About the Book
Genre: Cozy Mystery, #14 in A Dead-End Job Mystery Series
Release Date: May 5, 2015
Synopsis from Goodreads...
Shhh...in the newest hardcover in the national bestselling Dead-End Job Mystery series, Helen Hawthorne quietly goes undercover at a local library to search for a missing masterpiece.
Wealthy socialite Elizabeth Cateman Kingsley has hired Helen to find a missing John Singer Sargent painting, owned by her late father. After his death, many of Davis Cateman’s books were donated to the Flora Park library, and his daughter suspects the small watercolor—worth millions—was tucked away inside one of those dusty tomes.
To search the stacks, Helen applies for a position as a library volunteer and discovers the library director has a catalog of complaints—from a mischievous calico cat named Paris to the mysterious disappearance of various items that some of the more imaginative staff are attributing to a ghost haunting the building.
While her husband Phil sticks his neck out to find a missing necklace, Helen is on her own with no one to lend her a hand. When a dead body turns up in a parking lot, it appears someone is willing to go to any lengths to keep the treasure in the library quiet. Now Helen is bound and determined to find the killer as well as the painting—before she’s taken out of circulation herself.
I’d like to welcome cozy mystery author Elaine Viets to the Socrates’ Book Review Blog. Elaine is the author of two mystery series, the Dead-End Job Mysteries and the Josie Marcus, Mystery Shopper Mysteries. Her latest in the Dead-End Job mystery series is Checked Out and will be released on May 5th. Not to mention that her previous book in the series, Catnapped!, will be out in paperback on that date as well.
Here we go…
1) My first question has to be, how do you juggle two different mystery series? How do you keep all the characters straight?
The two series are so different, it’s easy to keep them apart. My Dead-End Job mysteries are set in South Florida, which is a very different world from Maplewood, Missouri, the suburban home of mystery shopper Josie Marcus.
South Florida is rootless and more offbeat than Maplewood, a St. Louis suburb. Josie is a Midwestern woman with a seventy-six-year-old mother and a preteen daughter. She is connected to her hometown, her family and her new husband. Josie has a place in her settled world. She knows the people who live there and they know her. If not, she can find out about them with a couple of phone calls.
In the Dead-End Job series, Helen Hawthorne is a St. Louis woman who moved to South Florida. We see South Florida through her eyes. When this 14-book traditional mystery series started, Helen was on the run from her ex-husband. She’d had a six-figure corporate job in St. Louis until she came home early from work and found her husband – who was supposed to be working on the back deck – nailing their next door neighbor Sandy. Helen picked up a crowbar and started swinging, then filed for divorce. The judge awarded her worthless husband one-half of Helen’s future income and she swore he’d never see a nickel. She went on the run and wound up in Fort Lauderdale at the Coronado Tropic Apartments. Helen worked a different low-paying job and hid from her ex for the first eight books in the series.
My Dead-End Job characters belong in South Florida, and would be unlikely in quiet St. Louis, especially Margery Flax, Helen’s cigarette-smoking seventy-six-year-old landlady, and a new character, Markos, the hunky Cuban college student and health food lover, who moved into the Coronado, where Helen and Phil, her PI husband, live and have their agency.
2) Do you outline your books? Do you know what’s going to happen or do you figure it out along the way?
I outline. Mysteries are too intricately plotted to just jump in and start writing, though some writers can do that. I have to know the killer when I start the book.
My outlines are not embedded in concrete. Along the way, if a character or plot device is not working, I will change it. That’s what happened in Checked Out, my new May Dead-End Job mystery set at a library.
I’d finished the whole novel, but hated the character of Gladys, the librarian. She was silly, gullible and dowdy, with her hair in a bun. Boring! My editor had liked the novel but wanted me to rewrite a section.
Instead, I ripped up the whole book, got rid of the clichéd Gladys and made her young, trendy and smart. I switched her boring white car for a red Vespa and gave her a tattoo – do you know there are websites for tattooed librarians?
When I finished, I liked this Gladys – and this version of Checked Out – much better.
3) Where do you get your ideas for your stories?
The stories grow out of my research. For my new mystery, Checked Out, I worked as a volunteer at my local library, the Galt Ocean Mile Reading Center. I learned how small libraries can afford to have ten copies of the new John Grisham novel (they rent them), the sad plight of homeless people who camp out at libraries, and the things patrons leave behind in books, including unpaid bills, banana peels, pressed flowers and money.
That gave me the plot of Checked Out. A rich man stashes a million-dollar watercolor in a book, and after his death, his family donates his books to the library. Private eye Helen Hawthorne is hired to search boxes of dusty donated books to find the valuable painting. A homeless woman also plays a major part in my 14th Dead-End Job mystery.
4) How long does it take for you to write a book?
About four to six months. I start the research first, then work on the plot and continue to research while I write the book to help give me the flavor of the place.
5) Do you do any research for your books?
I do a lot of research. I’m a former newspaper reporter and really like to dig into a subject. I’ve worked many of those Dead-End Jobs. In Murder Between the Covers Helen worked in a bookstore. For Dying to Call You, Helen was a telemarketer. In Just Murdered, she worked in a bridal salon. In Murder Unleashed Helen worked at a high-end dog boutique, and for Murder with Reservations she cleaned hotel rooms. In Clubbed to Death, she solved the problems of people who had no problems at a country club. For Killer Cuts she worked at a hair salon where a haircut and blow-dry were $300.
As the series evolves, Helen changes from a bitter divorcee to a woman looking for a new life and love. She married private investigator Phil Sagemont in Half-Price Homicide, my novel set at a designer consignment shop. In Pumped for Murder Helen and Phil open their own private eye agency, Coronado Investigations, and they’ve worked together as a detective team ever since. The PI pair investigate a murder during a women’s competition body building in Pumped. In Final Sail, Helen is a stewardess on a 143-foot yacht.
Board Stiff explores the fierce competition for beach sports – ocean kayaking, parasailing, standup paddleboarding, and more. Catnapped! is set in the world of cat shows and show cats. My cat, Mystery, is a former Chartreux show cat who got thrown out of the ring for biting a judge. That’s her on the cover. In Catnapped!, a Chartreux show cat is kidnapped and her owner is murdered during a nasty divorce. Helen and Phil have to find the killer and the cat.
I’ve worked most of those dead-end jobs from telemarketer to bookseller, and took standup paddleboard lessons for Board Stiff. I stayed up on the paddleboard for 45 minutes, the greatest athletic feat of my life.
Checked Out, my new May Dead-End Job hardcover, is set at a library and I work as a volunteer shelver.
Shop Till You Drop is the first book in the series, and I worked at a fancy dress shop and sold bustiers to bimbos. I was thrilled that Shop was chosen by a panel of expert as one of 16 Florida Must Read Books, along with John D. MacDonald, Carl Hiaasen and Elmore Leonard and more. http://www.mypalmbeachpost.com/flbooks/
6) Who is the greatest influence in your writing career?
My high school teachers. Sister Grace Edmund and Sister Saint Bernard (honest, that’s her name) steered me into a writing career. I am extremely grateful to them for guiding me to work that I love.
7) Do you have any favorite authors or books?
Way too many. I love reading Charlaine Harris, Nancy Pickard, Michael Connelly, David Ellis, John Verdon, Alison Gaylin, Naomi Hirahara, Jeff Abbott and of course, Agatha Christie. I’m just getting started. This is a new golden age of mysteries.
8) Why mysteries? Do you write any other genres?
Mysteries are my great love and my favorite reading since I was a girl. I had my mother’s set of Nancy Drew mysteries, red-backed hardcovers with Nancy driving a roadster. I wasn’t sure what a roadster was, but figured it was something like a Miata. From Nancy, I graduated to Agatha Christie, master of the traditional mystery. Agatha is still my comfort read. I can’t imagine writing a novel without a body in it.
9) Where do you do your writing? Can you describe the setting for us?
My husband and I live in a seventh-floor condo in Fort Lauderdale with a view of the Intracoastal Waterway and the ocean. My office is a big, booklined room overlooking the water. My desk is an oak dining-room table. On the walls, I have Aubrey Beardsley’s Edgar Allan Poe drawings. I write on a big desktop computer and one of my two cats is usually sprawled on my messy desk.
10) Do you have any other books coming out? Can you tell us anything about them?
Checked Out debuts May 5 as a hardcover and an e-book. Catnapped!, my current hardcover, will be published as a paperback in May. A Dog Gone Murder is my latest cozy Josie Marcus Mystery Shopper mystery. All my Dead-End Job mysteries are available as e-books and paperbacks and come out in hardcover. I also have the hardboiled Francesca Vierling series, set at a St Louis newspaper.
I’ve just finished Brain Storm, the first book in a new series featuring Death Investigator Angela Richman. It’s a much darker series set in a mythical St. Louis county. To research that series, I took the MedicoLegal Death Investigator Training Course at St. Louis University, a two-credit college course.
Check out my Website, www.elaineviets.com
And download my free library poster on the Main Page.
Thank you so much, Elaine, for visiting us at the Socrates’ Book Review Blog!
Other Books by Elaine Viets
Now you can win Checked Out by Elaine Viets. Thanks to NAL, I have one hardcover to giveaway to one lucky winner.
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