Guest Post: Why do I write mysteries? by Deb Pines

When Al Martin, the editor of a satiric newspaper in Chautauqua, N.Y., reportedly dies of COVID-19, the local consensus is: good riddance. A Plague Among Us by @pinesdeb

Why do I write mysteries?

They are what I most enjoy reading and watching. And always have.

I got hooked as a kid watching the black-and-white TV legal drama “Perry Mason” in the 1960s. My harried single mom and I would sit together on our living room couch, rooting for Perry’s latest bid to free a client wrongly accused.

The show, I read, inspired Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor to become a lawyer.

Me, it inspired to write old-school whodunit mysteries.

Why?

I loved the puzzle aspect of the series, trying to guess the real killer. I loved the character of Perry Mason and the moral outrage he brought to each fight. And I loved learning grown-up things about people, like how they can cheat and steal from episodes with noirish titles like “The Case of The Bigamous Spouse” and “The Case of the Scandalous Sculptor.”

I still love how classic mysteries engage both my brain (to solve a puzzle) and my heart (to understand people).

Long after I forget the solution to my favorite Agatha Christie stories, I remember some of their human lessons. Like why an elderly woman protects an old friend in A MURDER IS ANNOUNCED: because that friend is the only person left who knew her when she was young. And why Miss Marple enlists the help of a powerful, wealthy man in A CARIBBEAN MYSTERY: because she realizes no one will believe her without him.

Many mysteries have also taught me about places and professions. 

I learned about horse-racing from Dick Francis’ mysteries, about the Navajos from Tony Hillerman’s, about Los Angeles and policing from Michael Connelly and about Venice from Donna Leon.

In my own series, I try to introduce readers to the place where the mysteries are set: the Chautauqua Institution, a quirky, churchy, historic, Victorian cottage-filled, lakeside summer arts community in far western New York. I usually include Chautauqua’s origin story (founded in 1874 as a tent retreat for Methodist Sunday school teachers). And its legacy (how it’s credited with launching an adult-education movement Teddy Roosevelt called “the most American thing in America.”)

I also try to offer a few insights into my large cast of characters—at least one victim and five plausible suspects per book.

In my latest mystery, A PLAGUE AMONG US, the victim, Al Martin is a widely despised satiric newspaper editor.

My sleuth, Mimi Goldman, a Chautauquan Daily reporter, grandma and relentless snoop, focuses on a key question: Was Al really a victim of COVID—or foul play? If it’s foul play, Mimi wants to catch the killer.

To do that, as usual, she struggles to better understand everyone. She asks a childhood friend of Al’s who is also a psychologist, at one point, to explain him:

‘‘Why the constant smirk?” Mimi asks.

“Okay, here’s my quick analysis,” the friend says. “Then I have to run. The dad was an impossible act to follow. Self-made man. Inventor. Genius and athlete. Sean spoiled his kids then hated them for being spoiled. Called all of them soft, especially Al. So Al grew up to be what? You fill in the blank.

Cruel, Mimi thought.

The conversation, I hope, offers readers what I look for in a mystery: a clue to both the whodunit and to what makes people tick.

A Plague Among Us by Deb Pines

A Plague Among Us
A CHAUTAUQUA MURDER MYSTERY
by Deb Pines

Synopsis:

When Al Martin, the editor of a satiric newspaper in Chautauqua, N.Y., reportedly dies of COVID-19, the local consensus is: good riddance.

A sister suspects foul play. She wonders why Al was cremated in a hurry.

The police stay out of it.

So it takes reporter and relentless snoop Mimi Goldman to try to find which of Al’s haters— including an estranged wife, three bitter siblings, a secretive caregiver, old enemies and the many targets of Al’s poison-pen sarcasm—might be a ruthless killer.

The novel, No. 8 in a series called “an Agatha Christie for the text-message age,” once again offers page-turning suspense. Wit. And the unforgettable setting of Chautauqua, a quirky, churchy, lakeside, Victorian cottage-filled summer arts community that launched an adult-education movement Teddy Roosevelt called “the most American thing in America.”

Kirkus Reviews calls A Plague Among Us “an intriguing and engaging crime tale” and “enjoyable novel” with “captivating characters.”

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery
Published by: KDP
Publication Date: July 1, 2021
Number of Pages: 280
ISBN: 979-8525017368
Series: Mimi Goldman Chautauqua Mysteries, Book 8 | Each book can be read as a Stand-Alone Mystery


Purchase Links: Amazon | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

Chapter Twenty-Nine

Mimi and Sylvia were on the road again, heading to the Tissue Donor Center in Jamestown to chase Winston Suarez.

The center wasn’t far from the Loves’ funeral home. But this time Google Maps was directing them to take the highway, not back roads.

They started out the same way, heading west on 394, passing the same early landmarks: the Institution’s empty parking lots, busy golf course and We Wan Chu Cottages.

“So what’s new?” Sylvia asked.

“Too much,” Mimi said. “It’s crazy how I keep learning stuff without seeing how any of it means anything.”

“Because the medical examiner still hasn’t called?”

“Uh-huh.”

Sylvia sighed heavily. “Maybe he’s just as difficult as his dad.”

Tom Love Sr., in Mimi’s opinion, wasn’t difficult. All he had done was stand up for his son before Sylvia picked a fight with him. But Mimi let it go.

“Well, one thing I’ll grant the older one,” Sylvia said.

“What?”

“He’s above average in the looks department.”

Mimi chuckled.

“What?”

“I thought you’re done with all of that nonsense.”

“I am.”

Sylvia moved to the left lane to take the ramp onto Route 17/Interstate-86 East and floored it.

“Whoa, hey,” Mimi said. “Mario Andretti, slow down.”

Okay, okay,” Sylvia said. “Just had to get us on the highway.”

Sylvia slowed down to fit into the slow lane, sticking behind a FedEx truck going a steady 70 miles an hour.

Mimi filled Sylvia in on what she had heard from Shannon about Liam and Patrick. Their denials of knowing anything about the pranks. Their claims the decisions to have no autopsy and a quick cremation were just expedient—so Patrick could get home.

“So what time does Winston Suarez get off work?”

“I’m pretty sure it’s 5.”

Mimi had reached Winston once, described why she was calling. He got quiet, then hung up. After that, she called Winston and never reached him—leaving something like five or six messages.

They stayed on the highway about ten miles before taking the Jamestown airport exit, then winding around a maze of city streets until signs with a big “H” led them to the UPMC Hospital campus.

“Hopefully,” Sylvia said, “we’re more irresistible in person.”

The Tissue Donor Center was one of many outbuildings with medical-sounding names surrounding the redbrick main hospital.

Some were done in their own architectural style. Most, like the Tissue Donor Center, imitated the low-slung, redbrick design of the hospital, down to having a white number (for their address) and a primary-colored letter on their sides.

The letters were explained on campus signs. Building A was the main hospital. Building B, the signs said, was Outpatient Svcs. C was the Sherman Medical Bldg. D was Imaging & Medical Bldg. E was Physical Therapy, Pharmacies. F was the Tissue Donor Cntr.

Sylvia zipped past the early letters of the alphabet, slowing at F, the Tissue Donor Cntr. The main door had its name above it, an intercom to the right. Near the curb, another sign said, “No Standing any time. Ambulance Lane.”

They didn’t see any ambulances, but Sylvia decided to wait for Mimi anyway in a parking lot across the street.

“Break a leg,” Sylvia yelled as Mimi got out.

Mimi laughed.

If she did break a leg, no question, this was the place to do it. Her limb could be X-rayed at the Imaging Bldg.(D) and then set at Outpatient Svcs. (B).

At the door of the Tissue Donor Center, Mimi knocked.

“Who is it?”

The woman’s voice, through the intercom, was familiar.

“My name is Mimi Goldman,” Mimi said. “And—”

“Let me guess? You’re looking for Winston?”

Mimi laughed. “I guess I’m pretty predictable. Is he here?”

“He is. This is Hannah, by the way. We keep speaking on the phone. Why don’t I see if he’ll come out?”

Mimi had high hopes. How hard would it be for Winston to take a few steps to walk outside and see her?

On the other hand, blowing her off might be easier.

When she heard a ping, Mimi examined her phone. Sylvia, after coaching from her grandkids, texted like a teenager.

Wassup?

I asked for WS and someone said they’d get him. Just waiting.

kk

Standing there, Mimi went through her email. Then she switched to her latest word game addiction: Spelling Bee in The New York Times.

Players have to make the most words, four letters or longer, from seven given letters, including one letter that had to be used in every word. The words that day had to be made from BLWCHAE, with all using an E.

Mimi started with the obvious ones: BLEACH, BLECH, BEACH, EACH, LEACH, LECH. She was moving on to trickier words when the center’s door swung open.

Out stepped a tall, handsome, dark-featured young man in a white surgical mask and blue scrubs with the name SUAREZ above his shirt pocket.

“I don’t know who you are,” he said. “I don’t know why you keep asking me about this case, but . . . I’m pleading with you to drop it and just go.”

Mimi had expected an asshole, too lazy or too self-important to talk. Not a frightened young man.

“Can you say why?” she asked. “I have no idea why this case is at all sensitive.”

Winston shook his head.

“How about off the record? You have my word that I’d never tell anyone you ever spoke to me.”

“Sorry,” he said. “I can’t risk losing my job.”

***

Excerpt from A Plague Among Us by Deb Pines. Copyright 2021 by Deb Pines. Reproduced with permission from Deb Pines. All rights reserved.

 

Author Bio:

Deb Pines

Deb Pines, an award-winning headline writer for the New York Post, is the author of seven Mimi Goldman novels and one novelette all set in the Chautauqua Institution in southwestern New York where they are top sellers.
A former reporter, Deb is also a lover of puns, show tunes and indoor cycling. She lives in New York City with her husband Dave.

Catch Up With Deb Pines:
DebPines.com
Goodreads
BookBub – @debpines
Instagram – @pinesdebbie
Twitter – @pinesdeb
Facebook – @deborah.pines.9

Tour Participants:

Visit these other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and giveaways!

09/01 Interview @ A Blue Million Books

09/02 Showcase @ Celticladys Reviews
09/03 Guest post @ Novels Alive
09/03 Review @ Splashes of Joy
09/03 Showcase @ The Reading Frenzy
09/04 Guest post @ I Read What You Write
09/05 Showcase @ nanasbookreviews
09/06 Showcase @ Books, Ramblings, and Tea
09/07 Showcase @ The Bookwyrm
09/08 Showcase @ 411 ON BOOKS, AUTHORS, AND PUBLISHING NEWS
09/08 Showcase @ The Authors Harbor
09/09 Review @ Avonna Loves Genres
09/10 Interview/showcase @ CMash Reads
09/11 Review @ Book Reviews From an Avid Reader
09/14 Interview @ Blog Talk Radio
09/14 Review @ Just Reviews
09/14 Review @ Our Town Book Reviews
09/15 Review @ Pat Fayo Reviews
09/17 Interview @ Quiet Fury Books
09/20 Review @ Archaeolibrarian – I Dig Good Books!
09/21 Review @ Sunny island breezes
09/23 Review @ Wall-to-wall Books
09/24 Review @ The World As I See It
09/25 Review @ rozierreadsandwine
09/28 Review @ A Room Without Books is Empty
09/29 Guest post @ The Book Divas Reads
09/29 Showcase @ Books to the Ceiling
09/30 Review @ Kritters Ramblings
 

ENTER TO WIN:

THIS IS A RAFFLECOPTER GIVEAWAY HOSTED BY PARTNERS IN CRIME VIRTUAL BOOK TOURS FOR DEB PINES. THERE WILL BE 2 WINNERS WHO WILL EACH RECEIVE ONE (1) AMAZON.COM GIFT CARD (U.S. ONLY). THE GIVEAWAY RUNS SEPTEMBER 1 THROUGH OCTOBER 3, 2021. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED.

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