To Everything There Is a Season

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If you’re familiar with pop music from the 60s, you might recall the song recorded by The Byrds, “Turn! Turn! Turn!” Here are some of the lyrics:

To everything

turn, turn, turn.

There is a season,

turn, turn, turn.

And a time to every purpose

under heaven…

Although I hadn’t planned it from the start, I set each of my mystery novels in the Megan Scott/Michael Elliott Mystery series in a consecutive season. You could say that the first few lines of the aforementioned song provided the inspiration for doing so. Here’s how and why I did it.

I didn’t hesitate to choose summer as the season for False Impressions, my first mystery novel. I’d spent many years in Montreal when the summer days were hot and humid, and pedestrians sought refuge in air-conditioned venues. In False Impressions, the city’s sweltering climate heightens the conflict and suspense. It intensifies the relentless theme of a woman struggling to prove her innocence when she becomes a prime suspect in her husband’s murder. In essence, the sizzling summer acts as a backdrop to the mounting and unrestrained emotions in the story.

My second novel, Fatal Whispers, takes my sleuths to Portland, Maine in the fall. Since I’d once visited the town in October when gusty winds, rainy days, and Halloween played a role, I integrated tidbits of my experience into the story. No, I didn’t hunt down any suspects, but I captured the charming ambiance of this New England town where murders seldom occurred. To the astonishment of my fictional characters—and maybe my readers—I wove three shocking and unexpected deaths into the tale.

By the time I sat down to write my third book, I already had winter in mind. Like many people in the Northern Hemisphere, I’d survived an ice storm and witnessed its catastrophic results: massive uprooted evergreens, multi-car pileups, and widespread power outages that lasted days and even weeks. A fast-moving ice storm reinforces the plot in Icy Silence and leaves residents of an elite college school with no heat, dwindling food supplies, and no means of communication to the outside world. In the vein of art imitating life, the disaster creates panic and desperation among school staff and students, which only deepens when they learn about a killer in their midst.

Different seasons continue to play distinctive roles in subsequent novels in the series. Not only do they add variety to the settings from book to book, but they also increase the challenges my characters face. And we all know how unpredictable the weather can sometimes be!

For a walk down memory lane, click here to listen to “Turn! Turn! Turn” by The Byrds on YouTube.

Inside Megan's Handbag

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I can’t think of anything more embarrassing than having someone—especially a man—go through the contents of my purse. I concocted a scene in False Impressions to depict such an intrusion, much to the dismay of my main character, ghostwriter Megan Scott.

Let me set up the scene.

In the days after Megan’s husband was found murdered at an out-of-town resort, Detective Lieutenant Moreau and his sergeant conduct a search of her condo apartment. Her lawyer Dan Cummings and crime reporter Michael Elliott are also present.

Megan describes the police undertaking in her own words:

He’d checked out the bathroom cabinets, kitchen cupboards, bookshelves, laundry basket, and ice cube containers. He’d even emptied the paper clip dispenser on my desk, so he must have been looking for a teensy, tiny piece of evidence.

The police conclude their search and are about to leave when Detective Moreau zeroes in on Megan’s oversized purse. Here’s an excerpt:

“Madam Scott, may I have your handbag, please?”

“Excuse me?” I asked, thinking I’d misunderstood the detective.

He pointed to my purse. “Your handbag. I would like to search it. May I have it, please?”

I glanced at Dan. He nodded yes.

Merci.” The detective strode into the living room, holding my purse with both hands as if it contained loose eggs. He placed it on the coffee table and pulled on a pair of latex gloves.

I joined him, my curiosity changing to annoyance as he removed the items from my purse, one by one, as if he were recording the contents in his mind. Out came my sunglasses, a hairbrush, an agenda, a wallet, two pens, a phone, a notepad, a bag of chocolate almonds, a set of keys, a lipstick, two tampons, facial tissues, and a box of adhesive bandages—all lined up on the table like products displayed in a department store counter. I was mortified and didn’t dare glance over my shoulder at the three other men.

And then:

He hung onto my agenda, put everything else back into my purse, one by one, and handed it to me. “Thank you. I will keep your agenda for now, if you do not mind.”

A cold sweat rolled over me.

What is Megan afraid of? What does the detective find in her agenda that subsequently draws suspicion to her and turns her world upside down?

If you haven’t yet read False Impressions, visit the Books page on this website to find out where you can get your copy.

Character Interviews

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For readers who haven’t yet been introduced to her, Megan Scott is the main character in my Megan Scott/Michael Elliott Mystery seriesShe works as a ghostwriter and loves the anonymity of her job within the safe, organized, and predictable setting of her home office.

Michael Elliott is a crime reporter and the second main character in my series. His criminal investigations plunge him into unpredictable situations, but he credits his gut instincts for getting him out of dangerous dilemmas.

To stir things up in my novels, I intertwine the orderly and behind-the-scenes lifestyle of this young woman with the risky and spontaneous adventures of this young man. The result? A potential for conflicting opinions along the path to solving challenging mysteries!

Although I get into my characters’ heads when I’m writing, I don’t often have an opportunity to sit down and chat with them (in my pretend world, of course). Megan and Michael recently accepted my invitation (still in my pretend world) to answer these questions from readers:

Megan:

1. If you lived alone, what would I find in your refrigerator?

Fruits, vegetables, eggs, cheese, and maybe leftovers like lasagna.

2. What do you admire most about Michael?

Lots of things. On a personal level, he’s caring and he has a generous heart. On a professional level, I admire his high ethics and perseverance. I love how he manages to remain cool in the face of danger. He’s my hero.

3. What do you carry in your handbag?

My phone, e-reader, sunglasses, hairbrush, facial tissues, wallet, ID cards… It’s a large handbag.

4. Do you have any phobias?

Yes! When I was a child, I loved to play hide-and-seek with my friends. One day, I hid in an old trunk. The other children couldn’t find me, but I couldn’t get out of my hiding place either. The clasp on the trunk was stuck. I panicked! My mother found me after my friends told her I’d disappeared. Small spaces still trigger my claustrophobia.

5. What is your worst fear?

I fear for Michael’s safety. Since he’s a risk taker, I’m concerned he’ll get hurt on one of his daring investigative ventures. My job is dull in comparison, so I occasionally accompany him on assignments. It gives me a chance to prevent him from taking unnecessary risks. Of course, he doesn’t know that, so let’s keep it between us, okay?

Michael:

1. If you lived alone, what would I find in your refrigerator?

A bottle of red wine. Leftover pizza.

2. You sometimes bring Megan along on investigative cases. Why?

Megan can decipher clues from the tiniest detail. Although I don’t always agree with her theories, her different perspective helps me solve cases. Want to know a secret? Sometimes I think she comes along just to keep an eye on me. (Shrugs) Maybe I’m imagining it.

3. Do you exercise or are you a couch potato?

I pump iron and jog every morning—unless I spent the previous night on a ride-along with police on drug busts or raids on illegal operations. On weekends, Megan and like to get together with friends, or snuggle and watch a good movie.

4. What are you most proud of in your life and why?

My job as a crime reporter. If I can help bring justice to bear on those who disregard the law, I’ll have accomplished what I set out to do.

5. What is your worst fear?

Losing Megan…and losing her trust in me. She had a rough time after she discovered her husband had cheated on her. His murder left her with lots of answered questions. I want to show her that not all men are disloyal. I’d like to marry her, but I understand her hesitation. I’m willing to wait as long as it takes.

Thank you, Megan and Michael, for sharing your innermost thoughts and feelings.

Readers, you’ll find more inside information on Megan and Michael on my website posts here and here. If you haven’t already done so, tag along with my sleuths on their crime-solving ventures and enjoy the thrills! Each novel in the series is a standalone and doesn’t have to be read in sequence. Visit the Books page on this website to learn more about my books and find the link to your preferred retailer.

Dark Deeds: Motives for Murder

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Jealousy, anger, and revenge rank among the top motives for murder, as does greed for money and power. In Dark Deeds, Book #4 in the Megan Scott/Michael Elliott Mystery series, several motives provide the catalysts that drive the plot.

In the story, Megan and Michael’s plans to spend a quiet vacation at their friends’ lakeside resort are thwarted when they learn about a resident’s untimely death. As the body count mounts, rumors fly. Is a serial killer on the loose?

When Michael makes a connection to a cold case, evidence points to an ex-convict looking for revenge. Here’s a brief excerpt from Dark Deeds where Megan learns how the ex-con masterminded a notorious robbery that took place in Montreal during the 1990s:

“Three men had tunneled through steel and concrete to break into the vault of a private investment company. From more than a thousand safety deposit boxes, they stole ten million dollars in gold bars and cash. The ringleader, Rusty Homer, then fatally shot a police officer who intercepted his escape. Rusty Homer’s two accomplices drove off with the bulk of the stolen goods, leaving him to face a jail term of twenty-five years. None of the stolen goods were ever recovered.”

As for Rusty Homer, revenge would be an appropriate motive for settling the score once he got out of jail. Decades behind bars had given him lots of time to plot a path of vengeance against two partners who had abandoned him at the scene of the crime. If he got lucky, Rusty might even find the gold bars they stashed away years ago.

We can easily add anger and greed to his growing list of motives for murder.

When the ex-con is rumored to be in the area, Megan and Michael increase their efforts to locate him. But despite a meticulous investigation, they soon realize they’re dealing with a formidable opponent who enjoys playing dangerous mind games with them. Moreover, they’re at a disadvantage: Rusty Homer has had reconstructive surgery. He could be anyone.

What could be creepier than that?!

To find out where you can get your copy of Dark Deeds, visit my Books page for links to major book retailers.

Broken Trust: Backdrop

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My research into illegal drug trafficking in Canada’s capital city was essential to creating the backdrop in Broken Trust, the fifth novel in the Megan Scott/Michael Elliott Mystery series. I discovered that the presence of a synthetic ingredient called fentanyl in illegal drugs sold on Ottawa streets was—and still is—contributing to a growing number of fatalities.

And it’s not only happening in Ottawa. Law enforcement officers across Canada and the USA increasingly find that illegal street drugs like cocaine and heroin are tainted with fentanyl. This so-called “designer” ingredient is manufactured in China and easily crosses our borders in tiny amounts, escaping inspection. At 50 to 100 times more toxic than morphine, fentanyl is causing widespread deaths and overdoses. If caught in time, overdose victims can be treated with naloxone to reverse the effects, but the outcome isn’t always favorable.

I set up several scenes in Broken Trust to illustrate the fatal consequences of fentanyl usage and the uphill battle that law enforcement and medical staff are facing. From the alleged suicide of a young mother to the overdose of an unsuspecting teenager on a city street, the scenes reflect the real life situations confronting our first responders.

In one particular scene from Broken Trust, police investigators follow up on leads to a chain of illegal drug suppliers. Megan Scott and Michael Elliott ride along with the Ottawa Police Service Drug Unit during a raid on a suspected drug-manufacturing ring in an Ottawa suburb. Here’s an excerpt:

Michael and I sat inside an unmarked police van a block down from the drug unit’s target destination—a two-story home in a middle-class suburb of Ottawa. The tension in the van was as palpable as the rare torrent of summer hail hitting its roof like an endless round of bullets.

Detective O’Rourke stood by, keeping an eye on the visuals transmitted onscreen while communicating with his tactical team through radio headsets. Once in a while, the detective exchanged several words with his team members. Otherwise, he sat in silence and waited.

The hail stopped. Rain replaced it with a nerve-racking pitter-patter over the next hour that had me wishing I’d brought along a pair of earplugs.

But we were stuck here until the mission was over, our bulletproof vests adding more weight to our bodies as if to ensure we stayed grounded.

“We’ve been monitoring this home for months after we got a tip from an anonymous source,” Detective O’Rourke said. “An unhappy client.” He grinned.

“Sounds familiar,” Michael said. “My best informants are people who were dissatisfied with the way they were treated by drug gangs.”

“There’s no loyalty in that business.” The detective put a hand to his headset and listened. He uttered a command, then looked at us. “It’s going down now.”

Goosebumps rose along my arms. I glanced at Michael. He sat, hands clutched, waiting.

Loud popping sounds in the distance.

Gunshots!

Engines revving.

Squealing tires.

More shooting!

Vehicles roaring by.

Gunshots blasting the van!

We all hit the floor!

 

Want to know what happens next? You’ll find this book and others in the series on this website’s Books page with clickable links to your preferred retailer.