A Death in the Family
By Marlene Bateman Sullivan
Synopsis of A Death in the Family
Meet Erica Coleman—a gifted and quirky private investigator with an OCD-like passion for neatness and symmetry, a penchant for cooking, (ten terrific recipes are included), and a weakness for chocolate.
In A Death in the Family, the second in the Erica Coleman series, private eye Erica Coleman and her family happily anticipate Grandma Blanche’s eighty-first birthday celebration in the picturesque town of Florence, Oregon. But when the feisty matriarch, a savvy businesswoman, suspects wrongdoing and asks Erica to investigate her company, things get sticky.
Before the investigation can even begin, Blanche’s unexpected death leaves Erica with more questions than answers—and it is soon clear Grandma’s passing was anything but natural: she was murdered. When another relative becomes the next victim of someone with a taste for homicide, Erica uses her flair for cooking to butter up local law enforcement and gather clues.
Erica’s OCD either helps or hinders her—depending on who you talk to—but it’s those same obsessive and compulsive traits than enable Erica to see clues that others miss. When she narrowly escapes becoming the third victim, Erica is more determined than ever to solve the case.
Excerpt from A Death in the Family
“It’s hard to believe she’s gone,” Kristen said dolefully. “When I moved here, I thought I’d have years with Grandma. She was always so active—I thought she’d keep going for years.”
“And all the time, her heart was getting weaker,” Trent said glumly.
Walter commented, “The last time I saw her, Blanche said the doctor told her she had the constitution of a mule.”
There were a few smiles at this, but Martha’s brow furrowed in confusion. “But Mom’s death didn’t have anything to do with how healthy she was.”
“What are you talking about?” Trent’s impatient voice billowed out and filled the small room.
Martha squirmed but fluttered on, “Well, after what Mom said when she came to visit me, you know—about how something wrong was going on in the company—I worried that something might happen.”
Her response reverberated around the room. Everyone went very still—as if they were holding their breath.
Martha’s eyes went from one to another. “I didn’t mean—oh, I shouldn’t have said anything,” she stammered. Her voice was pure distress. “It’s just that . . . well, we’re all family here, so it’s okay, isn’t it? I mean, no one else knows.”
“No one else knows what?” Trent said brusquely.
Visibly flustered, Martha’s hands twisted in her lap. “And . . . and Mother was very old and—and the police haven’t even come, have they?”
Erica wondered what Martha could be getting at. Everyone darted quizzical looks at each other, trying to make sense out of Martha’s confused chirruping.
After meeting blank looks all around, Martha blurted, “I mean, that’s good . . . isn’t it? For the family?”
The room remained deadly silent as Martha’s cheeks flamed red.
There was a rumble as Walter cleared his throat. “Why would the police come?”
“Why, to arrest someone.” Martha sounded surprised—as if he had asked something that was completely and absolutely self-evident. She stared at Walter, as if he and he alone could straighten everything out. “Isn’t that why they’re doing an autopsy? I mean, don’t they always do an autopsy when someone has been murdered?”
Marlene Bateman Sullivan 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 and they are the parents of seven children.
Her hobbies are gardening, camping, and reading. Marlene has been published extensively in magazines and newspapers and has written a number of non-fiction books, including: Latter-day Saint Heroes and Heroines, And There Were Angels Among Them, Visit’s From Beyond the Veil, By the Ministering of Angels, Brigham’s Boys, and Heroes of Faith. Her latest book is Gaze Into Heaven; Near Death Experiences in Early Church History, a fascinating collection of over 50 documented near-death experiences from the lives of early latter-day Saints.
Marlene’s first novel was the best-selling Light on Fire Island. Her next novel was Motive for Murder, which is the first in a mystery series that features the quirky private eye with OCD, Erica Coleman.
Do you just sit down and write, waiting to see what happens next? Or do you outline first?
I’m definitely an outliner. With mysteries, I couldn’t possibly write without having a good foundation in place. It usually takes me about two months to complete my plotting outline, during which I have most of the scenes in place. Then I begin expanding them and filling in the holes.
What’s your secret to making the character’s in your books come to life?
I write down everything I possibly can about each character and keep it in a file so I REALLY know the character. I don’t use most of the information in the book, but it helps me create a real character—lets me get into his or her ‘skin’ and know their past, present and their hopes and dreams for the future. As I write, I try to imagine myself as that character and imagine how he or she would respond to each situation they faced.
How do you come up with characters names and place names in your books?
I get my names from two sources. First, I look online. I found a great website that lists names according to year. This way, if I have an older character, I can type in their birth year and have a long list of names from that era to pick from. Second, I save names from the sports pages of my local newspaper when they list all-star football and basketball teams. I clip out the entire page and file it away for when I need some current popular names. Each page has dozens of cool names.
As for the place names in my books, they are all 100% 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 is the descriptions of the beach, Heceta Head lighthouse, the historic Siuslaw Bridge, Charl’s Restaurant, etc. Everything, including the church house and stores in historic Florence are as described. I take great pride in going to each and every setting I write about, taking tons of pictures and notes, so that everything is accurate.
What else have you written?
My first non-fiction book was Latter-day Saint Heroes and Heroines, which is a compilation of true stories about people in early Church history who risked their life in defense of the gospel.
My next three books are also compilations of true stories in early Church History, and are about angelic experiences. The first book is, And There Were Angels Among Them. The second book is, Visits From Beyond the Veil, and the third is; By the Ministering of Angels. Researching and writing these books made me realize how much Heavenly Father loves his children and that He is aware of us and our lives.
I then wrote Brigham’s Boys, which tells the life stories of sixteen men who worked closely with Brigham Young as he brought the Saints across the plains and colonized the Great Basin area.
I had two non-fiction books come out last year. Heroes of Faith is a collection of true stories about people who stood firm in the faith despite mobs, bullets and overwhelming trials. Gaze into Heaven, Near Death Experiences in Early Church History, is a collection of true, carefully documented near death experience, which occurred to people in the early days of the church.
My first novel, Light on Fire Island, a romance/mystery came next. My second novel was Motive for Murder, which is the first in the Erica Coleman series.
I really enjoyed A Death in the Family. I love cozy mystery. Blanche is the matriarch of the family at 81 she is still running the family business at Sun Coast Sales and Rentals. The family is gathered around for her up coming Birthday celebration. Blanche does mention to Erica there is something going on in the business and she needs Erica to do some investigating. Erica tries to get Blanche to tell her what has her worried and why there needs to be an investigation, but Blanche said it could wait.
The next morning Blanche is found dead in her bed. Everyone is shocked, Blanche seemed as healthy as a mule. When the idea of an autopsy came up – not everyone agreed it should be done after all she was old. They finally agreed. Then Martha blurted out that she was surprised that the police weren’t there – and that is what happens when someone is murdered. Martha said the last time Blanche visited she mentioned some problems and was not surprised to hear that she died and seemed to think that murder was not out of the question. Erica needed to talk to Martha and find out what Blanche said. Erica started to do some investigating to find out what had happened to Blanche and maybe uncovered a bit to much~ she may be the next victim.
I don’t want to spoil the book for you – but I will tell you I couldn’t wait to find out who the murderer was and once I started reading I couldn’t put it down. The good thing was it was a fast read and very interesting throughout the book. I can’t wait to the next book!
I received a Copy of this book from the author for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for the review, and the review is honest and my responsibility.