Today we’re sharing a guest post by New York Times bestselling author Beth Gutcheon! Her new mystery, Death at Breakfast, is now available in hardcover.
About the Book:
From the acclaimed New York Times bestselling author of Still Missing, More Than You Know, and Gossip comes the first entry in a stylish and witty mystery series featuring a pair of unlikely investigators—a shrewd novel of manners with a dark heart of murder at its center, set in small-town New England.
From the Author:
Full disclosure; I am addicted to puzzles. You might expect, given my profession, that it would be to crosswords, but in fact jigsaw puzzles are my drug of choice; thank heaven there are now excellent digital ones or I’d need a much bigger apartment with puzzle closets, and an even more patient husband. To me, working a jigsaw puzzle is deeply analogous to what a novelist does. You scan for patterns, you pay attention to very slight differences among similar things as you make order out of chaos. You have to remember, sometimes for years or even decades, that this remark in the mouth of that kind of character will lock together with something else you know about human nature, create meaning and recognition, and become part of a larger picture.
As a young reader I loved puzzle novels, first Nancy Drew books, then Agatha Christie, then Dorothy Sayers. I especially love investigators people tend to underestimate. I once met a woman who runs an all-female private detective agency who said that not only did she hire only women; she greatly preferred fat women, because people don’t look at them. They can stake out a hotel lobby for hours, or wait in a car across the street, and no one wonders what they’re up to.
I love the fact that at this stage of life and career, my generation fades to shades of gray as younger people take up the full technicolor of midlife. Our inner lives are just as rich and our skills as sharp as they ever have been, but going gray gives us protective cover, along with a better shot at a seat on the subway. So it is logical that my investigators would be a pair of harmless-looking women of a certain age whose appearances mask their shrewdness, their deep knowledge of human nature, their highly developed sense of fairness, and their appetite for new experience.
That Maggie would be a retired school person I knew from the start. She has to be retired because I need her to have time on her hands, and a school person because work changes people. Spending your life doing open-heart surgery, or running a hedge fund, or sitting alone in a room writing novels develops certain of your strengths while letting others atrophy. But school people have to use all their stuff all the time, intellectual, social, psychological, spiritual. They are more likely than most to arrive at the cocktail hour of life with open minds, open hearts, unblunted curiosity and a habit of being up to their necks in other peoples’ lives. What surprised me was Hope. I wanted Maggie to have a sidekick with money in case she ever needed to charter a plane or set up an expensive sting of some kind. It was Hope’s own idea to turn into such a goofball. But I’m in favor of it; the daffier she seems, the likelier that people will underestimate her.
The secret that explains the plot of Death at Breakfast comes from a true story told me by the distinguished former school head to whom I am lucky enough to be married. The engine the plot runs on comes from another true story, of a man I care about who has been in prison in Maine for a twenty-six years and counting for a brutal murder he did not commit. I know more than I ever wanted to about how hard it is to turn the ship around, after police and prosecutors have committed themselves to a solution that brings them glory and has only two drawbacks; that they put an innocent person in prison and left a dangerous and guilty one free. Knowing these two stories, I came to feel I had something to say about innocence and guilt, and a harmless-looking mystery novel seemed like just the right way to go about saying it.
Click here to read an excerpt from Death at Breakfast and order your copy today!