Hot Summer Crime

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Megan Scott, the main character in False Impressions, feels the heat in more ways than one when she becomes the prime suspect in her husband’s murder. As Detective Moreau mounts surprising evidence against her and her partner, crime reporter Michael Elliott, she dreads the outcome of a police investigation that has already turned her world upside down.

In the story, the hot and humid summer in Montreal offers a backdrop that reflects Megan’s fears and anxieties. I’ve included excerpts below that show how the setting plays to her apprehensions.

This first excerpt takes place after Megan and Michael meet with their lawyer to discuss the case but fail at validating their alibis:

Outside the Regency, a blazing sun had pierced through the clouds and chased away the cool summer morning. I kept thinking how the weather was so volatile these days—just like my life since Tom’s death. With my freedom at stake, I expected more of the same and wondered if things would ever return to normal.

In this next passage, Megan travels to meet Michael at Santino’s restaurant:

The outdoor air hung heavy with humidity. Before I’d walked the three blocks to the underground subway station, my T-shirt had absorbed the dampness and was beginning to cling to my skin. I welcomed the coolness of Le Metro, but it was too short a train ride downtown to the McGill station for a complete cooling down period.

A gust of hot air greeted me as I resurfaced at the street level. The sun seared the pavement and sent up tides of heat that blurred my vision of objects in the distance and made breathing a chore. The two blocks east to Santino’s stretched out before me like two miles...

I fought to take in each breath from surroundings so thick and dirty with gas emissions that I could almost taste the greasy stench. My eyes burned and my throat ached with dryness...

The following passage describes Megan reaching her destination:

Parched on the inside and clammy on the outside, I arrived at Santino’s and pushed open the glass door with the last bit of energy I could muster...

I came up to our table and noticed an icy carafe. I reached for the fluid that would save my life. I filled a glass and gulped down half of it before I realized it was white wine.

The next excerpt takes place as Megan and Michael venture out on one of their fact-finding missions:

Even at eight in the evening, humidity hung heavy in the air with no relief from the slightest breeze. So much for the cooling trend the meteorologists had predicted. It was a wonder they ever got it right. Pure luck, I supposed, which was what Michael and I needed right now.

Such descriptions of the weather in False Impressions play a pivotal role in the story. As part of the setting, they create a mood that enhances my characters’ thoughts and actions and heightens readers’ expectations.

If you haven’t yet read this fast-paced mystery, visit the Books page to find out where you can get your copy of this first book in the series.

Happy reading!

 

Cold Revenge: The Ultimatum

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It’s one of the inevitable elements of a mystery novel: The hero or heroine gets drawn into a predicament or runs into an impasse before breaking free and solving the whodunit. In Cold Revenge, book 6 in the Megan Scott/Michael Elliott Mystery series, my main characters encounter one of their most critical challenges yet. Here’s a brief look. 

Crime reporter Michael Elliott’s world is turned upside down when he discovers that Megan Scott, the love of his life and frequent investigative partner, has vanished without a trace. He links her disappearance to the mysterious, one-word text messages he’s been receiving: vengeance. Convinced that an old nemesis is out for revenge and that Megan has been kidnapped, he digs up potential suspects who might be connected and passes their names along to the police detective working the case.

Since the first days are crucial to finding a lead, Michael begins his own search for Megan. He struggles to put aside his emotions, knowing that he has to approach her kidnapping in a logical and detached manner if he expects to find her in time. He narrows his focus and follows his best leads, which is almost impossible to do when the tentacles of his suspects are far-reaching—even from their prison cells.

Narrated from the alternating viewpoints of Megan and Michael, the story offers readers a lens into the thoughts and actions of these main characters as the horrifying dilemma unfolds. With time running out, Michael tracks down viable leads and hopes that his investigative instincts continue to serve him well. Given his undeniable love for Megan, he agonizes as he imagines a life without her should he fail. In the meantime, Megan fights her own battles. Her anguish is raw, her insights into her quandary are real, and her prospects of seeing Michael again are dim.

It was difficult to write my main characters into scenes that triggered their emotional and physical suffering. They are my creations, after all, and I want no harm to come to them. But Cold Revenge is a psychological suspense type of mystery, and to add credibility to the characters, setting, and plot, I raised the stakes.

As you read this book, and if you’ve read previous books in the series, you’ll recognize the vindictiveness of the suspects that Michael and Megan are potentially up against. I won’t say anything more about the perpetrator, but I do promise you’ll be on the edge of your seat once this formidable adversary surfaces!

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.

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.