“There’s been another murder” yells the newsboy as he agitates a copy of the Daily News above his head.
Henrietta Jones is tired of being afraid. One by one, women with red hair are vanishing in the small town of Ember only to be found dead in an isolated Hunting Lodge at the back of the local park. Then, one cold, snowy night, a stranger appears on Henrietta’s doorstep, looking for a room to rent.
Torn between suspicion, fear, and a desperate need for money, Henrietta welcomes the stranger into her home. But as the body count rises, she watches the strange man living upstairs with eagle eyes, worried that there might be a killer among them. Because Henrietta, like all the dead women, has red hair.
As she impatiently waits for the police to carry out their investigations, Henrietta realizes that danger could be closer than she thought. Her husband, her neighbor, and others around her carry long-submerged secrets that could be putting her in danger. Fearing for her life, she takes matters into her own hands, not realizing that by doing so, she has become marked for death.
Targeted Age Group:: 21+
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I love to write Murder Mysteries. As so many other mystery authors, I grew up reading Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, Dorothy Sayers and Ellery Queen. I've been working on a series set in Louisiana, "The Margo Fontaine Mysteries." There are already six books in the series. So–after beach life, hurricanes, and everything you're exposed to in Louisiana–I decided I needed some fresh air and sent my protagonist, Henrietta Jones, up North to enjoy the cold weather of Winter for a change. Dark, treacherous, snowy terrain lends itself very nicely to mysterious murders. And as Henrietta Jones is about to find out, you're never too old to die!
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
Doesn't everyone know a couple like Henrietta and Alfred Jones? Married too long, never quite happy with each other, pent-up resentment, a never-shared desire for freedom?
The first few days of the virus, my husband and I had to quarantine. It was two weeks together, all the time! News of divorces and suicides abounded those first few weeks on the internet. And then, a few suspicious deaths. It had to be murder, I thought. Can excessive togetherness lead to murder? I hope not, but those feeling did help me get in character.
Oscar Knows Something
Alfred Jones walked with an urgent step to the front door and fumbled with his coat and his boots as fast as he could work his arthritic fingers. Oscar—his good friend and neighbor—would know about the murder. Oscar knew everything. He was the ears and the eyes of the neighborhood. Not hampered by a nagging wife, he got to roam bars and parks and other gathering places and find out what nobody else could.
He closed the front door behind him and looked around. The cold winter air hit him in the face like a slap, and he shivered. Barren Cornus florida trees, also known as the common flowering dogwood, lined the length of Ember Street, their dead branches showing no signs of impending spring.
With the fast-approaching dusk, the street lights came on, and so did the head and tail lights of cars, trucks and city buses, turning the street into a long, twinkling, sparkling winter scenery that was reflected in the recently fallen snow, and the patches of frozen ice on stairs and walkways.
He climbed down the steps carefully, grabbing on to the wrought-iron strip of rail, avoiding the frozen spots where melting snow had iced over a couple of days earlier. And yet, he could hardly wait to be on the street, in the midst of things, something new, something unexpected in his life, something to help him forget the monotony of his daily existence.
Despite the cold weather and the ever-whistling wind, the park across the street was always bustling with activity, what with the bus stop being right there on the corner. And it was no different on this late afternoon. The air was crackling with excitement as if the news of the murder had awakened his neighbors and had given them a renewed lease on life.
He quickly crossed the busy street, risking the wrath of impatient drivers, and he joined the throng of gossiping bystanders, huddled over their newspapers, chattering with dread and exhilaration. Even dogs and small children had been forgotten and left to their means as the adults pored over the gory details of the murder.
“It’s the first-ever homicide on Ember Street,” a deep booming voice said right next to him. He turned around to find that Oscar had approached him, and he hadn’t even heard. Proved that his hearing was getting worse.
“Is that right?” Alfred Jones asked, opening his eyes wide.
“At least as long as I have lived here, anyway,” chuckled Oscar.
“What happened? Do you know?”
“Not officially. The newspaper doesn’t have any details except that a few streets over, a dead body was found with the face bashed in. The police didn’t disclose if they had found any identification papers on the body or not.”
“Probably holding on to that information, just in case.”
“My dear Jones,” laughed Oscar, “are you an expert in murders?”
“Well no, but I did work at the Police Station for a while.”
“As an accountant, was it?”
“Um, yes. But I still heard things and learned things. You know how that goes.”
“Yes, my friend. I know.” Oscar cheerfully slapped Alfred on the back and told him that he had confidential information.
“Seriously? What do you know, Oscar?”
“I’m not supposed to say.” Oscar winked and patted Alfred’s back again. “But what are secrets among friends, right?”
“Just tell me already. What did you find out?”
Oscar approached his friend’s ear and with a conspiratorial whisper, he started telling the story.
“They say that Miss Potts was walking her little frou-frou dog in the park, you know, the little white one, when the little dog took off running into the shrubbery. And Miss Potts took off after it. Can you imagine old and fat Miss Potts chasing that dog?” Oscar grabbed his stomach and laughed, and Alfred turned toward him petulantly.
“Come on, man, just tell the story.”
“Okay, okay, Alfred. No need to be so impatient. So, When Miss Potts finally caught up with the frou-frou, she noticed that its maw was all bloody-like and she screamed and screamed for someone to call 911.”
“Dear Lord,” said Alfred, exclaiming horrified. “Bloody maw? Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” Alfred shuddered with gory thrill.
“Yup. Seems like the dog either lapped up some of the victim’s blood or gave the body a nibble.” Oscar chuckled again. “Go figure. Who would think that a cute little frou-frou like that would lick up a dead man’s blood?”
“So, it was a man, then?” Alfred needed to know. This was not like reading a story in one of his books. This was real. This was a murder. He wanted to know all the gruesome details, but he also realized that this was one story he wouldn’t be sharing with the wife. It could prove to be too much for her.
“Actually, no. I was about to tell you. It was a young woman. Nicely dressed. Must have been pretty before her face was bashed in.”
“No way!” Alfred was out of words. His horror knew no bounds. “To think that someone around here should be capable of murder.”
Did he know anyone capable of committing such a horrible deed in his own neighborhood? He decided to give that some serious thought.
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