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 . In the winter she migrates to old New York —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