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 muse for “Murder Under the Microscope”

The basis for my first book, Murder Under the Microscope, was a female locum tenens who was hired, back in the eighties, to help with weekend call. Everyone on the medical staff thought she was wonderful. My techs couldn’t stand her, and I heard about it on a daily basis. Her method of drawing blood consisted of starting an IV and letting the blood drip into the tube. Her method of collecting a culture for gonorrhea was to smash the tip of the penis into the chocolate agar plate. When my techs tried to explain why she shouldn’t do it that way, she would tell them when they had gone to medical school, then they could tell her what to do and not before.

Eventually she started working during the week too, and that’s when I tried to talk to her about these things, but she attacked me. She gave me an earful about how incompetent she thought the lab was, and why. Nothing I said made any difference. Then she wrote a letter to Administration and the medical staff, all about how bad our lab was compared to labs at all the other hospitals she’d worked in, and how incompetent the pathologist was. When I found my copy on my desk in the morning, I went straight to the administrator, only to find that several of the doctors had beaten me to it. They assured me that the lab was okay, and so was I, but they were unsympathetic when I complained about how she was affecting the morale in my lab.

Nobody killed her. She was let go after three weeks, because that was when the patients she’d seen came back for their follow-up appointments and the other doctors found out about all the mistakes she had made, and what their patients thought of her. I also found out that she’d been as nasty to Radiology as she had to the lab, and that one of the surgeons had received a letter from her too.

When Murder Under the Microscope was published in 2011, that surgeon came charging into Histology where I was grossing surgicals, waving my book and laughing his head off, and said, “I remember that lady!”