More Mysteries Featuring Liz Phillips and Detective John Flynn
Reaction to ‘A Murder in the Garden Club’ prompted me to write its sequel, ‘Murder for a Worthy Cause’. The third Hardington mystery is in rough-draft form, with the working title of ‘Murder en Plein Air’ . The plot? Liz Phillips’ good friend, Roland Evans-Jones, has agreed to lend an 1889 painting by a minor American Impressionist artist to an upcoming Museum of Fine Arts exhibition. When the painting is taken out of its frame to be cleaned, several pages from the artist’s journal are found. Those pages tell of the artist witnessing the late-night burial in Hardington of two bodies by one of the most eminent artists of the age. But it is a murder that had never been reported, let alone investigated. Liz, Roland, and Detective John Flynn set out to solve a 120-year-old mystery: was a famous American artist implicated in the death of two men in Hardington when that town was home to an artists’ colony?
In the process of uncovering – literally – the clues to that long-ago crime, they stumble onto a much more recent mystery: a kilogram-weight gold bar inside a Zip-Loc bag. Though separated by more than a century, there are strong similarities in the two cases: a protagonist on the run who comes to quiet, out-of-the-way Hardington to elude pursuers, with ensuing bloodshed.
‘Murder en Plein Air’ (the title refers to the style of painting favored by Impressionists) takes the reader into the world of art both in the late nineteenth century and in the first decade of the twenty-first. The two central figures in the 1889 murder are invented, but they move in a landscape populated by historically accurate figures. The tale of what happens to the two men in the years following the murder is a study in wealth and privilege in that earlier era. The contemporary, parallel story opens the reader to the underside of the internet: ‘phishing’, identity theft and violence among thieves. You can read more about it here.
My goal is for each of the books in the Hardington series to take place at roughly two-month intervals, cover a span of five days, and feature the alternating points of view established in A Murder in the Garden Club. My reason for the two-month timing is that it allows relationships to unfold at a realistic rate. Five days closely tracks to what happens in real-life criminal investigations.
Are there more Hardington books to follow? Well, I have a fairly well-developed plot outline for a fourth book, but I’ll wait and see how installments 1 and 2 sell.
A foray into thrillers
Deal Killer is about a smart, young investment banker named Lynn Kowalchuk and a New Hampshire State Trooper named Lou Bergeron. Lynn is supposed to be on a routine, two-week assignment to help wrap up the acquisition of a failing New England company by its larger rival. But one of the executives of the company being acquired has his own agenda: an ingenious scheme to divert millions of dollars to himself upon completion of the sale. From the first day of final due diligence, he recognizes Lynn as the one person perceptive enough to spot the scam that has eluded the lawyers and accountants involved in the acquisition. He’s going to sidetrack Lynn by any means necessary. Deal Killer’s characters include a CEO with a vindictive streak all out of proportion to the size of the deal. There are also a number of people who don’t want to be helpful, even though cooperation is in their best interest. Lynn senses something is wrong from the first day, but can’t put her finger on it. Then, two days later, her car is run off the road. She’s rescued by state trooper Lou Bergeron, who takes seriously her belief that what happened to her was no accident. By week’s end, Lynn and Lou will be working as a team: she to uncover the hidden scheme and he to figure out the identity of the SoftRidge executive. But other people are on the executive’s trail, too, and they have their own scores to settle with him.
Deal Killer’s action is fast-paced, the characters are appropriately shaded, and the conclusion is eminently satisfying. The book is envisioned as the first of a series of stories about Bergeron, Kowalchuk and Bergeron’s mentor, state police detective Claude Johnson. You can read the opening chapters of Deal Killer here.
The sequel to Deal Killer is Concord Rules, set two months after the events of Deal Killer. Lou Bergeron makes what seems like a routine traffic stop of a limousine during which he glimpses an attractive young woman dressed for a cocktail party. The next day, he learns the woman is dead, but her body is found in a cheap motel miles from her original destination. When Bergeron contacts the local police and volunteers what he saw the previous day, he is told curtly that the case has been closed by the state police. When he and Claude Johnson begin making their own inquiries, they both find their careers in jeopardy.
Concord Rules explores the world of escort services and politics. Pushing ahead in the investigation will test Bergeron’s relationship with Lynn Kowalchuk and his friendship with Johnson. And, just when you think you’ve figured out the story, be prepared to be surprised. You can read the opening chapters of Concord Rules here.