If You Were a Private Investigator…

Earlier this year, I featured the talented writer Marja McGraw on this website. You might remember that Marja and I have both written novels that include the tangled web of family, friends, treasure, and (of course!) murder.

Read our work and you’ll see we’ve taken a different approach to our tales. My series is set in the Ozarks, for example, while Marja’s work is rooted in Arizona, California, and other points west. I have an amateur sleuth who runs a boarding kennel and dog training business, while Marja’s Sandi Webster mysteries features a private investigator.

Marja Author Photo New_edited-1That brings us to this week’s guest post, written by my colleague, Marja McGraw. To celebrate the recent release of the audio edition of  A Well-Kept Family Secret we’re giving away copies to two lucky winners! All you have to do is leave a comment for a chance to win.

There are two ways to leave a comment here. The easiest way is to click on the title of this post and then scroll all the way to the bottom of the page that opens. You’ll see the comments already posted, and below that you can add your own. The second way is to click on “Comments” in the line below the “Posted in” section at the very end of the post.  If you run into difficulty posting a comment here, please drop by my Facebook Author page or Marja’s Facebook Author page and leave a comment. We’ll keep track of all the entries–wherever they’re posted–and draw the winners on November 24th. Be sure to bookmark this page and check back!

If You Were a Private Investigator, Would You Take This Case?

For just a few minutes, let your imagination run away with you. What type of case might pique your interest if you were a private investigator? Imagine it involved a situation that occurred a very long time ago. I mean so long ago that there are no survivors from that era.

What if someone came to you and asked you to solve a mystery that took place over one hundred years ago? Let’s say it’s a crime that took place in the late 1800s and you have no idea how to solve it.

Now I want you to add a degree of difficulty. What if the person who wanted you to solve the crime was your menopausal mother? Let’s say your mother could be unrelenting because the incident involved an ancestor. Would you take the case? Don’t forget, you’ve got other clients to take care of no matter how much your mother pushes you.

I grew up hearing stories about a great-great-grandfather, who along with another man, ran the Red Light District in Old Los Angeles and who was notorious throughout the Southwest. These weren’t your typical Grandpa stories. He wasn’t a nice man.

Curiosity made me do a little research about him and Old Los Angeles. I found some interesting information which made me dig a little deeper. Then I read an article in the newspaper about the old District being dug up when a new parking lot was to be installed at Union Station in Los Angeles in the 1990s.

Aha! I contacted Adrian Praetzellis of Sonoma College, the lead archaeologist involved in the research of this area. He turned out to be a fountain of information and sent me a CD that included both information about the Red Light District and Old Los Angeles in general.

Things fell into place for me and I knew I had to write a mystery about the past and include a man with little conscience. A Well-Kept Family Secret found its way into my imagination.

A Well Kept Family Secret Audio

There were so many possibilities, and I was able to include little snippets of history. In 1903 the infamous Carrie Nation led a march of reformers into the Red Light District. She lectured women in the area, and several even seemed to listen to her. She’d been arrested a few days earlier during one of her marches for “parading without a license”, and left shortly after her visit to the Red Light District. Who knew? My image of her was one of her holding an axe and marching on saloons. The District was located in the old Chinatown area. Little things help set the scene.

Back to using your imagination, how could you possibly solve a murder that took place so many years ago? Could you positively prove your relative didn’t commit the murder? You never know where research might lead you.

Oh, and there’s the added element of hidden riches in the story, which was loosely based on a family legend. Word has it that my great-great-grandfather hid gold and silver coins worth a lot of money somewhere in Los Angeles. I found a newspaper article about people still searching for it as late as the 1940s.

Have I piqued your interest or imagination yet? Read about it in A Well-Kept Family Secret, or better yet, listen to the story in audio book format. With people’s busy lives today, an audio book can be a treasure.

Leave a comment for a chance to win an audio book!

Visit Marja’s Website: http://www.marjamcgraw.com/

Check out her blog: http://www.marjamcgraw.blogspot.com/

Buy books: http://tinyurl.com/m8s6uux

A Great Read!

Scroll down this page a bit and you’ll find information about the very talented mystery writer Marja McGraw.  Since that post, I’ve been reading the first book in her Sandi Webster mystery series, A Well-Kept Family Secret.  If you’ve  made a note to read this series, add this book to the top of your “must read” list!

Well Kept Family Secret cover

A great cast of characters and a well-crafted mystery set the stage for this terrific read. There are actually two stories—one a century-old murder, the other a contemporary tale—converging in a highly satisfying conclusion. Writing two different time lines can be tricky, but Marja handles it beautifully. I don’t often read mysteries with a private investigator as the main character, but Sandi Webster is endearing, and downright funny at times. She’s surrounded by quirky relatives and friends, all of whom want to be involved in the investigation. As you might imagine, that can create some interesting situations!

I already have book #2 on my “must read” list, and eager to see what Sandi and friends get up to next. Thanks, Marja, for an entertaining read!

UPDATE: Marja’s in the process of moving her website and blog. I’ll post the new links as soon as she’s up and running.  Meanwhile, you can reach her by leaving a comment here.

Get to Know Marja McGraw

Marja McGraw

Marja McGraw

I’m delighted to introduce readers to Marja McGraw,  a talented writer with over ten books to her credit—and more in the works!  A native of Southern California, she’s lived and worked in California, Nevada, Oregon, Alaska and Arizona in jobs ranging from civil and criminal law, to state transportation, to print and digital media. While a member of Sisters in Crime, Marja served as Editor for the organization’s Internet Newsletter.  She and her husband now live in Arizona, where life is good.

Here’s Marja, telling us about her current work:

 I have two series which include canines. The Sandi Webster Mysteries involve a half wolf/half Golden Retriever who’s also half protector/half chicken. The Bogey Man Mysteries include two Yellow Labrador Retrievers, brother and sister, who have a knack for sniffing out bodies and mysteries.

Both series are light reading with a little humor. While there’s nothing funny about murder, you can find humor in the characters solving a case and the situations in which they find themselves. The books concentrate more on solutions than drama.

Most of the stories take place in Los Angeles, which is big enough to account for plenty of crime, and a great place to lose yourself. I’ve thought about—and asked—what readers might be interested in. I’ve learned people still enjoy reading about secret passages, hidden rooms, and buried treasures. They like a good “on a stormy night” story. Readers also enjoy characters they can relate to, and who might make them laugh or smile. I’ve tried to provide all of these things, along with a little history if the story involves a cold case.

The stories are somewhat unusual, either in the subject matter or how they’re solved. The characters are down-to-earth and easy to read.

My target audience? Anyone who enjoys a mystery. The characters in the books range from a child to seniors and everyone in between. I currently have readers in their teen years up to and including readers in their nineties. It’s an open market for a reader of any age.

“A little humor, a little romance, A Little Murder!”

The Sandi Webster Mysteries

Sandi’s a female private investigator who’s a little naïve but growing all the time. From the streets of Los Angeles to the desert in Arizona, mysteries involving cold cases and new situations follow Sandi and her partner, Pete. From the Red Light District in Old Los Angeles, a dog who thinks there’s a ghost in the attic, a 1940s female P.I. who wants an old case solved now, and a ghost town, you never know what you’ll find in the series to ponder and puzzle over. You’ll even find a look-alike for Humphrey Bogart who evolved into a second series.

Death Comes in Threes

Death Comes in Threes is the latest release in the Sandi Webster Mystery Series. Sandi was instrumental in putting David Smith in prison for murder. What’s he been up to during his prison time? He’s murdered a guard and escaped, and he’s coming after Sandi. To make matters worse, her menopausal mother, her elderly neighbor, and her closest friend are all in danger because they won’t leave her side. Are the four women a match for a vengeful killer?

Maybe he’s not a match for them.

The Bogey Man Mysteries

This series features Chris Cross, who’s a dead ringer for Humphrey Bogart. Chris wanted to become a detective until he found out what it involves. Married with an eight-year-old stepson, he tries his hardest to live a calm life while running a forties-themed restaurant. His wife, Pamela, tells the stories about their latest adventures. The family which might remind some of the Thin Man family; they’re always looking for either clues or a way to get their lives back to normal.

Even though he changed his mind about the profession, mysteries continue to seek Chris out. He  gained a little notoriety when he worked with a female private eye, and folks just won’t let him forget that case. Some sweet little Church Ladies even call on him when a friend disappears under mysterious circumstances.

Awkward Moments is the latest release in the Bogey Man Mystery Series. What might happen if you tried to bury the body of a small bird, only to find a body already buried in the hole you’ve dug?  And what might happen if another body ended up in the same hole?

 Awkward Moments

Join Chris, Pamela and Mikey Cross while they try to figure out why someone would be murdered during their vacation, on private property, during the middle of the night. Watch for Chris’s cranky brother to show up unexpectedly, searching for lost gold and running people off of his property.

The Cross family is at it again, just like the amateur sleuths they swear they never meant to be.

Follow this author!

Marja’s mystery blog features an entertaining new post every Monday. Check her website, too, for news and updates on the series, as well as great photos and links. You can find links to book trailers like this one, too.

To order paperback or Kindle editions, check her Amazon page.  And please consider posting a review!