Laurel S. Peterson is
an English professor at Norwalk Community College in Connecticut. Her poetry
has been published in many literary journals and she has two poetry chapbooks. Shadow
Notes is her first mystery. Learn more about Laurel and her book at
Stalking the Nouveau Riche,
Without Getting Run over by an SUV
The night my husband and I moved into our Connecticut home,
we went out for dinner in the neighboring, wealthier town. While we were
waiting for our meals to arrive, he looked around, then back at me, shocked.
“All the women are blonde,” he said to the one brunette in the room. This,
obviously, offers itself up for satire. It’s been done before by other writers
(the film version of The Stepford Wives was
filmed not too far from here), but every time an SUV driven by a harassed woman
on her way to pick up her toddlers from daycare nearly sideswipes me during
rush hour, the impulse arrives again.
The main character in my novel Shadow Notes, Clara Montague, inherited her father’s landscape
architecture business and some money from her mother’s side. Her father is
dead, but her mother still lives in a nameless Fairfield County town. I’ll let
you guess which one (and there are several options!) Clara hasn’t been home in fifteen years, and the place has
changed a bit. It’s even more crowded now with people attempting to prove that
their money is just as good as that guy’s down the street.
While figuring out how to portray my character, I had to
study the ways people asserted their privilege and power, which meant I had to
hang out where they did, at least some of the time. There is definitely a craft
to stalking these nouveau riche. It’s important to be in certain places at
certain times of the day, or you might just miss them, as if they are shy scorpions
under a rock. If you are brave and wish to see how the other half lives, I
offer the five following suggestions:
1. First, head for Whole Foods on a Saturday morning. Wield
your cart as if it’s a loaded gurney in an ER while talking loudly on your cell
phone. Buy the cosmetic item that claims the most (untested) health benefits, a
large latte, a loaf of French bread, three organically grown Fuji apples, a
pound of quinoa, gluten-free muffin mix, three yoga magazines, and a six-tier custom
cake you ordered last week for your child’s two-month birthday party. Get in
the checkout line for five items or less, and glare at the woman behind you
holding a single bottle of LeBleu, Ultra Pure Bottled Water. In the parking
lot, back out without looking behind you, and don’t worry about that small
2. If that option seems too complex, then get in line at
Starbucks around 11 AM, when the moms are a little crazy after a morning with their
under-threes. Better yet, get in line at the non-Starbucks that brews coffee one
pure, leisurely filtered cup at a time, and watch the kids shriek as they chase
each other between the chairs.
3. Become a blonde. Brunettes stick out like a pair of
Levi’s in Bergdorf’s.
4. Lurk in the boutiques on Greenwich Avenue. Pretend you
can afford a Gucci baseball hat costing $300, and try to avoid getting tossed
out by the security guard.
5. Find a fitness oasis and work out every day for
two hours, followed by a steam, shower and massage. Eat no more than three
lettuce leaves for lunch, preferably ground up into a smoothie, then complain
about how full you are to everyone within hearing distance.
Most of all, always, always have a look on your face of
bored indifference: been there, done
that. This seems to be the mark of true sophistication, but neither Clara
nor I want to go there, as life offers up so many charming, surprising
delights. Finally, these are rules for women. Stalking men requires golf clubs
or a squash racquet, and access to rooms filled with cigar smoke. If you want
to see more antics of the rich, I look forward to meeting you in the pages of Shadow Notes! Happy Hunting.
Montague didn’t even want to come home. Her mother, Constance Montague, never
liked her—or listened to her—but now they have to get along or they will both
end up in jail or dead.
always suspected she and Constance share intuitive powers, but Constance always
denied it. When Clara is twenty, she dreams her beloved father dies of a heart
attack, and Constance claims she is being hysterical. Then he dies.
and betrayed, Clara leaves for fifteen years to tour the world, but when she
dreams Constance is in danger, she can’t ignore it, no matter how she feels.
Shortly after Clara returns home, Constance’s therapist Hugh Woodward is
murdered and Constance is jailed for the crime.
her mother refuses to tell her anything, Clara enlists the aid of brother and
sister Andrew and Mary Ellen Winters, Constance’s enemies, to dig out
Constance’s secrets. First, however, she must determine whether the Winters,
wealthy socialites with political ambitions, are lying and what their
motivations are for helping her. In addition, why does the mere fifteen-year
age difference between Clara and her mother make them nervous?
to explore Constance’s past, Clara discovers a closet full of books on trauma
and gets a midnight visit from a hooded intruder wielding a knife, who tries to
scare her off her investigation. But her dreams become more demanding and
there’s a second murder. Realizing
she can’t run back to Paris as she wishes, she works with the town’s sexy new
police chief to find the truth about Hugh’s murder and its connection to her
mother’s past. Only in finding the
connection will she be able to figure out how those secrets have shaped both
Constance’s life and her own. Only in finding the connection will they finally
be able to heal their relationship.