The mysteries continue!

After taking Toni Day out of her comfort zone by sending her on a Caribbean cruise, I thought it would be fun to send her back to her and Hal’s hometown of Long Beach, California in A Deadly Homecoming, the sixth Toni Day Mystery. After all, her mother and stepfather live there, and so do Hal’s parents. So, okay, Toni is out of her comfort zone by virtue of not having the hospital and police connections she has in Twin Falls, but at least she’s in the United States and on dry land.

I also thought it would be fun to have someone actually ask her to get involved in a case. In the first five books, she gets involved against the wishes of her mother, her husband, and the police. In Grievous Bodily Harm, her stepfather-to-be, Nigel, actually scolds Toni for scaring her mother, the woman he’s about to marry, out of ten years growth. “I’m not ready to be done with her yet, thank you very much,” was his take on the situation. Of course, Nigel, as a retired Scotland Yard detective, can’t resist getting involved himself; it’s in his blood.

So, Toni’s mother, Fiona, actually asks Toni to get involved on behalf of her best friend, Doris, whose husband, Dick, has disappeared. I thoroughly enjoyed taking a little walk down memory lane by having one of the homicide detectives be someone Toni knew in high school, the Los Angeles county coroner be someone she knew from her pathology residency and the Long Beach city legal counsel, be her childhood best friend.
In reality, my own British mum and I moved from Maine to Long Beach when I was twelve. I went to Charles Evans Hughes Junior High, and Long Beach Polytechnic High School. Like Toni, I actually was a Polyette, and I did my internship and part of my pathology residency at St. Mary’s. The house in which Toni grew up is based on the house my mother and I lived in while I was in school. And the public library really was 8 blocks away with a Foster’s Freeze right across the street.

I was criticized on one review for giving Long Beach a small-town atmosphere at odds with reality as Long Beach has a population of over 400,000, and even back in 1958 it was over 300,000. Sorry about that. I did mention that Long Beach had five high schools, however.

As a final bit of fun, I put in a haunted house with a secret staircase, a laird’s lug, a malfunctioning dumbwaiter, and a half-empty bottle of white arsenic.
As usual in these mysteries, the murder is only the final event in a string of crimes that require Toni to go back decades to find out what started it, solve the mystery, and then put herself in danger to convince those who doubt her.

A Deadly Homecoming came out October 30, 2018, and is available online from amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, and iuniverse.com. It was given the Rising Star designation, which is better than Editor’s Choice, and means it might, just might, show up on some bookstore shelves somewhere, someday, maybe.

Now, I’m working on number 7, with the working title of The Twelve Murders of Christmas. Toni and Hal are back home in Twin Falls, Mum and Nigel come to visit, an old villain returns, and that’s all I’m going to say about it as I’m only 90 pages in. Anything can happen from here.

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My inspiration for the Toni Day Mystery series

It all started with Murder She Wrote.

All doctors think about retirement, whether it’s making enough money to retire early, or whether they can afford to retire at all, or where they want to live when they retire, and all the fun they’ll have after they do retire.

My husband had a dream of selling the house and living in a motor home and traveling all over the country when I retired, never staying long in one place. I didn’t want that, so I decided to keep working until he got over it. That wasn’t our only point of dissension, and in 2004 we divorced, so I didn’t have to worry about that any more.

In my case, I thought about what I would do to pass the time after retirement, because I’ve known too many doctors who retired and then died. Of boredom? Who knows?

But when Murder She Wrote came on TV, I decided I wanted to be Jessica Fletcher when I grew up. My husband gifted me with a word processor for Christmas, and I sat right down and started writing what is now my first Toni Day mystery, Murder Under the Microscope.

In 1985, when I had less than ten years of pathology practice under my belt at a tiny rural hospital, a locum tenens, or temporary, physician was hired to help with weekend call. The first thing she did was pick a fight with me, verbally abuse my lab techs, and circulate derogatory information about how incompetent the lab and pathologist were.

Nothing happened, of course, and she was gone after three weeks, but in the meantime she did a real number on my self-esteem, and I got no visible support from my medical colleagues. That was when the first seed was planted, and I decided that someday I would kill her off in a book.

In 1982, a sleazy lawyer got our entire medical staff ensnared in a leasing company, which was intended to avoid taxes, and worked quite well until1987 and Black Monday. It all fell apart, the IRS swooped in, and the doctors ended up owing hundreds of thousands in back taxes, interest and penalties. Luckily, I hadn’t gotten involved in the first place, but the whole thing adversely affected the hospital’s bottom line, and I think it was ultimately responsible for us having to sell out to the county hospital in 2001.

I killed him off in Too Much Blood.

In 1995, we acquired a new hospital administrator, who, not to mince words, was a pathological liar and treated employees like shit. I killed him off in Grievous Bodily Harm.

My best friend Rhonda and I were at a party where a friend of ours introduced us to one of her daughters. When she told her daughter that I was a pathologist, the daughter exclaimed, “Eww, you do autopsies? On dead people?”

I explained to her that we are limited to dead people because those live ones complain too much, and Rhonda said that it would be death by autopsy. Ever since, Rhonda has been telling me that I had to write a book called Death by Autopsy, so I did.

In 2013, I was on a Caribbean cruise with a gentleman friend, and we were sitting up on the Lido deck one day when it began to rain, and they had to close the roof. As I watched those massive gears closing the roof with a cacophony of creaks and groans, it occurred to me what a dandy way that would be to murder somebody and have it look like an accident. The result was The Body on the Lido Deck.

Throughout all these stories, Toni’s mother, Fiona, had objected to Toni’s getting involved in matters best left to the police and putting herself in danger. I thought it was about time that Fiona actually had to ask Toni to get involved, and consequently Toni and Hal return to their hometown of Long Beach, California, in A Deadly Homecoming.

One of the editors of Murder Under the Microscope commented that it was too bad that “the awful Robbie” had been sentenced to life in prison for attempted murder, because she was hoping he would show up in future books. “I love a good villain,” was what she said. So I’m resurrecting him in my seventh Toni Day Mystery, with the working title The Twelve Murders of Christmas.

Incidentally, I still haven’t retired.