New Sleuth on the Block
by Lois Winston
Is Westfield, NJ big enough for two amateur sleuths? Hey, we’re talking New Jersey here—home to crooks, crime, and corruption. Mafia and murder. Of course, it’s big enough! However, I wondered if Anastasia would be willing to share the sleuthing limelight with another neighborhood sleuth.
When I posed the question to her, she didn’t exactly mince words. “Are you kidding, Lois? You think I’d be upset to have you leave me alone for a change while you pick on someone else and wreak havoc on her life? Give me a break!”
Which is exactly what I did. So with Anastasia’s blessing, I’d like to introduce you to Gracie Elliott, the protagonist of Definitely Dead, the first book in my new Empty Nest Mystery series.
As Gracie puts it:
All I wanted to do was sit at my computer and write romance novels while Blake sat across the room and two-finger pecked away at Pop Goes the Culture, his epic tome on twentieth century culture and counter-culture and its influences on the media. Or vice versa. It was a real chicken-and-egg sort of thing as far as I was concerned, even if it was my husband’s passion. Anyway, dead bodies weren’t part of our empty nest blueprint.
When her career as a fabric designer is outsourced to Asia, fledgling romance author and empty-nester Gracie Elliott realizes she needs to find another job or she could very well wind up living above an auto repair shop in Newark. With double college tuitions for their twins, she and husband Blake can’t afford her penchant for designer shoes and handbags— the tie-in to Thursday fashion blog posts ;-) —much less anything else, on his professor’s salary.
However, Gracie’s options are soon reduced to either retail sales or asking, “Do you want fries with that?” So she decides to open Relatively Speaking, an introduction service, becoming a wing woman to the senior set. Since her clients need several hours each morning to find their teeth, lube their creaky joints, and deal with lower GI necessities, and they always turn in after the early bird specials, she has plenty of time to pen her future bestsellers.
Gracie deliberately avoids mentioning her new business venture to Blake until she’s signed her first client. After a scene best left to the reader’s imagination (this is, after all, a cozy mystery,) Blake joins the company as a not-so-silent partner, tagging along to make sure Gracie doesn’t cause a septuagenarian uprising.
All is going quite well until Gracie discovers Client #13 murdered in the parking lot behind the Moose Lodge. She quickly realizes that no matter how much Blake might protest otherwise, she can’t wait around for the police to find the killer if she wants to save her livelihood. Along the way she considers turning her contemporary romance into a romantic suspense—if she survives her foray into sleuthing.
The Empty Nest Mystery series is a wink and a nod to Dashell Hammet’s Thin Man movies with Gracie and Blake as a modern day spin on Nick and Nora Charles. You can read an excerpt here.
Look for more books in the Empty Nest Mystery series in the future, as well as the next Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery, currently in the plotting stage.
You didn’t think I’d leave Anastasia off the hook for long, did you?