Saturday, February 8, 2014

Like Grandmother, like Granddaughter

By Lesley A. Diehl

To say I love buying secondhand is the reason I developed the Eve Appel mystery series doesn’t tell the whole story of how I got to be a fanatic for a bargain.  Oh sure, I grew up without a lot of money and making do with used items was part of my childhood, but I believe living on the cheap is in my genes.  I inherited my passion for secondhand items from my paternal grandmother who reused bathwater to wash down the floors, re-sewed her daughter’s size 14 dresses to fit her tiny size 5 body and tied grosgrain ribbons on my aunt’s large shoes to keep them on her itty bitty size 6 feet. 

Saturdays are special in our house.  We get up early to go to yard sales.  Ah, the challenge of the hunt.  I have furnished my creek side cottage in upstate New York almost entirely with items bought at garage and yard sales or from consignment shops, so why would I not write a cozy mystery with a protagonist who runs such a shop?  And because I owe this all to my grandmother’s guidance as well as her reuse and repurpose,  shouldn’t I put her in the book too?  Well, of course I did.

Eve Appel, protagonist of the first of the Eve Appel mysteries, A Secondhand Murder, moves to rural Florida to open a high end consignment shop with her best friend Madeleine Boudreau.  The gals have a clever idea for their shop; they’ll take in designer fashions from the wealthy matrons of West Palm, those ladies whose husbands lost millions to Bernie Madoff, and sell back to other matrons at a fraction of the cost. That way the ladies will have a source of their own money as well as have the opportunity to purchase designer clothes for pennies.  Because the shop is located in the small rural community of Sabal Bay (somewhere near Lake Okeechobee), patrons save face by only running into others who have faced a similar money issue.  Everybody is happy.  Until, of course, as in all murder mysteries, a customer is found stabbed to death on the fitting room floor.

To help Eve find the killer and clear her name, her grandmother, the woman responsible for raising her from age nine when she lost her parents, enters the story bringing with her a husband who looks like Ernest Hemingway.  The two of them run a fishing charter out of Key Largo.  Grandy is a woman with taste, and she knows quality when she sees it, but she’s no blue blood from up north.  When she was younger she worked for them. Grandy knows them intimately and what she knows of the dead woman’s family is unpleasant.

Grandy and Eve will back down from nothing, not killers, not creatures crawling out of swamps, not family prestige and money threatening to ruin them.  Two peas in a pod in personality, they are a study in physical contrast.  Grandy is short, round; a sensible dresser with white fuzzy hair while Eve is tall, thin and has her dyed blonde hair punked with gel.  She favors four to five inch heels in her footwear.  No kitten heels for her.

It’s clear where Eve gets her sass and spunk.  Like me she has inherited much of it from her grandmother and the rest she learned at Grandy’s knee. Grandy hides a secret from those days working in the homes of the wealthy, one she’s willing to defend even in the face of being threatened by thugs.  Donning a black velvet warm-up suit from Eve’s shop (Grandy too loves a bargain), she finds breaking and entering provides just the excitement she loves especially when it results in a clue to the killer’s identity.  Grandy and Eve both embrace the help of a mob boss from up north in their somewhat illegal capers to track down clues to the murder.

The only thing that Grandy and Eve have disagreed about is Eve’s choice of Jerry as her husband.  Too wise to forbid Eve from marrying him, now that they’re divorcing, Grandy is quick to distrust him even when the mob boss hires him.  But like Eve, Grandy cannot simply toss Jerry away.  He’s too pathetic to operate on his own, so both Eve and Grandy find themselves helping Jerry out of jams.  This is a woman who understands how weak humans can be, so she accepts Jerry as the man he is, but never as a husband for Eve. 

Grandy, Eve, the mob boss, Jerry (a hunky PI) and a collection of cowboys are on one side and a lot of money and a killer on the other. A Secondhand Murder gives a whole new meaning to “family”.

Lesley Diehl retired from her life as a professor of psychology and reclaimed her country roots by moving to a small cottage in the Butternut River Valley in upstate New York.  In the winter she migrates to old Florida—cowboys, scrub palmetto, and open fields of grazing cattle, a place where spurs still jingle in the post office, and gators make golf a contact sport.  Back north, the shy ghost inhabiting the cottage serves as her literary muse. When not writing, she gardens, cooks and renovates the 1874 cottage with the help of her husband, two cats and, of course, Fred the ghost, who gives artistic direction to their work. She is the author of several short stories and a number of mystery series including the microbrewing series (A Deadly Draught; Poisoned Pairings), a rural Florida mystery series (Dumpster Dying; Grilled, Chilled and Killed),and her most recent, A Secondhand Murder, the first in The Eve Appel mystery series. 


Jean Henry Mead said...

Welcome back to Mysterious Writers, Lesley. It's good to have you here.

Jackie Taylor Zortman said...

This is a wonderful post, Lesley, and the new book sounds great. Can't wait to read it. Glad you feel better. I've been through sieges of vertigo and it's not a fun experience. I hope yours was just a passing thing.

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

Oh, my, Lesley, I hate garage sales, going to them and having one.

Grace Topping said...

Hi, Lesley -- It must be in the genes. I learned frugality from my grandfather. My husband says I'm so tight I squeak. But it pays off. My sister furnished a house in Florida buying good quality secondhand items at a fraction of the cost.

I recently read "A Secondhand Murder" and enjoyed it a lot. Eve has a lot sass. Hope to see more of her.

Nancy J. Cohen said...

You're very prolific writing three mystery series. They all sound like fun concepts!

Patricia Gligor said...

What a fantastic idea for a mystery series! Like you, I love garage sales, flea markets, estate sales and consignment shops. So many treasures! So, of course, I HAD to read "A Secondhand Murder" and I loved it!

Sharon Arthur Moore said...

What a great book idea peopled with interesting folk. Gotta get it! Thanks, Lesley, for showing how our lives often play out in our books. A lovely weaving in this case.

Morgan Mandel said...

I also love the thrill of the hunt at garage and rummage sales!
Sounds like a good book!

Morgan Mandel

Lesley Diehl said...

Thanks for all your comments. The problem I'm having lately is that with all my writing responsibilites, I have little time left for my passion of bargain hunting. Isn't that sad?
Now, having my own garage sale? I'm with you, Marilyn. It's not really fun and an awful lot of work. I guess as with books, I like the creative part of the business better than the selling and promotion part!
The worst thing about being ill is that I was house bound and almost tempted to buy full price on the net. Oh how awful! Stop me before I buy again.

Eileen Obser said...

I love this post, Lesley, and learning more about your characters and plot. Also, I love the look of your website -- black background -- perfect for a mystery writer!

Eileen Obser said...

Very interesting blog, Leslie, with you telling us more about your characters and plot. Also, I love the new website design, with a black background. Perfect for a mystery writer!

marja said...

Auctions are always fun, too, Lesley. I have your book and can't wait to get started reading.
Marja McGraw

Gloria Alden said...

Lesley, I had an attack of vertigo a few weeks ago, too. Fortunately it only lasted one day.

I'm frugal, too. I save and recycle. I'm not exactly a hoarder except when it comes to books. I used to go to garage sales and flea markets, but not often anymore because I don't need anything else. However, I want something new to wear, I usually shop at Good Will first unless it's for a very special occasion.