a strange canine case of Jekyll and Hyde. With her, I learned it is wise never to answer ads placed by someone rehoming an adult dog. There’s usually a good reason they don’t want you to know about. I found that out the hard way with Daisy, but I loved her and didn’t give up on her. Beanie doesn’t give up on Calamity, either.
Dolly (left) and Patience, on Kiva Beach at Lake Tahoe
Why did you decide to set your Beanie and Cruiser Mysteries at Lake Tahoe?
I’ve been traveling to Lake Tahoe since childhood. I was born in a valley, but my heart is in the high country. I have always enjoyed skiing, hiking and bicycling at Lake Tahoe. I once pedaled my bike all the way around the lake, a challenge even for the best cyclists. I discovered why Incline Village is so named.
I have long been inspired by this scenic alpine lake and its surrounding history and folklore, which is why I chose to set my series at Lake Tahoe. It has inspired other writers, too. How could it not? As Mark Twain wrote when he first glimpsed Tahoe’s serene and pristine beauty, the lake is the “fairest picture the whole world affords.” I couldn’t agree more. I often visit Lake Tahoe and wish I could live there. Instead, I live vicariously through my character, Elsie MacBean, who shares a cozy cabin in the woods with her basset hounds, Cruiser and Calamity. The idea for “Howling Bloody Murder,” the first book in my mystery series, came to me while I was sitting on the back deck of my family’s cabin with my own beloved bassets. Peering out into the deep, dark woods, I wondered what might be lurking out there waiting to pounce on an unsuspecting hiker. My imagination carried me away, and that is how the Beanie and Cruiser Mystery Series came about.
Read an excerpt:
I quickly discovered that I had made a mistake in allowing Calamity off her leash for our morning walk. Before I could say Fleabiscuit, she scurried off, creating a cyclone of dust in her wake.
“Calamity, come back here!” I shouted, but she showed no sign of slowing her pace. Soon, all I saw was a dirt devil instead of the dog as she vanished from my sight. What had I done? I shouldn’t have trusted that dog off her lead for one instant. Nona would never forgive me if I lost her dog while she was away, just as I’d never have forgiven her if she lost Cruiser.
By the time I caught up with Calamity, I felt like I had sucked up half the mountain into my lungs. I sputtered and coughed, trying to catch my breath from running after her and inhaling all that dust. Why I’m not as svelte as my runway model daughter is anyone’s guess. It seems like I spend most of my time chasing after wayward canines. Cruiser had passed me somewhere along the trail and was busy helping Calamity investigate something. I approached to see what they’d found that was so doggone interesting that they made me run half-way up the mountain to see it. A couple of coyotes spotted us and vanished in a cloud of dust. That could have been the howling I’d heard and what attracted my dogs here. When the dust settled, I discovered something else besides my two hound dogs marking a surviving tree. They had led me straight to a man’s bloody corpse.
A few weeks ago, I received a note from a reader who loves my book (thank you!) and was in search of the next in my series. Since life events have pushed back my publication date for Dangerous Deeds I shared a few of my own favorite writers with her. I also turned to social media to solicit more recommendations from readers and authors alike.
Long-time readers of this site will recognize some of these authors from earlier posts. Most (but not all) of the following suggestions fall in the “cozy” side of mystery fiction. I’ve included links so you can check these out for yourself!