Guest Post: Author Jeanne Matthews

Jeanne Matthews, author of Where the Bones Are Buried, is visiting The Book Diva’s Reads today. Most writers want things to go just right in their stories, but Ms. Matthews will be discussing the ways a mystery writer purposefully makes things go wrong.



SIDEWAYS, CROOKED, AND HAYWIRE 
by Jeanne Matthews

Dreaming up ways that things can go haywire is a requisite for any writer of mystery novels. The poet Robert Burns could have been describing the plot of a modern whodunit when he said, “The best laid schemes of mice and men gang aft agley.” Things usually have to gang agley for both the villain and the detective before justice prevails.  

The villain thinks he’s committed the perfect murder, but something goes wrong. He’s forgotten some tiny detail that stirs the detective’s suspicions, or maybe a witness sees what he’s done and tries to blackmail him. What if there’s a freak snowstorm and all the airports are closed and his alibi falls apart? The number of ways in which a plan can go south is limited only by the writer’s imagination. We’re forever asking ourselves “What if?”

While the villain is trying to fix his mistakes and cover his tracks, the detective is of course fighting his or her own personal demons and professional battles. Whether one writes hard-boiled thrillers or cozies, from the first page on, the hero’s life grows ever more complicated. The author throws a barrage of obstacles in his path and the courage and determination with which he overcomes them shows the reader what he’s made of.  

Some obstacles are psychological. Maybe his wife was killed by a bullet meant for him and he’s wracked by guilt. Maybe he drinks too much or has PTSD. And some obstacles are external and related to the investigation. His prime suspect turns out to be innocent as a lamb, or he finds the smoking gun only to have it vanish.

Female sleuths must suffer, too, even the amateurs. You can’t handle your heroine with kid gloves or the story will be boring. Pile on the conflict – a hateful boss, a vengeful ex-husband, a lying best friend, a wicked stepmother. The key to creating an interesting character, and an interesting story, is coming up with the right mix of “what ifs” and knocking everyone’s best-laid plans sideways and crooked.

I love thinking up possible misunderstandings and screw-ups and snafus. In my most recent book, Where the Bones Are Buried, I send not one, not two, but three human wrecking balls crashing into Dinah Pelerin’s happy love nest in Berlin. To be honest, I wasn’t quite sure how she would deal with this whammy. They say that adversity builds character. It certainly reveals character. In adversity, all of my characters, including Dinah herself, tend to lie, a quality which I think makes them very human. Not all of their lies are evil or pernicious. Some are merely defensive and self-justifying. But lies tend to snarl things up and lead to even worse trouble. And when somebody tells a whopper, it can hurl the protagonist’s hopes and dreams and aspirations so gang agley she may never get over it – especially if the source of the whopper is her mother.    

Poor Dinah. But if I have taken a perverse pleasure in making her life difficult, in the end she has the pleasure of unsnarling the lies and solving the murder. As in real life, the achievement is sweeter for having gone through such hardship.



Author Bio:


Jeanne Matthews was born and raised in Georgia. She graduated from the University of Georgia with a degree in Journalism and has worked as a copywriter, a high school English and Drama teacher, and a paralegal. She currently lives in Renton, Washington with her husband, who is a law professor.



 

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About the book:

Where the Bones Are Buried by Jeanne Matthews
ISBN: 9781464203466 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781464203480 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781464203473 (paperback – large print)
ISBN: 9781464203497 (ebook)
ASIN: B00RW0BJYW (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Publication date:  January 6, 2015

Dinah Pelerin has finally put her life in order. Living in Berlin with her boyfriend Thor, she has landed a job teaching Native American cultures at the university. She’s never felt happier. And then her Seminole mother Swan shows up with a crazy scheme to blackmail a German tax dodger and dredges up a secret Dinah has kept hidden from the IRS and from straight-arrow Norwegian Thor, a former cop now with hush-hush international duties.

Germans harbor a century-long fascination with the American Wild West and American Indians. Some enthusiasts dress up as Indians and adopt Indian names. Like Der Indianer Club which has invited Swan to a powwow where she plans to meet her blackmail victim. Dinah tries to head her off, but arrives at the scene too late. A man has been killed and scalped and Swan quickly becomes the prime suspect. Torn between love for her mother and dismay at her incessant lies, Dinah sets out to find the killer—hoping the killer doesn’t turn out to share her DNA. But Swan isn’t the only liar. Everyone is lying about something. Margaret, Swan’s dead ex-husband’s former wife, come to the city with Swan. Dinah’s teen-age “ward.” Thor. Especially Dinah. Ghosts of Germany’s terrible history haunt Berlin while she faces exorcising a hateful ghost of her own.



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Guest Post: Mark de Castrique, author of RISKY UNDERTAKING



     The Book Diva’s Reads is pleased to host a visit by Mark de Castrique, author of Risky Undertaking. Mr. de Castrique will be discussing narrative point of view as a reader and as a writer. 



What’s the Point? 
by Mark de Castrique

A friend of mine was standing in line at the sales register of a local bookstore. The woman in front of her was checking out, and the clerk made a suggestion for a novel. She handed her customer a display copy and the woman quickly thumbed through a few pages. “Oh, this is written in first person. I don’t read first person.” She pushed the book aside.

“What?” I exclaimed when my friend related the incident. “She just threw out Huckleberry Finn, The Great Gatsby, and The Sun Also Rises, not to mention that icon of all mystery detectives, Sherlock Holmes.”

What was the point for making such a sweeping, excluding statement? The point was for some reason the first person point of view kept this woman out of all stories. As a writer who primarily tells his stories in first person, I believe point of view should have the opposite effect. It draws the reader into the story through the connection established between the narrator and reader.  For me, first person is the most intimate and personal form of storytelling.

But, to be fair, point of view should be chosen for its contribution to the impact a story has on the reader. Thus, there are objective reasons for choosing from a variety of subjective perspectives. Going back to my English grad school days, I learned point of view is a distance set between a narrator and the story and thereby a distance set between the reader and the story. It provides a place for both the narrator and the reader to stand.

First person in a traditional detective novel puts the reader inside the head of one character and one character only – usually the detective with great exceptions like the ever-faithful Dr. Watson. The reader discovers evidence and corresponding solutions along with the detective. As a writer, I’ve found first person provides an easier entry into my character’s world, especially when that world is unfamiliar. My latest Buryin’ Barry novel, Risky Undertaking, is set on the Cherokee Reservation in western North Carolina. Part of what occurs in the novel involves Barry encountering unique cultural traditions as well as complicated working relationships between sovereign tribal police and off-reservation law enforcement. I wanted those experiences to be filtered through Barry’s perspective so his telling provides a personal narrative journey into the world of the Cherokee.

I realize first person point of view isn’t the only and certainly not the most prolific narrative device. Third person opens up limitless options for taking the reader into multiple minds and locations not privy to the protagonist. For the thriller, third person sets up the suspense when the reader knows more than the protagonist and is well aware of the danger lurking ahead. I chose third person for my thriller, The 13th Target, for that reason.

Yet, there is not just one point of view labeled third person. This plurality of viewpoints is both the strength and potential weakness of third person. To keep me immersed in the story to the desired extent that I forget I’m reading, the narrative perspective needs to be consistent. Otherwise the perspective becomes overly manipulative and frustrating. Information and character thoughts are inconsistently revealed and withheld.

For example, third person can be a close third person. The story stays with the view of one character but no thoughts are revealed for any characters. This point of view is used masterfully by Dashiell Hammett in The Maltese Falcon. Sam Spade appears in every scene, but the narrative style is one of objective description only, like a camera following Spade throughout the whole story. If you read the novel with point of view in mind, you’ll become aware of how often the descriptions are of characters’ eyes. These “windows of the soul” are as close as Hammett gets to revealing internal thoughts. Why? Because Hammett played absolutely fair with his readers! At the dramatic conclusion, the culprits come to realize they had misjudged what was motivating Sam Spade. But by keeping Sam’s viewpoint free of his thoughts, Hammett surprised the reader as well. The impact was heightened because Hammett not only wrote a great novel; he knew how to tell it with the most powerful point of view and he kept that view consistent.

So, point of view isn’t arbitrary. Whether it’s close third person like Hammett’s, or limited to the thoughts of certain characters, or omniscient in all regards including narrator opinions, the choice should be made in service to the story and in service to the reader. How a story is told is inseparable from the story itself.

Which brings me back to the woman in the bookstore. In my opinion, she separated point of view from the potential power that the narrative style brought for the most impactful way to experience the story. She built the first person point of view into a wall and refused to accept it as the author’s gateway into the world he or she created.

And that, my friend, was the author’s point to begin with.




About the author:

Mark de Castrique is the author of the critically acclaimed Barry Clayton and Sam Blackman mystery series, both set in his native North Carolina mountains. He is also the author of the D.C. political thriller, The 13th Target, as well as mysteries for Young Adults.


 

Catch Up with Mark:





Risky Undertaking by Mark de Castrique
ISBN:  9781464203060 (paperback)
ISBN:  9781464203091 (ebook)
ASIN:  B00OPEFSCC (Kindle version)
Publisher:  Poisoned Pen Press
Publication Date:  November 4, 2014

When Cherokee burial remains are unearthed on the site expanding a local cemetery, the dual occupations of Barry Clayton, part-time deputy and full-time undertaker, collide. Then, during the interment of the wife of one of Gainesboro, North Carolina’s most prominent citizens, Cherokee activist Jimmy Panther leads a protest. Words and fists fly. When Panther turns up executed on the grave of the deceased woman, Barry is forced to confront her family as the chief suspects. But the case lurches in a new direction with the arrival of Sheriff Tommy Lee Wadkin’s Army pal, Boston cop Kevin Malone. He’s on the trail of a Boston hit man who arrived at the Cherokee reservation only days before the murder. Malone is convinced his quarry is the triggerman. But who paid him? And why? 

The accelerating investigation draws Barry onto the reservation where Panther’s efforts to preserve Cherokee traditions threatened the development of a new casino, a casino bringing millions of dollars of construction plus huge yearly payouts to every member of the tribe. Leading an unlikely team—his childhood nemesis Archie Donovan and his elderly fellow undertaker Uncle Wayne—Barry goes undercover. But the stakes are higher than he realized in this risky undertaking. And the life of a Cherokee boy becomes the wager. Barry must play his cards very carefully…



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Book Showcase Post: CAUGHT DEAD by Andrew Lahn


Caught Dead


by Andrew Lahn


on Tour February 1-28, 2015




 



Book Details:



Genre:  Mystery


Published by:   Poisoned Pen Press


Publication Date:   November 11, 2014


Number of Pages:   283


ISBN:  9781464203305 


Series: A Rick Van Lam Mystery, 1


Purchase Links:    



Synopsis:

One of the beautiful Le sisters is dead.

Hartford, Connecticut’s small Vietnamese community is stunned. Mary Le Vu, wife of a poor grocery-store owner, is gunned down in a drive-by. Her twin sister insists dutiful Mary “wouldn’t be caught dead” in that drug-infested zone. The police rule it an unlucky accident. Skeptics hire private eye Rick Van Lam to get to the truth. Amerasian Rick –his father an unknown US soldier –is one of the Boi Doi, children of the dust, so often rejected by Vietnamese culture. But his young sidekick, Hank Nguyen, a pureblood Vietnamese, can help Rick navigate the closed world of Little Saigon. Surrounded by close friends –a former-Rockette landlady, his crusty mentor, and his ex-wife Liz –Rick immerses himself in a world that rejects him, but now needs his help. Especially when a second murder strikes in Little Saigon. Rick and Hank delve into the families of the Le sisters, one poor, one very rich, and uncover a world of explosive ethnic tension and sinister criminal activity ranging from Hartford’s exclusive white suburbs to the impoverished inner city. To solve the murders –and bring closure to Mary’s grieving circle –Rick looks to long-buried memories of his Buddhist childhood for the wisdom that will lead him to a murderer. Caught Dead starts a smart, unusual series.


Read an excerpt:

(Strong language)

Chapter One



Everyone had heard of the Le sisters. Even outside the closed Vietnamese community in Hartford, “the beautiful Le sisters,” as they were called, were talked of. They’d been stunners in their twenties, but even now, well into their forties, they caught your eye. So when Hank phoned me one night, waking me from an early sleep, all I heard him mumble was “the Le sisters,” and I supplied the obligatory adjective: beautiful.

“Rick, wake up,” Hank yelled. “Mary Le is dead.”

I wasn’t fully awake. “What?”

I could hear annoyance in his voice. “Mary Le Vu. You know, one of the beautiful Le sisters.”

One of the beautiful Le sisters. Twin sisters. I scratched my earlobe, sat up on the sofa where’d I’d drifted off to sleep around nine.

“What?” I yawned.

“You listening to me?” Hank yelled again into the phone.

I tried to picture the sisters. I’d met them a few times, usually at some Vietnamese New Year’s wingding, some Tet over-the-top frenzy, once at a wedding where all the men got drunk, another time at a Buddhist funeral.

“I’m sleeping,” I explained.

“It’s not late.”

“I had a long day.” I’d gotten up to jog at six, avoiding the hot, relentless August sun of a heat wave that was in its third day.

“She’s dead,” he blurted out. “She’s been murdered.” He waited. “Did you hear me?”

I was awake now. “Xin lỗi,” I mumbled. I’m sorry. I knew the sisters were distant cousins of Hank’s mother, a vague connection that reminded me that many of the Vietnamese in metropolitan Hartford were somehow biologically (or emotionally) connected—intricate family bloodlines or spirit-lines that somehow radiated back to the dusty alleys of Saigon and forward to the sagging, fragmented diaspora of Connecticut and Massachusetts. Sometimes, it seemed, everyone was an uncle or aunt to everyone else.

“Which one was she?” I stammered.

He didn’t answer. “Can you come to my house?” he asked. “It’s important.”

“What happened?”

Again he didn’t answer. “Can you meet me here?”

“Now?”

“Yes.”

* * *

After throwing on shorts and a T-shirt, retrieving my wallet and keys, I drove from my Farmington apartment to the poor East Hartford neighborhood off Burnside where Hank lived with his family in a small Cape Cod in the shadow of Pratt-Whitney Aircraft. I knew better than to refuse Hank’s request. Not only the insistence—and mild panic—of his voice, but the unsaid message that told me that Hank, the dutiful son, was doing this for his mother. In his early twenties, spending the summer off from the Connecticut State Police Academy where he was training to become a State Trooper, Hank was a former student of mine in Criminal Justice at Farmington College. He’d become my good buddy.

He opened the door before I knocked, shook my hand as if we’d just met last week, and nodded me in. A lanky, skinny young man with narrow dark brown eyes and prominent cheekbones, he was dressed in sagging khakis shorts and a T-shirt. It was a sticky August night, even though the sun had long gone down, and he was sweating.

His mother, Tran Thi Suong, embraced me, and then burst into tears. “Rick Van Lam.” She bowed. “Thank you.” Cảm ơn. Hank looked uncomfortable. His grandmother, quiet as a shadow, drifted in, nodded at me, and then disappeared. She was wearing her bedclothes, a small embroidered white cap on her white curls. As she left the room, she touched her daughter on the shoulder, and whispered, “Y trời.” God’s will.

His mother said something in garbled, swallowed Vietnamese, burst into tears again, and turned away. Hank, almost bowing to her, motioned for me to follow him out of the house. In the old-fashioned kitchen with the peeling wallpaper, I took in the narrow makeshift shrine high on the wall by the door with the plaster-of-Paris Virgin Mary next to a tubby Buddha, both surrounded by brilliant but artificial tropical flowers, a couple of half-melted candles, a few joss incense sticks, and some shrill blood-orange tangerines. Scotch-taped to the wall nearby was a glossy print of Jesus on the cross.

Outside, sitting in my car, Hank apologized. “I’m sorry, man,” he breathed in. “Let’s drive. I didn’t realize my mother would, well, shatter like that when you walked in.”

I was rattled now. “Hank, what the hell is going on?”

He drew in his breath. “I told you. Of the two beautiful Le sisters—murdered.” I winced at that. “Mary was my mother’s favorite, someone she was close to as a small girl in old Saigon, someone she would meet on Sunday morning for mi gá and French coffee.” Chicken soup for the Asian soul.

“And?”

He sighed. “Mary was murdered earlier tonight at Goodwin Square in Hartford, you know, that drug-and-gang neighborhood. It seems she got caught in some gunfire, some drive-by shooting with local drug dealers who…”

“Wait!” I held up my hand. “I’m not following this.”

He looked exasperated. “Mary, who never left her home in East Hartford or her husband’s grocery in Little Saigon, for some reason wandered into that godforsaken square and somehow got herself shot.”

“In her car?”

“I don’t know.”

“Why was she there?” I knew the notorious Hartford square: shoot ‘em up alley.

“Hey, that’s the million dollar question, Rick. She knew better. Everyone in Hartford, especially the Vietnamese, knows better than to go there. That’s no-man’s land. You know that. It’s not even near Little Saigon.”

We hadn’t left the driveway, the two of us sitting there, now and then staring back at the house. His mother’s shadow slowly moved across the living room. A woman who couldn’t sit down.

“Where are we going?” I turned on the ignition.

“To the scene of the shooting.”

“Why?”

“Well,” he dragged out the word, “when the news came tonight, an hour or so ago, Uncle Benny called and then it was on the news. Grandma held her hands to her face and said, ‘No!’”

“No?’

“She was quiet a long time and then she said ‘No!’ again. When I asked her what she meant, she told me, ‘This is not easy as it seems. If this seems to make no sense, then there is nothing but sense involved.’ I said, ‘Grandma, I don’t get you.’”

I smiled at Grandma’s words. In my head I could hear her soft, melodious rendering of ancient wisdom. Hank was raised a Catholic by his father, but his mother’s mother held to the tenets of Buddhism, the two religions co-existing in the often volatile household, with Hank caught in the middle. The Virgin and the Buddha.

So now I said to him, “Well, Hank, she’s telling you she thinks something else is going on here.”

“I don’t see it.”

“What I don’t see, Hank, is why I’m here.”

He smiled, a little sheepishly. “Your name came up.”

“Why?”

“Grandma always thinks of you. You know, you and her, the two Buddhists in the house. In fact, she said something about a hole in the universe that only you can fill.”

I groaned. “Wait, Hank, she expects me to find the drug-dealer with a semi-automatic and a posse behind him? In Hartford? Where the local economy is sustained by drug trafficking and life insurance?”

“You are an investigator.”

“I do insurance fraud.”

“But you know Grandma. She thinks you can see through plywood.”

“And she asked that I get involved?”

He smiled again. “As I say, your name came up.”

* * *

At Goodwin Square, off Buckingham and Locust, the late-night drug dealers always on duty had decided to go for coffee or to oil their revolvers in the privacy of their own cribs. A beat cop stood by his lonesome on the southwest corner of the square, outside the obligatory yellow tape. A crew of evidence technicians, scurrying back and forth to a van, were still working the scene, photographing, charting, measuring. But the body had been removed, I noticed. There was some slow-moving, rubber-necking traffic, a few local idlers huddled nearby, but the square was eerily quiet. Storefronts looked beat up and tired. Just a narrow block of broken sidewalks, flickering streetlights, hazy neon signs with burned-out letters, and two stripped, abandoned cars by an alley. And some fresh blood stains. Satan’s little acre, the locals called it.

Hank glanced at the old-model Toyota, all doors opened. Mary’s car, I figured.

“Just talk to the detective,” H stepped closer to the yellow tape.

“All I see is a cop.” I pointed. “And he’s looking at us like we’re the Yellow Peril.”

I approached him, leaning in to catch his name: Lopez. An unfriendly look. “Help you?”

I told him that the murdered woman was a relative of Hank, and I was a private investigator from Farmington.

“From Farmington?” he asked in a clipped voice, saying the name of the moneyed suburban town with a hint of contempt. “What do you investigate there? Lost stock portfolios?” He looked pleased with himself.

“Who’s the detective on this case?”

He pointed over his shoulder, past the yellow tape, past the busy evidence team, through the plate-glass window of a storefront that announced: “Cell Phones! Phone Cards to South America!” I saw a short, wiry man, late fifties, mostly bald with a fringe of hair over his collar. He reminded me of an aging fighter, a tough bantam rooster. He looked bored. He scratched his belly absently, and then, for some reason, licked his index finger. When he walked out, the cop called him over and nodded toward us.

“Family,” the cop said, “and a country-club P.I.”

The detective didn’t look happy to see us. “Yeah?” He stepped around the yellow tape, yelled something to one of the members of the evidence crew, and then purposely stood ten feet from us, watching us.

“My name is Rick Van Lam.” I was bothered by the space between us. “And this is Hank Nguyen, a relative of Mary Vu’s. I’m a P.I. with Gaddy Associates, and the family asked…”

“It’s a drive-by.” He cut me off. “Some loser drug dealer speeds by, maybe sees competition strolling on his turf, opens fire, bang bang, and the innocent lady who just got out of her car and didn’t seem to know where the fuck she was—well, she gets it in the head. The lowlife scum drives off to annoy another one of my days.” He reached for a cigarette from a crumpled pack, lit it, and exhaled smoke. His face relaxed for a second. “Satisfied?” He turned away.

“How do you know all that?” I spoke to his back.

He looked back. “Witness.”

“In this neighborhood?”

He grinned. “I’m very charming. People tell me their life stories.” He nodded at Hank. “Sorry for your loss, son.” But he looked away as he spoke, glancing over Hank’s shoulder, eyes hooded, checking out the street, scanning the walkers and loiterers, a couple teenaged hip-hop kids in baggy jeans sagging around their ankles. Eyes vacant, they looked straight ahead. I followed the detective’s eyes. This was an old pro, I realized, someone who grasped a message in the flick of an eyelid, the sly twisting of a mouth corner, the turning of a lip. “I’m Detective Tony Ardolino.” He walked closer. We shook hands.

He agreed to talk—”for a minute”—in a bodega/café across the street. “Could use a cup of coffee. Christ.” He strode across the street with the cockiness of someone who knew no car would dare smash into him. Hank and I followed. Inside the small café, a place with three lopsided tables for coffee drinkers and a light fixture that hummed loudly, we sat by the front window. “The fact of the matter,” he summed up, sipping ice coffee and twitching for a cigarette he couldn’t have, “Mrs. Vu was in the wrong place at the wrong time.” He wiped his sweaty brow. “Fucking heat.” He looked up at an air conditioner that seemed to be dying.

“But why was she there?” I wondered.

“We guess—that is, I guess—she was headed for Little Saigon where her husband got this grocery, and got confused—got lost or something.”

Hank protested. “But she’s done it many times before.”

I added, “And Little Saigon is in the West End, not near here.”

He shrugged. “What can I say? People get lost.”

“But,” I explained, “she would have had to make a couple of wrong turns.”

“It happens.”

“It doesn’t make sense to me,” Hank said.

“Hey, she just got lost. As I say, it happens. The wrong neighborhood. You know, they’ve closed off some streets near the highway—detours. Construction. Maybe she couldn’t read English.”

Hank got angry. “She reads English just fine.”

Ardolino narrowed his eyes. “Hey, I’m just talking. It’s getting a little dark. Like eight o’clock. It’s goddamned boiling. She’s low on gas. She gets lost. We’ve had four drive-by murders here in the last year. Four—count ‘em. All drug-related shit. One just a month or so ago. Remember the little girl that got shot?”

It came back to me: the horrific drive-by in Goodwin Square that got national attention. A father pulls up before a bodega around midnight, his wife running in for milk, his three-year-old daughter crawls into his lap, half asleep. A gang car passes, the driver thinks he spots an enemy, opens fire, and the girl is shot in the head. Big news on CNN and FOX. Welcome to Hartford.

“You ever get the killer?”

“What do you think?”

“And Mary Vu’s the fifth?” I asked.

“A real sad case, this one.” He sighed. “For me, at least.”

“Why?”

“Hey, she was a simple woman, caught in the crossfire among assholes. The punk kids selling drugs go their merry way.”

“So the odds of catching her killer are what—minimal?”

“At best.” He grinned. “Surprised?”

“So where’s this going?” Hank asked.

“Well, we’ll do the routine. Round up the usual suspects, but don’t hold your breath.”

“So that’s the conclusion you’re making?” I asked. “And the matter is dead?”

Detective Ardolino locked eyes with me. “What are you saying, P. I. Lam? Like she was murdered on purpose?”

I shook my head. “Yeah, that does seem farfetched.”

He chuckled. “Like from out of space.”

“Are you gonna talk to the Vietnamese community of Hartford?” I asked.

“Sure. I talk to everyone. My job. I am curious how she ended up here, but we may never get an answer to that.”

“They can be a little nervous around cops,” Hank said. “Some don’t speak English well.”

“We’ll see.” Ardolino was getting ready to leave.

I slipped the detective my card. “If you need me to be, well, a liaison, I’ll be glad to help.”

The cop slid the card back to me. “I don’t share my work with amateurs.”

I started to mention that I was once a New York cop, now a licensed P.I. in Connecticut, but I stopped. The look on Detective Ardolino’s face was telling: closed in, tight, the eyes cloudy. He looked at his watch. Hank started to say something, but I touched his wrist. I stood up and Hank, clearly angry, did too.

I pushed the card back across the table. “Don’t close off all your options, Detective.”

Hank and I left.

“Asshole,” Hank said, once outside.

“We’ll see.”

* * *

It was almost midnight when I dropped Hank off at his home, and he rushed out of the car, already late for his job. He was spending the summer vacation doing kitchen prep overnight and some early evenings at a Chinese take-out in Glastonbury, a job his dad secured for him in repayment of some cloudy family obligation. Hank hated it—he had wanted to be an intern with a local police force. Or, in fact, to do nothing but tag along after me as I did routine insurance fraud investigations that were the bulk of my daily workload. But his severe father was adamant. Hank worked for meager wages paid under the table and put up with the mercurial spurts of anger and irrational demands of the entire Fugian family that ran the restaurant. “They claim chopping bok choi is an art form,” he complained to me. Mornings, he told me, he went swimming or played tennis. “There has to be some summer for me.” So now he waved goodbye to me, yelling back that he’d call in the morning to check in.

“Check in about what?” I yelled back.

“What you’ve learned.”

“I’m not on this case, you know.”

“Oh, but you will be. You love Grandma.”

“So?’








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Author Bio:

Ed Ifkovic writing as Andrew Lanh:

Ed Ifkovic taught literature and creative writing at a community college in Connecticut for over three decades, and now devotes himself to writing fiction. A longtime devotee of mystery novels, he fondly recalls his boyhood discovery of Erle Stanley Gardner’s Perry Mason series in a family bookcase, and his immediate obsession with the whodunit world. CAUGHT DEAD is his first novel under the name Andrew Lanh. Previous books are all Edna Ferber Mysteries: LONE STAR (2009). ESCAPE ARTIST (2011), MAKE BELIEVE (2012), DOWNTOWN STRUT (2013), and FINAL CURTAIN (2014)



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