Of course, the husband in this case belongs to Isabel Long, the protagonist in my new mystery, Chasing the Case. My own is alive and well, thank you.
But when I wrote this book, I made Isabel a widow. Her husband, Sam, had died of natural causes and not by anybody’s hand. Oh, why not?
Chasing the Case is written in the first person, so I will admit there is more than a little of me in Isabel. We’re both nosy smart asses. She and I live in a small, rural town. I was a longtime journalist, and so was she. But she is an amateur P.I. and I’m not. I just get to write about one.
For those who might be wondering, I didn’t start this book thinking I would have a widow as my main character. Like so many other things, it just happened.
Isabel was happily married to Sam, a skilled woodworker who was kinda deaf from power tools. He was a nice guy and a good dancer.
For those who know me, Sam sounds a little bit like Hank, my real-life spouse. Well, as I’ve said before, you take what you know and have your way with it. Most of my adult fiction has a character who is a carpenter. I joke that in this one, I bumped him off. Hank didn’t mind.
Anyway, Isabel loved and grieved for Sam when he died — it was actually the start of her bad year. (The end to her long-time career as a journalist was also a part of that year.)
She chose to mourn him properly before deciding “to do something foolish,” as she says.
And that’s where the book starts. Besides giving a go at being a private investigator, Isabel gets interested in a man. I’m not going to spoil the story by telling you who, but I like the guy. I bet you will, too.
I also believe you will find the inscription Isabel chose to put on Sam’s gravestone amusing. But that’s too far into the book. I offer instead an excerpt about Sam from the first chapter. Here, Isabel is digging a grave in the back yard for a pet cat that loved Sam. It’s late October, but the town is getting hit with an unexpected early snow.
I dip the shovel into the hole and eyeball the depth. I figure I have at least a foot to go. I’ve reached a rocky patch, but if I need to, I’ll get the crowbar from the shed. That’s the way Sam would do it, so I follow his advice. The crowbar is hanging where he left it.
Sam was a master woodworker although he was too humble to say that about himself. Anyone who hired him to build a staircase or do finish work in their house always got more than their money’s worth. He did the same when he built this house.
His workshop was in the basement. I could hear him banging around down there, building something beautiful. I haven’t had the heart to do anything with his tools. Sometimes I take my coffee down there, especially the first months after he was gone, just like I used to when he was alive. I’d bring him a cup. He’d light up a cigarette, the only place in the house he smoked, and tell me what he was doing.
Yes, I miss him like hell.
We met in Boston, got married pretty fast, and started having kids. We moved to Conwell with the first, Matthew, because we wanted to raise him in the country, and then had two more close together. After taking a break to be with the kids when they were little, I started writing for the Daily Star as a correspondent, covering my town and the ones around it. I got paid, first by the inch, and then by the story. I used to be a reporter in Boston, not the Globe or Herald but something a lot smaller and now nonexistent – a victim of the big crash in 2008 and the rise of online news. At the Star, I went from correspondent to staff reporter to editor, and as I joke, clawed my way to the top, where I liked it until the paper got sold.
Sam and I made a good life here for our kids and us. He was a trustworthy guy, a little deaf from the power equipment and used to keeping things inside. But he was kind, hardworking, and a great dancer.
Yup, it still hurts.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Like what you read? Chasing the Case is available from Amazon. Here’s the link: http://mybook.to/chasingthecase
You can pre-order the Kindle version, which has an official launch of May 18, or buy a paperback now. Thanks for your support.
By the way, if you’re on Facebook, join me for an online launch party that day, 2 p.m. Eastern Time Zone for online discussion and contests.
ABOUT THE IMAGE ABOVE: That’s an alleyway that leads to the Shelburne Falls Candlepin Bowling Alley in Western Massachusetts.