As it’s International Women’s Day, today’s guest post from author Joan Livingston is about mothers and daughters in her mystery series.
Joan’s new novel Checking the Traps will be published on March 22nd – I can’t wait to read it.
Mothers and daughters. Isabel Long, protagonist of my mystery series, is both, and the relationships she has with the two women closest to her are important.
Let me back it up a bit. After a long career in journalism, Isabel has turned her attention to solving cold cases in the hilltowns where she lives. Yes, she is an amateur using those transferable skills from her previous job. And she does it all with a bit of sass and savvy.
Isabel also has a sidekick — her now 93-year-old mother, Maria. Both women are widows. Maria was a bit lonely. Isabel had the room. And as it turns out, the mystery-loving Maria is not only helpful on her cases, she is a big supporter of her daughter’s choice to be an amateur sleuth.
Alas, that’s not true of Isabel’s grown daughter, Ruth. She clearly loves her mother, but she disapproves of Isabel being a P.I. largely because of the danger. Yes, things did not go smoothly in the first two books, Chasing the Case and Redneck’s Revenge. In the third, Checking the Traps, Isabel is a bit banged up with a broken collarbone and her arm is in a sling.
Isabel does her best to reassure Ruth that she will keep herself out of harm’s way in her third case — investigating whether a man jumped from a bridge known for suicides or he was pushed. It doesn’t help that Gary Beaumont, the man hiring her, is a local drug dealer. The victim was his brother.
I should also mention Isabel is a grandmother. Sophie, Ruth’s daughter, is just a baby. Isabel watches her once a week. She’s even taken her along while she’s doing surveillance, but that might change once Sophie is able to talk and rat her out to Ruth.
Here’s a scene from Checking the Traps. Ruth is over to help bake the cake for Maria’s birthday celebration. Ruth has already quizzed Isabel about her relationship with a man. Now she brings up two guests invited to the party, Marsha and Annette, who are rather rough women Isabel secretly nicknamed the Floozy and Tough Cookie.
Ruth rolls her eyes. The beater begins spinning again.
“And what’s with you inviting those two women to the party?”
“You must be talking about Marsha and Annette.”
“Yes, those two.”
“Your grandmother and I happen to like them a lot. Right, Ma?”
“The Floozy and Tough Cookie are real sweethearts.”
I wink at my mother.
“I dunno if I’d call them sweethearts. But we got to know them well during my last case. And please don’t call them those names to their faces. They’re nicknames your grandmother and I gave each of them, like I call those guys in the backroom of the Conwell General Store the Old Farts.”
I glance at Sophie, who’s listed to the right in the high chair. I go over to fix her.
“Sorry, kid,” I tell her. “Don’t listen to Grandma.”
Ruth starts mentioning the names of people we know in town, all newcomers and most of them parents of my kids’ friends. All are respectable people, as far as I can tell.
“What about them?”
“Your grandmother hasn’t met any of them. Besides, Marsha and Annette can hold their liquor unlike certain people we know.”
Ruth chops the sides of the bowl with a spatula.
“You’re talking about my mother-in-law, right?”
“It does get interesting at family parties when Anne gets a few drinks in her. You’ve heard her. She’s interrogated me about my cases. I’m sure she’ll do it again when she and Phil come tomorrow.”
Ruth gives the batter a quick spin, and then she’s reaching for the cake pans. I probably shouldn’t have brought up her mother-in-law. I like Anne and Phil. We invite them to all the Long family gatherings. But the woman does tend to get a little tipsy at them. Secretly, I look forward to seeing how she does with the Floozy and Tough Cookie tomorrow. That should be fun. Yes, I can be a bit evil at times.
I can’t help smiling when Ruth clears her throat. I’m certain about what’s coming next. Well, I asked for it.
“Are you still going to take cases?” she asks.
“Yes, I am. It keeps your grandmother and me off the streets,” I say although I detect my humor doesn’t please her. “I’ll just try to be more careful next time.”
Ruth slides the cake pans into the oven then sets the stove’s timer.
“That’s what you say now. But you’ll get carried away like you always do.”
“Yeah, you.” She wipes her hands on her apron. “Don’t tell me you have another case already.”
I keep Gary Beaumont’s call last night to myself.
“No, not yet. Why? Do you have one for me to solve?”
There goes that eye rolling again.
“Don’t worry. Something good will turn up. Right, Ma?”
“I can’t wait,” my mother says. “I hope it’s another murder.”
“You two are impossible.”
I raise my one good arm.
“I won’t deny it.”
Isabel Long is a bit banged up from her last case with a broken collarbone and her arm in a sling. But that doesn’t stop her from pouring beer at the Rooster Bar or taking her third case with Gary Beaumont, a local drug dealer who once terrorized her. Gary is convinced his brother didn’t jump off a bridge known for suicides. Somebody pushed him.
Gary’s brother was a boozer who drove for a highway crew. But what interests Isabel and her ‘Watson’ — her 93-year-old mother who lives with her — is that the man wrote poetry.
The chief suspects are one of Gary’s business associatesand a famous poet who plagiarized his brother’s poetry for an award-winning book. Yes, he was that good.
As a journalist, Isabel did regular meetups with her sources for stories. She called it checking the traps. She does the same as a private investigator, and this time, she’ll make sure she doesn’t get caught in one.
About Joan Livingston
Joan Livingston is the author of novels for adult and young readers. Checking the Traps, published by Crooked Cat Books, is the third in the mystery series featuring Isabel Long, a longtime journalist who becomes an amateur P.I. The first two are Chasing the Case and Redneck’s Revenge.
An award-winning journalist, she started as a reporter covering the hilltowns of Western Massachusetts. She was an editor, columnist, and the managing editor of The Taos News, which won numerous state and national awards during her tenure. Recently, she was named editor of the Greenfield Recorder.
After living eleven years in New Mexico, she has returned to rural Western Massachusetts, which is the setting of much of her adult fiction, including the Isabel Long Mystery Series.
You can buy the books here:
Chasing the Case: http://mybook.to/chasingthecase
Redneck’s Revenge: http://mybook/rednecksrevenge
Checking the Traps: http://mybook/checkingthetraps
Find out more and connect with Joan here: