Isabel Long Mystery Series, Working the Beat

Why I Write Mysteries

Another find while cleaning out my computer: this post I wrote last June for author Val Penny’s website. Val, who writes the Edinburgh Crime Series, is a fellow mystery writer at darkstroke books. This post has been updated since it was written while I was in the middle of writing Working the Beat, my newest book Isabel Long Mystery Series.

Hey, before I go further, just as the image above suggests, Chasing the Case, no. 1 in the series is available for free for Kindle readers on Sunday and Monday, Feb. 27-28, only.

Who doesn’t love a good mystery? I surely do, whether it’s in a book, a movie or TV show (especially from the UK), and on occasion, real life. And a few years ago, I decided I would create my own, and thus the Isabel Long Mystery Series began.

Let me back up a little. I didn’t start writing mysteries. I was drawn to what I would call literary fiction. I have completed five in that genre, two of which have been published. I have also delved into kids’ books, including one that is bilingual.

But it was after a close friend, Teresa Dovalpage, who is also an author, wrote her first mystery that I told myself to give it a try. And from reading and watching so many mysteries, I believe I figured it out from the get-go.

First, mysteries need someone who solves them. In my case, it’s Isabel Long, who uses the transferable skills of her former profession as a journalist to be a private investigator solving cold cases in the rural area where she lives. (Full disclosure, I have been a journalist for 35 years, and I long decided I could easily be a lawyer, detective, or if I were brave enough, a spy. I officially retired from that profession on Feb. 4.)

Isabel is smart, nosy, and a bit sassy, and people who know me would likely say I channel myself a bit through this character. But that’s where the similarities end. She’s a recent widow, mother of three grown kids and grandmother to a little one. Her personal life changes after she starts working as a part-time bartender at the town’s only bar and she becomes involved with its owner.

I gave Isabel an unusual sidekick, he 92-year-old mystery-loving mother who lives with her. (My real-life mother, now 97, is the inspiration.)

In the first book of this series, Isabel decides to solve a very cold case, one that happened 28 years earlier when a woman in her small town disappeared. It was also her first big story as a rooky reporter.

The setting for the series is the sticks of Western Massachusetts in the U.S., which I know well since I’ve lived there much of my life. The characters are not based on anyone real, but I feel they could easily live there. Many stay around through the series.

One important thing about watching or reading a mystery is that I want to be fooled until nearly the end. Please keep me guessing but don’t make the distractions and dead ends obvious. Give me characters who are complex and interesting. I love when all of that happens. I hope to do the same for my readers.

I will share a secret. Just like Isabel, I don’t start off knowing whodunnit. It’s as much a mystery to me as it is to her and we solve it together — an experience I find extremely satisfying.

As for writing book no. 5 in the series, Working the Beat … a few years ago, I went to a demolition derby at a local country fair. Something clicked inside me when a friend mentioned a derby might be a good place to find a body. That was all I needed to get started. The same goes for Isabel.

Working the Beat had a Jan. 27 release. I am already into the next one, tentatively called Finding the Lead. The lead or lede is a term for the opening sentence or paragraph of a news article, summarizing the most important aspects of the story. If you got to the end of Working the Beat — thank you — you’ll know who hires Isabel next to solve a 50-year-old mystery.


A reminder about the freebie promo. Here’s the link: Chasing the Case on Amazon


Here is the one for Val Penny’s website:

And the one for my books on Amazon: Joan Livingston Books on Amazon






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