Every one of my mysteries features an amateur sleuth. In the Jazzi Zanders mysteries, Jazzi, Ansel, and her cousin Jerod are house flippers. Karnie, in my new series, works in her family’s butcher shop. Lux is a freelance journalist. And in the new straight mystery that I’m working on, Laurel is an ex-nurse and volunteer whose friend is killed by the Midlife Murderer.
The thing about amateur sleuths is that they need to have a REASON to get involved in solving a case. Curiosity isn’t enough for a protagonist to put him or herself in danger. If a protagonist is a cop, it’s his JOB to solve crimes. Cops have the authority to question people. When a writer has a P.I. as the MC, it’s his job to deliver answers to a client. A P.I. gets paid to dig for answers, too. The difference is, people can tell him to take a hike. He has no authority. Even cops can stonewall him. It’s even harder for amateurs. They have to convince people to talk to them, and they have to have strong motivation to .bother with a murder in the first place. So why do they do it?
In all of my books, the reason is that someone they care about was either the victim OR someone they care about is the main suspect. Both work. That’s how Jazzi and Ansel get involved in solving every murder in their series. In book one, Jazzi and Jerod find the bones of Jazzi’s aunt in a trunk stored in the house’s attic they’re working on. In book 7, Ansel’s uncle wants him to prove neither of his sons killed the man buried when a retaining wall collapses on their work site.
In A CUT ABOVE, out May 3rd, Karnie’s dad and brother trained Sam Lessman at their butcher shop and grew fond of him. When he becomes the number one suspect for murdering Donna Amick, Karnie decides to prove he didn’t do it. In trying to clear his name, she’s forced into stepping outside her comfort zone and to accept help (which she usually doesn’t do) .
In the Lux series, Lux was a reporter in Chicago before she moved to Summit City. It’s in her nature to dig for answers, but she only gets involved in solving a murder in HEIRLOOMS TO DIE FOR to keep people she cares about safe. When she finds a body in her storage unit, she discovers it’s someone who was close to Cook–her parents’ servant that she loves. How did he get past her secret code to steal things from her? And why is someone still interested in the belongings she brought here when she moved from Chicago?
If you’re a fan of amateur sleuths, HEIRLOOMS TO DIE FOR will be free April 28th to May 2nd. Hope you give it a try!