Today we sit down for a chat with Helen Morrisey from author Judy L. Murray’s Chesapeake Bay Mystery Series.
What was your life like before your author started pulling your strings?
I’ve been a real estate agent in a small Maryland water town at the very top of the Chesapeake Bay since my twenties. I’m in my early fifties now. Believe me, selling real estate isn’t anything like HGTV. My husband Andy died in an accident at a housing construction site about three years ago, and I miss him. I’ve never felt a need to leave home - other than during my college years. I’ve never inherited a B&B, a book shop, or a café, not that I would have minded. I’m a get-up-in-the morning, down a coffee, bolt for my first appointment kind of woman! I hate to cook but love to eat. I depend on the microwave, granola, and Sauvignon Blanc. Don’t expect to find a stash of cookbooks in my kitchen. My daughter Lizzie is a fabulous cook. Don’t ask me where she inherited that gene. I’m addicted to eating Twizzlers. You’ll find them in my desk drawer, my work tote, and my glove compartment.
What’s the one trait you like most about yourself?
That probably depends upon who you ask. I’m a fixer upper. Not just with houses, but people’s problems. I've always been a good observer of people, which comes in handy when solving mysteries. It also means I may get involved in situations that are over my head – like murder. I know Detective Joe McAlister thinks so. I’m the person who strikes up a conversation while I wait in line at the grocery store.
What do you like least about yourself?
I struggle to bite my tongue and not intrude in my children’s decisions. I tend to put my foot in my mouth. I also tend to talk out loud to myself. As confident and competent as I am, I’m lousy at navigating through romance. I don’t even know if I want to. So, I’m a very slow mover.
What is the strangest thing your author has had you do or had happen to you?
In her first mystery, I walk into a bedroom and find a dead naked builder sprawled across the bed. Since my childhood friend quickly is accused of his murder, my instinct is to defend her. In my author’s second mystery of the series, I need to help my daughter who narrowly escapes being poisoned in a home shopping network kitchen.
Do you argue with your author? If so, what do you argue about?
We get along fairly well. I tend to argue with Detective Joe McAlister and my prosecuting attorney son Shawn. They both think I need to get out of the mystery-solving business and back to selling real estate. My author doesn’t agree. So together, we’ve created my own Detection Club of famous sleuths to help me get into trouble or out of it. Depends upon your viewpoint. Joe thinks I might be losing my mind but admits my method seems to be working. He can’t argue with the best sleuths in the murder business!
What is your greatest fear?
I’m afraid of heights, so house balconies, unfinished open staircases, and lighthouse lantern rooms make me very nervous.
What makes you happy?
Consulting my Detection Club of famous women sleuths for advice in tracking down killers. My author calls me a grown-up Nancy Drew. I appreciate the compliment. My bookcases are filled with detective stories and I love to rearrange furniture. I also love to sail my boat Persuasion.
Of the other characters in your book, which one bugs you the most? Why? Probably Maryland State’s Attorney Scott Harris. He’s incredibly cocky, wears cowboy boots with his tailored suits to look taller, and thinks he’s God’s gift to women. He likes to flash his overly white teeth and seems surprised I’m not impressed with his oversized custom badge that hangs on his belt. It’s all I can do to keep my eyes from rolling back in my head as I listen to him. Ugh.
Of the other characters in your book, which one would you love to trade places with? Why?
My cats, Agatha and Watson. They eat better than I do since I hate to cook, sleep whenever they want, and give me input on my crime-solving when they feel like it. They have a good life.
Tell us a little something about your author. Where can readers find her website/blog?
Judy is a former Philadelphia real estate broker who has worked with delusional sellers, jittery buyers, testy contractors, and diva agents. She’s also a restoration addict. She and her husband have restored two Victorians. The first one had a metal table stuck to the kitchen carpet when they moved in. The second one was such a disaster, it had a coke machine sitting on its front porch next to the front door. They have grown twins, a boy and girl, who grew up watching their parents shovel plaster, strip walls, and pull nails out of woodwork. After their children were launched, they downsized to a sixties contemporary that needed an overhaul but sits atop a cliff on the Chesapeake Bay. Judy often writes long after sunset. They’re buffeted by winds in winter and invaded by family and dogs in summer. The lighthouse in her first mystery, is only about a mile down the road. Judy’s debut novel, Murder in the Master – A Chesapeake Bay Mystery, is an IPPY Silver Medalist, a Silver Falchion Winner, and an Agatha Award Nominee for Best First Novel. Second in the series, Killer in the Kitchen is out now. She began her professional writing career as a newspaper reporter and magazine columnist. You can read more about her and me at her website.
What's next for you? My daughter Lizzie, a host on a national home shopping network, introduces me to a celebrity chef who wants to put his mansion on the market. Unfortunately, a killer has other plans. And I’m determined to find out who put my daughter at risk.
Killer in the Kitchen
A Chesapeake Bay Mystery, Book 2
Real estate rule #2: How to sell a house fast -- offer a drop-dead kitchen.
When real estate pro Helen Morrisey’s bombshell daughter, Lizzie, a popular home shopping network host, invites her to meet an internationally famous chef, Helen jumps at the chance. What woman doesn’t want to shake hands with a celebrity and do a little shopping at the same time? Even more intriguing, this culinary superstar is about to sell his waterfront mansion and it’s her chance to get introduced. After all, he couldn’t choose a sharper agent than Helen, could he? That’s a job that comes to a dead halt when she walks onto the TV kitchen of Cooking with Roberto to find his blood dripping bright red into his signature dish and her daughter collapsed beside him.
Detective Joe McAllister arrives to take charge and is none too pleased to find Helen asking his kind of questions. Their on again, off again, romance might sour when she ignores his warnings. Undaunted, Helen calls on the personalities and special skills of her Detection Club of famous sleuths to stir this investigation pot. It doesn’t take long before the explosive ingredients of off-camera jealousy, competition, and nasty rumors create a recipe for disaster. Helen has to solve Roberto’s murder before more tempers boil over and they all get burned.