Desperate for Death
A Kelly O'Connell Mystery
by Judy Alter
Genre: Cozy Mystery / Suspense
Publisher: Alter Ego Press
Date of Publication: January 9, 2016
# of pages: 228
Just when Kelly's life has calmed, she faces yet another of life's puzzles. Except the pieces in this one don't fit. First the apartment behind her house is torched, then a string of bizarre "accidents" occur to set her off-balance. Who is stalking her? Where does the disappearance of a young girl and her disreputable boyfriend fit in? And why are two men using the same name? Is the surprise inheritance another part of the puzzle? At a time when she is most vulnerable, Kelly can't make the pieces fit. Before Kelly can get the whole picture, she helps the family of a hostage, rescues a kidnap victim and attends a wild and wonderful wedding.
Praise for Desperate for Death
Once again, Kelly is thrust into action when her family and friends are targeted by a deranged convict and this time Kelly has more to protect. I enjoyed this fast-paced and well written drama that continues to get better and better with a strong and determined heroine and a secondary cast that plays a pivotal role in the telling of this tale. It was fun watching this mystery played out with all the key elements that lead to a fulfilling finale and I especially enjoyed Keisha presence in this book. This is by far the best book in this series and I hope there are more to come in this engaging series.—Dru Ann L Love
One satisfying aspect of Desperate for Death which sets it apart from other murder mysteries is its staccato action in which everything happens at once, little seems connected, and life becomes a series of challenges. Fast-paced action keeps readers involved in not only events, but Kelly's response to them, and in her efforts to keep her head above stormy waters.—Diane Donovan, Senior E-book Review Editor, Midwest Book Review
GUEST POST, BY AUTHOR JUDY ALTER:
Authors get ideas for characters from different places—names from phone books, people they know, familiar public figures who fascinate for one reason or another. When I wrote the first Kelly O’Connell Mystery, Skeleton in a Dead Space, I was quite deliberate about choosing my main character. I knew I’d write a cozy, so I wanted a woman, not too young, not too old, and I knew she would be an amateur sleuth (de rigueur for the genre) and would have a full time occupation. I tried to choose an occupation that wasn’t overused—craft and culinary mysteries are everywhere—but something that also interested me. I ended up with Kelly, a divorced mother of two who owns a real estate company (founded with her ex-husband) and specializes in restoring classic Craftsman houses. I just happen to live next to a neighborhood filled with such houses, so I could plunk Kelly down in a familiar urban and historic neighborhood. My cup of tea. As my oldest daughter told her mother-in-law, “It’s a highly autobiographical novel.” I am a divorced mother of four that I raised mostly alone, and the newest house I ever lived in was built in the 1940s. My current house dates back to 1922. I was quite comfortable with Kelly and crushed when one reviewer wrote that she didn’t like the main character because she was self-centered. I liked better the woman who wrote, “These are everyday people, like you’d meet in the grocery store.”
But Keisha, Kelly’s office manager, sometimes babysitter, and always friend, walked into the book almost unplanned. I didn’t expect her but there she was, in her spiked, color-tipped hair, flowing muumuus, outrageously high heels, and hair, finger- and toe-nails color coordinated to the outfit of the day. African-American, Keisha is a big girl—not fat but tall and big boned. She speaks her mind freely, asking Kelly, for instance, “Are we in a snit today?”
The big thing about Keisha is that she has the sixth sense. She can tell when Kelly or her children are in danger, and she becomes fearless in protecting them. Mike Shandy, the police officer who in later books would be Kelly’s husband, scoffs at the idea of sixth sense but even he has to admit that Keisha has saved Kelly and her girls more than once.
Gradually Keisha moved herself closer to center state in the series, now at six books. I didn’t have anything to do with it—she just kept edging her way forward. I’ve long heard authors say, “Listen to your characters, and they’ll tell you what’s going to happen.” Texas novelist the late Elmer Kelton wrote that he intended The Wolf and the Buffalo to be about a buffalo soldier (black, called buffalo soldiers because their curly hair resembled a buffalo’s mane). But a Comanche chief kept edging into the story, demanding equal time. Eventually the two shared the novel.
So it was with Keisha, with her acerbic comments, ever-present sixth sense, and unshakeable loyalty to Kelly. She kept becoming more central to the books. I had sort of envisioned one of the secondary characters becoming prominent in subsequent books, so No Neighborhood for Old Women, is Cynthia O’Connell’s book because she falls in “like” with a single man in the neighborhood, with disastrous consequences. Trouble in a Big Box is Mike’s book because he’s badly injured and has to give up patrol duty. But even there, Keisha butts in, snaring the young officer, Joe Johnson, assigned to guard Mike’s room and renaming him José because she already knows a Hispanic Joe. Soon, due to Keisha’s efforts, the two are a couple and part of Kelly’s extended family.
Desperate for Death is Keisha’s book. She and Joe are planning to be married—well, she has to nudge him into it a bit. But incredible obstacles get in the way of the wedding she’s always dreamed of. Her plans are unconventional—email invitations, a wedding in the local “Old Neighborhood Grill,” and hot dogs for the wedding dinner—plus a rehearsal shower at Kelly’s house. Nothing will stop her—not a near-knife attack on Kelly, a hostage situation, and a kidnapping. It’s a wild and wonderful story, and I’m proud to share it with you.
Kelly is moving more toward the domestic side of her life. Will Keisha replace her in the series? Who knows, Keisha may have a series all her own. Meanwhile, come dance at her wedding.
An award-winning novelist, Judy Alter is the author of six books in the Kelly O’Connell Mysteries series: Skeleton in a Dead Space, No Neighborhood for Old Women, Trouble in a Big Box, Danger Comes Home, Deception in Strange Places, and Desperate for Death. She also writes the Blue Plate Café Mysteries—Murder at the Blue Plate Café, Murder at the Tremont House and Murder at Peacock Mansion. Finally, with the 2014 The Perfect Coed, she introduced the Oak Grove Mysteries.
Judy is retired as director of TCU Press and the mother of four grown children and the grandmother of seven. She and her dog, Sophie, live in Fort Worth, Texas.
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