I’ve written before about this author’s work—Marlene Bateman. My favorite book she has written is a non-fiction piece titled Gaze into Heaven. That book helped me a great deal during my father’s recent death.
Here is Marlene’s new fiction work—Crooked House. It is a true mystery. True meaning it keeps you guessing all the way through the book. So you know what it is about, this is the copy on the back cover.
Someone is trying to kill Liz Johnson and it’s up to quirky private investigator, Erica Coleman, to find out who. Erica is no stranger to murder and mystery, which is why her best friend’s daughter, Megan, turns to her when unaccountable and potentially fatal “accidents” threaten her roommate’s life.
Once Erica arrives at the ramshackle old mansion known as Crooked House, matters go from disturbing to deadly as it becomes clear someone is trying to kill Liz. As Erica begins to unearth secrets, she discovers a twisted web of love, money, greed, and deception. Although the police and friends sometimes find Erica’s OCD annoying, its those very traits that help her sift through evidence and see clues that others miss. Erica must draw upon all her investigative prowess to keep Liz safe and unmask the killer before he can accomplish his deadly objective.
With a dash of romance and surprising twists, this thrilling mystery will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very last page. As with all Erica Coleman mysteries, ten delicious recipes are included.
I interviewed Marlene for this post. Here is what she said about Cooked House and her writing.
Does a reader need to read the first two Erica Coleman books to fully enjoy Crooked House?
Not at all. Each book is a stand-alone. Although Erica Coleman is the private investigator in each book, each one has a new mystery for her to solve. Think of “Jessica Fletcher,” or “Elementary,” or “The Mentalist.” Each week, they have a new mystery to figure out.
You have written books in a broad range of genres. Do you find one more difficult to write than another? Do you find one more fulfilling than another?
I started out writing non-fiction. I wanted to write fiction, but didn’t think I could do it. I finally realized that non-fiction writers are just as talented as fiction writers. Duh. So I started writing a novel. I worked on the manuscript for three years, then sent Light on Fire Island, to a publisher, who accepted it. I was so excited when it turned out to be a bestseller. Yay!
For me, writing non-fiction is easier than writing novels. All of my non-fiction have been collections of inspiring stories and experiences from early LDS Church history. Three have been about angelic experiences—And There Were Angels Among Them, Visits Beyond the Veil, and By the Ministering of Angels—where people have actually seen or heard an angel. Two books—Heroes of Faith and LDS Heroes and Heroines—were collections of stories about Saints who were super-valiant in the Church and stood up for their beliefs despite the very real peril to their own lives. One was about Brigham Young and the men who helped him bring the Saints across the plains and colonize the Great Basin—Brigham’s Boys. My latest non-fiction book was Gaze into Heaven: Near-death Experiences in Early Church History.
Researching takes a lot of time and you have to be super-meticulous, but I love that part. Since I’ve done a number of non-fiction books, I’ve settled into a routine of writing. It’s harder with fiction. You have to be really creative in order to come up with an interesting plot, figure out scenes and characters, etc. Fortunately, once I get the plotting (months of work) down, and the first draft written (more months), it becomes easier and is a matter of making sure all the clues are in place and the timeline is correct. Then comes the polishing, to make the book as good as can be. I derive a great sense of satisfaction when my efforts result in an entertaining and intriguing mystery. So far, I’ve had four mysteries published. Light on Fire Island is more of a suspenseful romance, while Motive for Murder, A Death in the Family, and Crooked House are murder mysteries.
Tell us about Erica Coleman, your main character in Crooked House. How did you come to “find” her?
Erica is loosely based on Jennifer Hart, of the very old, but very good television series “Hart to Hart.” I wanted someone witty, charming, kind, and very smart. Then I added a dose of OCD to make her interesting and quirky.
What kind of research do you do in writing your mystery novels to make them realistic and come to life?
I take great pride in going to each and every setting I write about. I take tons of pictures and notes so everything is accurate, including street names, directions on how to get to places, etc. Everything is accurate. For A Death in the Family, my husband and I drove to Oregon, rented a car, and drove all over Florence and Lake Oswego. When I describe the Sea Lion Caves and how the gift shop and caves are laid out, it’s all accurate, as are the descriptions of the beach, Heceta Head lighthouse, the historic Siuslaw Bridge, Charl’s Restaurant, etc.
With Crooked House, we flew into Philadelphia and drove to Dover, Delaware. I researched all about NASCAR racing, looked at the track, and took lots of pictures and notes. Historic Dover is amazing, with its unique houses. So, everything is accurate.
Marlene Bateman was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, and graduated from the University of Utah with a BA in English. She is married to Kelly R. Sullivan. Her hobbies include gardening, camping, reading, and enjoying her four cats and three dogs.
Here is an excerpt from Crooked House.
Erica’s heart turned over when she heard the quaver in her young friend’s voice on the phone.
Then Megan asked, “Can you come?”
“Of course.” Erica’s reply was automatic. She would do anything she could to help. Although she often received emotionally-laden phone calls in her job as a private investigator, there was a difference when the call came from the teen-aged daughter of her best friend. The very fact that Megan—who was usually so calm and composed—sounded frightened out of her wits, put Erica on high alert.
“I think someone’s trying to kill my roommate, Liz,” Megan said.
“What makes you think that?” Erica asked. “Has someone threatened her?”
“No, but Liz has had a couple of serious accidents lately—at least she says they’re accidents, but either one of them could have killed her.”
Erica made an effort to reel in her skepticism. “Tell me about them.”
“First, someone tampered with her car. The brakes went out and Liz ended up driving across someone’s yard and hitting a tree. Fortunately, she was okay. The second one happened downtown. Liz was on the sidewalk waiting for the bus when someone shoved her. She fell into the road. A truck was coming and if a guy hadn’t pulled her back, Liz could have been killed.”
Still, they could have been accidents, Erica thought, at least until the third one occurred—this time at Crooked House.
Crooked House is available at physical bookstores, including Deseret Book and Seagull Book. Below are three links where Crooked House can be purchased online.
Seagull Book: http://www.seagullbook.com/seagull/product/873826.html