Showing posts with label women sleuths. Show all posts
Showing posts with label women sleuths. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

"A Hole in One" by Judy Penz Sheluk

A Hole in One
(A Glass Dolphin Mystery Book 2)
by Judy Penz Sheluk

A Hole in One (A Glass Dolphin Mystery Book 2) by Judy Penz Sheluk

A Hole in One is the second book in the Glass Dolphin Mystery series by Judy Penz Sheluk. Also available: The Hanged Man’s Noose.

A Hole in One is currently on tour with Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours. The tour stops here today for an interview with the author, an excerpt, and a giveaway. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well.

For another book by this author, please check out my blog post on Skeletons in the Attic.

Hoping to promote the Glass Dolphin antiques shop, co-owners Arabella Carpenter and Emily Garland agree to sponsor a hole in one contest at a charity golf tournament. The publicity turns out to be anything but positive, however, when Arabella’s errant tee shot lands in the woods next to a corpse.
They soon learn that the victim is closely related to Arabella’s ex-husband, who had been acting as the Course Marshal. With means, opportunity, and more than enough motive, he soon becomes the police department’s prime suspect, leaving Arabella and Emily determined to clear his name - even if they’re not entirely convinced of his innocence.
Dogged by incriminating online posts from an anonymous blogger, they track down leads from Emily’s ex-fiancĂ© (and the woman he left Emily for), an Elvis impersonator, and a retired antiques mall vendor with a secret of her own.
All trails lead to a mysterious cult that may have something to do with the murder. Can Arabella and Emily identify the killer before the murderer comes after them?

Arabella Carpenter ran her hands over the smooth surface of the shiny new jet ski. It was the hole in one prize at the Second Annual Kids Come First Golf Tournament. The tournament—a charitable initiative supporting program for at-risk youth in the tri-community area of Lount’s Landing, Miakoda Falls, and Lakeside—was being held at the Miakoda Falls Golf and Country Club.
Somehow, Gillian “Gilly” Germaine, the tournament organizer, had convinced her that sponsoring the contest would be good advertising for Arabella’s Glass Dolphin antiques shop. Well, “convinced” wasn’t entirely accurate. It was her new business partner, Emily Garland, who’d talked her into it, though what jet skis and golf had to do with antiques was beyond Arabella. Nevertheless, their deal was that Emily would be in charge of advertising and promotion, leaving Arabella to concentrate on purchasing and sales. Nixing Emily’s first real A&P idea would have been bad form.
Arabella didn’t have much choice in the matter. Emily had been adamant. A jet ski, she had explained, would be the kind of prize the well-heeled folks in Lakeside would gravitate toward. The Glass Dolphin sponsoring such a prize would give it the sort of chichi street cred that would make them want to visit the shop. Once they made the twenty-five-minute trek to Lount’s Landing, they were bound to buy something. Especially once they saw the quality of the Glass Dolphin’s merchandise.
“What if someone actually hit a hole in one and they had to give away the jet ski?” Arabella had asked. Emily had a ready answer. The odds were astronomical. The third hole, a nasty par three, was one hundred and forty yards to carry over a pond, another twenty-five yards to the pin, with a thicket of trees on both sides, and a sand trap that beckoned from behind. Downright nasty it was.
Having played the course on a couple of occasions, Arabella had conceded that number three was challenging. But that didn’t make it impossible. Not by a long shot—pun fully intended.
Even better, Emily had countered. “If no one won the jet ski, it would be that day’s news, quickly forgotten. But if someone won, imagine the headlines. For sure it would make the local press, but they might even get some coverage in the Toronto papers, not to mention the rampant word-of-mouth machine that ran in the tri-communities.”
The sound of a golf cart heading in her direction stopped Arabella’s thoughts midstream. She glanced over the green and watched as Emily wound her way along the paved path, a cardboard sign propped up in the basket at the back of the cart. She parked the cart a few feet from where Arabella was standing, hopped off, smoothed out her black golf skort, and positively sprinted over to the jet ski.
As always, Arabella felt a touch of envy at Emily’s glossy, dark hair, now neatly tied into a ponytail, her bangs held gently in place by a black and gold Miakoda Falls Golf and Country Club visor. Arabella’s own hair was a mass of auburn curls that behaved well enough on a cool, dry, winter’s day, but got wilder and woolier as summer’s heat and humidity ratcheted up. On a hot, muggy day like today, it was virtually unmanageable. Stick a cap on top of it and she resembled Bozo the clown. Not exactly the look an almost forty-year-old woman was after, but there wasn’t much she could do about it. Even if she took the time to flat iron it straight, it would last all of an hour in this heat.
“Gorgeous,” Emily was saying, her fingers caressing the jet ski. “Too bad we’re ineligible to win. You know, on the off-chance one of us gets a hole in one.”
“I think the odds of that happening are pretty slim.” And slim just left town.
“Yeah, you’re probably right. Wait ’til you see what I’ve got.” Emily ran back to the golf cart, pulled a gold-lettered placard out of the basket, and inserted it into the rectangular tee sign currently advertising the club’s twilight rates, fussing and fidgeting until she got it positioned just right.
“Print It! did a great job, don’t you think? Gave us a good deal, too. I think Harvey felt sorry for me, and to be honest, I did milk getting fired from Inside the Landing to broker a deal. Plus I let him put his Print It! business logo on the bottom.” Emily grinned. “I think that was rather a stroke of genius.”
A good cost-saving idea, sure. A stroke of genius? That might be taking things a bit far. “They look great. The sign, the jet ski. Except I’m the one doing the books, and believe me when I tell you, and not for the first time, that the Glass Dolphin is barely breaking even. I’m just not sure we can afford it.”
Emily sighed. “First off, it’s a bit too late to renege now, the night before the tournament, don’t you think? What would that do to our reputation? Second, I’ve already explained how little money this will actually cost the shop. One good sale should easily cover it. If it makes you feel any better, I’ll go over the numbers one last time.”
“Humor me.”
“Fine. The jet ski is being supplied by Luke’s Lakeside Marina. Luke transported it from the marina, at no cost to us, and he’ll either take it back to the marina after the tournament, or arrange delivery to the winner, should there be one. He’s also springing for half the insurance and fifty percent of the sign, which, as I already told you, is costing us next to nothing. Essentially, we’re co-sponsoring the hole with him.”
Arabella suspected Emily’s relationship with Luke Surmanski ran a lot deeper than co-sponsoring a hole in one contest at a golf tournament, but she let it go. Emily would confide in her when she was ready.
“Explain the insurance again.”
This netted another sigh, along with an exaggerated eye roll. “I gave you the policy to read over two weeks ago. Didn’t you do that?”
Arabella had meant to, but she’d been busy. Then there’d been that two-day multi-estate auction in Pottageville. She’d won more box lots than expected, and had been sorting through them ever since. It wasn’t easy to decide what items to keep for sale in the shop, which to reserve for sale online, and what should be donated to the local ReStore. Before she knew it, the day of the tournament had arrived. She shook her head and did her best to look sufficiently contrite.
The look must have worked, because the exasperation on Emily’s face softened ever so slightly. “I’ll give you the Reader’s Digest version. I went to Stanford McLelland Insurance Brokerage, and you’ll be happy to know that I dealt directly with Stanford.”
That, at least, made Arabella feel better. Before opening the Glass Dolphin, she’d worked for Stanford doing a variety of claims-related tasks, especially those involving antiques and collectibles. When it came to the insurance business, there wasn’t much the man didn’t know.
“Stanford found a company that specializes in hole in one insurance. That’s all they do, actually.”
Incredible. Here they were, trying to diversify to boost sales, and there was a company that did nothing but sell hole in one insurance.
“How does it work?”
“They calculate the number of golfers participating in the tournament, which in this case is nine holes with four golfers per hole for a grand total of thirty-six, minus our foursome, which leaves thirty-two possible winners. Then they calculate the degree of difficulty for the hole along with the value of the prize. The cost for the Glass Dolphin, all in, is two hundred dollars, which we’ll split down the middle with Luke’s Lakeside Marina.”
“It does sound like you have every angle covered.”
“That’s the spirit. Trust me, nothing will go wrong.”
[Want more? Click below to read a longer excerpt.]

Praise for the Book
“The reader is taken on a journey to find the answers, the truth and to clear Arabella’s ex’s name.” ~ My Reading Journeys
“What fun! A twisty tale chock full of clues and red herrings, antiques and secrets, and relationships that aren’t what they seem. And who doesn’t love an Elvis impersonator?” ~ Jane K. Cleland, award-winning author, Josie Prescott Antiques Mysteries and Mastering Plot Twists
“A bang-up mystery! Two friends, two murders, secret pasts, and a touch of romance. Who could ask for more?” ~ Lea Wait, USA Today bestselling author, Shadows Antique Print and Mainely Needlepoint mysteries
“With its sharp, smart writing, and engrossing plot, Judy Penz Sheluk’s latest addition to her terrific Glass Dolphin Mystery series is a hole in one.” ~ Ellen Byron, award winning and USA Today bestselling author, Cajun County Mysteries
“A captivating page-turner set in the world of antiques dealing where dangerous secrets simmer until they lead to murder. Sheluk is an expert at writing intriguing characters, delivering a fast-paced story with twists that keep you guessing until the very end. You don’t have to be a love golf to love A Hole In One.” ~ Kristina Stanley, bestselling author, Stone Mountain Mysteries

Interview with the Author
Judy Penz Sheluk joins me today to discuss her new book, A Hole in One.
For what age group do you recommend your book?
There is no overt sex, bad language, or violence (the murder takes place off screen), so 16 to 116.
What sparked the idea for this book?
I’ve been golfing for 15 or 20 years, and during that time I’ve played in my fair share of charity golf tournaments. There’s always a sponsored par 3 with a prize like a car or a boat, and it’s typically set up on the most challenging par 3 on the course. But it was actually one day, when golfing in a Ladies League at Silver Lakes Golf & Country Club in Holland Landing, Ontario, that the idea came to me. I was at the third hole and, in trying to hit over the pond, my ball ended up beyond the green and into a heavily treed area. As I was hunting for my ball, I thought, “What if there was a dead body in here?” And then I thought, “That’s the premise for my next book.” It took the sting out of landing in the woods.
Which comes first? The character's story or the idea for the novel?
I always start with a basic premise. For example, in The Hanged Man’s Noose, the first book in the series, I thought, “What if a greedy big city developer came to a small town with plans to build a mega-box store, thereby threatening the livelihood of all the local, independent businesses.” And then I thought, “What if someone was willing to kill to stop it?”
What was the hardest part to write in this book?
I’m always worried about getting the facts correct. I took a lot of time researching antique guns. I’m not a gun person and online research only took me so far. Fortunately, I found an expert in the field, Sean McGuire, who was willing to walk me through it.
How do you hope this book affects its readers?
This isn’t Shakespeare! I want people to enjoy the book for what it is: a cozy mystery with a happy ending.
How long did it take you to write this book?
About a year, including revisions.
What is your writing routine?
It varies, but when I’m working on a book, I aim for a chapter a day, five days a week. But those can be any five days, not just Monday to Friday. If I can write seven days a week, I’ll do that, too. It really depends on what else is going on in my life. One thing that doesn’t change is that I write listening to talk-radio. I even listen to those infomercial kind of programs on weekends. I can’t write to music - maybe it goes back to my years of working in a noisy office.
How did you get your book published?
With my first book, The Hanged Man’s Noose, I faced plenty of rejection but I refused to give up. It took me about 8 months to land a publisher (Barking Rain Press). They are small, but MWA-approved and great to work with. When A Hole in One was ready, they took it on right away. They’ve also published Skeletons in the Attic, book 1 in my Marketville Mystery series.
What advice do you have for someone who would like to become a published writer?
I always quote Agatha Christie when I’m asked this question: “There was a moment when I changed from an amateur to a professional. I assumed the burden of a profession, which is to write even when you don’t want to, don’t much like what you’re writing, and aren’t writing particularly well.”
Great quote! What do you like to do when you're not writing?
In summer, golf or hang out by the lake at our cottage (camp) on Lake Superior. I love walking my 2½ year old Golden Retriever, Gibbs (named after Mark Harmon’s character on NCIS), and I run 3-5km three times a week. I’m also an avid reader, mostly crime fiction, but I do read other things as well.
What does your family think of your writing?
My husband, Mike, is hugely supportive – in fact, he paid for my first Creative Writing course as a birthday gift back in 2000. He’s also my first beta reader, and trust me, he finds the niggliest things. My mom was so proud of me, but she passed away in September 2016. She was actually handing out my bookmarks to the doctors and nurses in the hospital. I like to think she’s handing them out in heaven, now. I really miss her.
She sounds great. Please tell us a bit about your childhood.
I’m the only child of very strict immigrant parents, no sleepovers in our household. I spent a lot of time in my room, reading and making up stories in my head.
Did you like reading when you were a child?
Yes. I read every Nancy Drew book, Hardy Boys, Trixie Belden, etc. Emily Climbs by L. M. Montgomery, the story of Emily Starr wanting to grow up to be a writer, really inspired me (so much so that I named a character Emily in my first book). When I was twelve, I read In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, and that really opened my eyes to the power of words.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I think I was born a writer, it just took me a few decades to start writing my stories down.
Did your childhood experiences influence your writing?
I think all of our experiences form an author’s writing. But one of the strongest examples of how my childhood influenced me can be found in Unhappy Endings, a collection of three flash fiction stories (Kindle only). The story, “Cleopatra Slippers”, is based on something that happened to me as a 14-year-old girl.
Which writers have influenced you the most?
John Sandford; he’s the master of pacing. Sue Grafton; I’m going to miss her. AgathaChristie, the queen of mystery.
Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
I don’t, actually, but I’d be happy to hear from them. There’s a contact form on my website if they’d like to drop me a line.
What can we look forward to from you in the future?
I’m hoping to have the sequel to Skeletons in the Attic out this Fall.
Sounds good. Thank you for taking the time to stop by today, Judy. Best of luck with your future projects.
Thank you for hosting me.

About the Author
Judy Penz Sheluk
Judy Penz Sheluk is the author of two mystery series: the Glass Dolphin Mystery series (The Hanged Man’s Noose and A Hole in One) and the Marketville Mystery series (Skeletons in the Attic). Judy’s short crime fiction appears in World Enough and Crime, The Whole She-Bang 2, The Whole She-Bang 3, Flash and Bang, and Live Free or Tri.
Judy is a member of Sisters in Crime, International Thriller Writers, the Short Mystery Fiction Society, and Crime Writers of Canada, where she currently serves on the Board of Directors as the Regional Representative for Toronto/Southern Ontario.
Find Judy on her website/blog, where she interviews other authors and blogs about the writing life.

Enter the blast-wide giveaway for a chance to win an ebook copy of A Hole in One by Judy Penz Sheluk (US only).


Wednesday, April 4, 2018

"Three Strikes, You’re Dead" by Elena Hartwell

Three Strikes, You’re Dead
(Eddie Shoes Mystery Book 3)
by Elena Hartwell

Three Strikes, You’re Dead (Eddie Shoes Mystery Book 3) by Elena Hartwell

Three Strikes, You’re Dead is the third book in the Eddie Shoes Mystery series by Elena Hartwell. Also available: One Dead, Two to Go and Two Heads are Deader Than One (read my blog post).

One Dead, Two to Go by Elena HartwellTwo Heads are Deader Than One by Elena Hartwell

Three Strikes, You’re Dead is currently on tour with Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours. The tour stops here today for a guest post by the author, an excerpt, and a giveaway. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well.

Private investigator Eddie Shoes heads to a resort outside Leavenworth, Washington, for a mother-daughter getaway weekend. Eddie’s mother Chava wants to celebrate her new job at a casino by footing the bill for the two of them, and who is Eddie to say no?
On the first morning, Eddie goes on an easy solo hike, and a few hours later, stumbles upon a makeshift campsite and a gravely injured man. A forest fire breaks out and she struggles to save him before the flames overcome them both. Before succumbing to his injuries, the man hands her a valuable rosary. He tells her his daughter is missing and begs for her help. Is Eddie now working for a dead man?
Barely escaping the fire, Eddie wakes in the hospital to find both her parents have arrived on the scene. Will Eddie’s card-counting mother and mob-connected father help or hinder the investigation? The police search in vain for a body. How will Eddie find the missing girl with only Eddie’s memory of the man’s face and a photo of his daughter to go on?
Book 3 in the Eddie Shoes Mystery series.

Chapter One
As a private investigator, I often deal with the misery of others. And while that’s way better than dealing with my own misery, I was still looking forward to a few relaxing days surrounded by the beauty of the Cascade Mountains. My plan was to worry about nothing more serious than whether to have a latte or a cocktail in the late afternoon.
Besides my clients and the attention they required, the circle of people in my life were demanding more and more of my time. I wasn’t sure how I felt about not being as footloose and fancy-free as I had been for so many years. Relationships require attention, and I wasn’t totally convinced I was up to the challenge.
Being a grownup wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.
Back in March, my mother Chava had started working security for a casino not far from my Bellingham home. She excelled in her new job, able as she was to sniff out shuffle trackers and con men with the instincts of a bloodhound. Recently rewarded for her vigilance with a hike in pay—after her three-month probationary period ended at the beginning of June—she had generously offered up a mother-daughter getaway weekend to celebrate at the newly renovated Wenatchee Valley Hot Springs Resort and Spa.
Her success was further proof that she had no intention of returning to her beloved Las Vegas anytime soon or that my guest room would return to being my home office in the near future. Apparently I now had a full-time roommate.
Currently that roommate was crouched over the wheel of her bright red Mazda 6, zooming up the road toward our destination.
“You’ve been down in the mouth ever since that thing with Dakota Fontaine,” she’d said last week when she brought up the idea. “I thought you could use a long weekend away.”
Just before Chava started her new job, an old friend from my Spokane childhood had shown up in Bellingham, bringing Sturm und Drang with her. The whole adventure had made me a little cranky.
Besides, I’d thought at the time, why turn down a mini-vacation with the added bonus I could make my mother happy? And, as the resort was dog friendly, we got to take Franklin, my one-hundred-seventy-five pound, Tibetan mastiff-Irish wolfhound cross. So I said yes.
An hour into our drive, we passed through Monroe, a town of slightly under twenty thousand souls. It had sprung up around the railroad a hundred years ago. Once we got through town, we stopped for lattes at the Coffee Corral, a small, roadside stand in the parking lot of the Reptile Zoo. One of these days I’d stop and visit Reptile Man and his animals, but today we were winging our way up Highway 2, heading into the mountains.
Road trips always felt like an opportunity for a do-over. A “restart button” to erase life’s inevitable, messy complications. Especially if my destination was a place I’d never been, a place where no one knew me. I could begin afresh. A new romance, a new job, I could be an orphan—
Chava began singing loudly to the radio and I slammed back into the here and now, her presence tethering me to my current existence, regardless of our distance from home.
Life could be worse though. I could be paying for this little getaway.
I was more excited than I wanted to admit. Chava and I had rarely been on destination vacations together. We’d visited each other in our respective cities over the years, but seldom gone to another location entirely. I’d found excuses to tell everyone I knew that we were going: my best friend Iz, because I had to cancel our Saturday morning workout session at the dojo; Debbie Buse, in case she’d been thinking about meeting at the dog park on Sunday; and Chance Parker, my ex-boyfriend from Seattle who’d taken a job as a police detective in Bellingham last December.
After several tries over the course of the week, I’d “run” into him at Rustic Coffee in Fairhaven and asked him what his weekend plans were. I figured social etiquette would make him ask me about mine.
“I’m taking a few days off and going up to Orcas Island,” he said. “Do a little carpentry. A friend’s cabin needs a new roof.” Chance was pretty good with home repair projects, so I wasn’t surprised, though I wondered about the friend.
“Should be lovely up there,” I said. “What’s the cabin like?” And more importantly, who’s the owner?
“Primitive,” Chance said, with a laugh. “We won’t have electricity or cell service. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but James is used to surviving in the wilderness, and a few days of roughing it won’t hurt me.”
I remembered James. He lived in Alaska and took people out to look at bears and walruses and live on sticks and berries.
“Very manly,” I said.
“What about you?” Chance asked, proving my expectation about social niceties. I explained about the trip Chava had planned for us.
“Sounds like fun,” he said. “You’ll have to tell me all about it when you get back.”
That was a good sign, right? Almost like asking me out on a date.
“Why don’t we get together?” I said, emboldened by his easy manner. “When we’re both back. Compare notes on our respective long weekends.”
“Sure,” he said. “We’ll figure something out.”
That was a yes, right?
“You’re smiling,” Chava said as we reached the outskirts of Sultan, the first small town after Monroe, and had to slow down.
“I’m content,” I said, a little surprised to discover it was true.
The distinctly Western Washington small towns whizzed by outside the windows. Startup, Gold Bar, Baring—places with grocery stores and ski rentals mixed in with taverns and restaurants, all of which had seen better days. Not to mention the string of funky espresso drive-thrus, including: a windmill, a barn, and a tiny brick building, all with clever names. After Google and Amazon, coffee was the most popular business in our area.
Or maybe all that coffee was why we had the tech business to begin with.
Stands of evergreens mixed with deciduous trees covered in moss stretched out along the banks of the Skykomish. The rushing, westbound river competed for space with a railroad track and the road we were on in the corridor up to Stevens Pass. We crossed bridges with the river underneath us and sped under bridges with the railroad overhead, sometimes occupied by a moving train.
I could feel my tension ease as we left civilization behind. Tee trees were green. The river was clear as glass, first reflecting the sky, then turning into rapids, then forming deep quiet pools in the eddies of a bank. Franklin snoozed contentedly in the backseat, chin tucked against one armrest, feet pressed against the door on the other side.
A green sign flashed by—STEVENS PASS, ELEVATION 4061—as we raced alongside the ski resort. Summer had turned the snow-covered paths into bare wounds with the zigzag of ski li s stitching them together. Chava hurtled over the crest and swooped down the other side, like a downhill skier setting a record. Though I’d never admit it, it was always fun being her passenger.
Off in the distance, a thin column of smoke appeared. The plume rose straight up from the dense forest before fading into a gauzy haze and disappearing altogether. A resident probably had a burn pile going—that was how many of the locals disposed of trash or yard waste. It could also be part of a planned burn, designed to clear dangerous underbrush before a spark from a careless camper or a zap of summer lightning lit the mass of tinder. The rest of the sky was clear as far as I could see.
I began to hum along with the melody of an old Eagles tune. It was going to be a perfect getaway. What could possibly go wrong?
[Want more? Click below to read a longer excerpt.]

Praise for the Book
Three Strikes, You’re Dead gives us another vivid adventure with the quirky, genuine private eye Eddie Shoes. As usual, author Elena Hartwell’s characters are so real you feel like you could run into them at your local dive bar. Three Strikes takes us even deeper into Eddie’s complex family relationships with her charming-but-deadly father Eduardo and hilarious mom Chava, giving us further insight into Eddie’s psyche. The laugh-out-loud moments are many in this vital third installment, and you’ll find yourself wishing you could stay longer in the world of Eddie Shoes.” ~ USA Today bestselling author LS Hawker
Three Strikes, You’re Dead is an exciting ride with a likeable protagonist and a wonderful cast of supporting characters. If you enjoy your mysteries with suspense and a touch of humor, this book is for you.” ~ Catherine Bruns, USA Today Best Selling Author of the Cookies & Chance Mysteries
“With outstanding characters and a thrilling plot to entertain them, those who are fans of sleuth mysteries will fall in love with Eddie Shoes and her outlandish family. Although it is the third book in a series, it makes a fabulous stand-alone read and is a nice asset to have in your library.” ~ Susan Sewell for Readers’ Favorites
“This one was hard for me to put down.” ~ Long and Short Reviews

Guest Post by the Author
The Imperfection of Fiction Writers
Writing fiction requires a strong imagination. Authors must have the ability to create entire worlds, people who don’t exist, and situations that have never actually happened.
But we also need to get the facts right.
That may sound like a contradiction, but all fiction is grounded in a reality, and that reality has to be true.
Let me explain.
Take the mystery genre. Most books fall into a specific subgenre. Three common ones are Private Eye, Police Procedural, and Amateur Sleuth. There are others, but for our purposes, we’ll stick with these three.
When a novelist writes a fictional private investigator, they have to make choices about how much their PI acts within the law. A genuine, licensed private investigator follows specific rules and guidelines and doesn’t break the laws of their community. That’s great in the real world, but in fiction it’s a lot less interesting than a private eye who will do anything to solve their case. This does not mean, however, the writer or the character can be unaware that they are breaking the law. In fact, part of the dramatic tension can come from the reader knowing the PI could get arrested and finding out if they get away with an action or not.
This requires the writer to know the rules of private investigation and the legal system in the state or community their stories are set.
The same is true if the author writes a police procedural. While there are some writers who have had careers in law enforcement, most of us have to research how police detectives actually work. There’s also a tricky balance for writers who are experts in law enforcement. They may know how an investigation would unfold in the real world, but they may have to speed the process up for fictional purposes, to keep things exciting for the reader.
The amateur sleuth has leeway with how their characters behave. Readers are prepared to suspend their disbelief about the little old lady who slips, unnoticed, into the house to investigate the crime scene. But they may still have to be accurate with how police detectives behave as secondary characters. If a crime happens in a novel with an amateur sleuth (usually termed a “cozy” if there is no graphic sex or violence) the police who investigate may miss a clue or disregard something the amateur knows, but the cops still have to act within the framework of real life investigations.
But the legal system and the inner workings of police departments are only part of the accuracy mystery writers need to employ.
Everything we write can come under scrutiny, and while gun enthusiasts are notorious for catching mistakes in a crime novel, they are only one set of experts.
As fiction writers, the scenarios we create include a lot of real world things. Whether it’s how a tow truck operator loads a vehicle on a flatbed or how many dog breeds the AKC recognizes, there’s a reader out there who will catch an author’s mistake.
My search history on the internet probably looks like a lot of crime novelists’. I’ve researched poisons that don’t show up in autopsies, how likely it is for someone to successfully commit suicide injecting an air embolism, and various forms of blood spatter. But that’s only part of the picture. I’ve also researched native trees found in a region, the elevation and populations of cities, and the interior colors on a specific car make and model.
Those are often the kinds of mistakes a reader will catch.
One of the best sources for information is access to an expert. That’s my favorite kind of research. For book three in my series, I got to hang out with firefighters. I even got to go on a run or two, lights and sirens and all. But access to an expert isn’t foolproof. A writer can still make a mistake if they don’t ask the right question.
One of the experts I have relied on for every book to date is a police detective. We have a rule of thumb when we’re discussing my scenarios. Always, never, maybe. When I give him my fictional scenario and describe my fictional cop’s actions, we compare my description with the actions of a real-world police officer. The actions usually fall into one of three categories: always, never or maybe. If it’s “a police officer would always do that,” I know I’ve written an authentic character. If he says never, I have to rewrite and find a way around that particular action. If he says “maybe,” I can choose to keep an action because I know it’s within the realm of possibility.
Two moments in my life stand out for me for how tricky truth in fiction can be. Years ago I was workshopping a new play. We had staged a public reading and asked for feedback from the audience. After the event was over, an elderly gentleman came up to me. He said, “I’m a World War Two veteran, and I wanted you to know that I loved your play. I thought your veteran was very well written, but you have one mistake. At the end of the play, at the funeral, you say ‘there was a twenty-one gun salute.’ The problem is, there’s no such thing, it’s actually called a rifle volley.”
So now I had a problem. The character who had the line probably wouldn’t get it right either, but I didn’t want my audiences to think I, the playwright, didn’t know the difference. So I added a line to another character, who corrected the first. What stood out to me was it never occurred to me I had the wrong term, so I had never even checked. I’ve learned not to take anything for granted.
The second moment was working with a writer years ago on a short play. He had something that didn’t ring true to audiences. The playwright had been a doctor in Viet Nam, and the issue had to do with his age at the time. His character was very young, because it was based, in part, on his own experiences. The problem was, even though it was true in the real world, most people thought it was a mistake, because he felt too young to have gotten through medical school and gone on to fight in the war. Here was a place where the writer had to change what was true into something that felt true. He made the character older and the problem disappeared. It didn’t impact the plot, just the believability of the character.
Both those instances have stayed with me. Part of our roles as writers it to create fictional worlds, while remaining true to the one we live in. Simultaneously, we have to make sure things feel true, regardless of the facts they are based on.
Fiction lives somewhere between the suspension of disbelief and our reality. And the writer’s job is to figure out where.

About the Author
Elena Hartwell
After twenty years in the theater, Elena Hartwell turned her dramatic skills to fiction. Her first novel, One Dead, Two to Go introduced Eddie Shoes, private eye. Called “the most fun detective since Richard Castle stumbled into the 12th precinct”, by author Peter Clines, In’DTale Magazine stated, “this quirky combination of a mother-daughter reunion turned crime-fighting duo will captivate readers.”
In addition to her work as a novelist, Elena teaches playwriting at Bellevue College and tours the country to lead writing workshops.
When she’s not writing or teaching, her favorite place to be is at the farm with her horses, Jasper and Radar, or at her home, on the middle fork of the Snoqualmie River in North Bend, Washington, with her husband, their dog, Polar, and their trio of cats, Jackson, Coal Train, and Luna, aka, “the other cat upstairs”. Elena holds a B.A. from the University of San Diego, a M.Ed. from the University of Washington, Tacoma, and a Ph.D. from the University of Georgia.

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