Lesley A. Diehl retired from her life as a professor of psychology and reclaimed her country roots by moving to a small cottage in the Butternut River Valley in upstate New York. In the winter she migrates to old Florida—cowboys, scrub palmetto, and open fields of grazing cattle, a place where spurs still jingle in the post office, and gators make golf a contact sport. Back north, the shy ghost inhabiting the cottage serves as her literary muse. When not writing, she gardens, cooks and renovates the 1874 cottage with the help of her husband, two cats, and, of course, Fred the ghost, who gives artistic direction to their work. She is author of several short stories and several mystery series: the microbrewing mystery series set in the Butternut Valley (A Deadly Draught and Poisoned Pairings) and a rural Florida series, Dumpster Dying and Grilled, Killed and Chilled (released late in 2012). She recently signed a three-book deal with Camel Press for The Consignment Shop Murders including A Secondhand Murder. For something more heavenly, try her mystery Angel Sleuth. Several of her short stories have been published by Untreedreads including one (“Murder with All the Trimmings”) in the original Thanksgiving anthology The Killer Wore Cranberry and another (“Mashed in the Potatoes”) in the second anthology The Killer Wore Cranberry: A Second Helping. She invites readers to visit her on her blog and website.
Grilled, Chilled and Killed is the second in the Big Lake Mysteries (the first was Dumpster Dying) featuring Emily Rhodes, retired preschool teacher and bartender turned amateur snoop.
It seems as if Emily is destined to discover dead bodies. This time she finds one of the contestants at the local barbeque cook-off dead and covered in barbeque sauce in a beer cooler. She should be used to stumbling onto corpses by now and the question of who killed the guy should pique her curiosity, but Emily decides to let Detective Lewis handle this one, at least until she figures his theory of who did the deed is wrong, wrong, wrong. Lewis’ denigration of Emily’s speculations is condescending enough to stimulate her dormant snooping skills. As the two of them go on their separate paths to find the killer, Lewis’ old partner, Toby the dirty, tobacco-spitting cop interferes in the investigation leaving Lewis with the wrong man in jail. Killers, bootleggers, barbeque and feral pigs—it’s a lethal game of hide and seek in the Florida swamp.
My publisher for my Big Lake murder mystery series released the second book in the series Grilled, Chilled and Killed late in December. Of course I’m thrilled to have another book set in rural Florida available for readers. While I love all my books and all the characters I’ve created, this series has special meaning for me for several reasons. First, my protagonist is a retired preschool teacher, and I love creating a senior to do the snooping into murders. Emily Rhodes is an unusual sleuth not only because of her age, but because of her size. She’s a tiny thing, doesn’t top five feet. Who would think such a small senior especially one who spent most of her life wrestling small people, three and four years olds, would be good at catching killers? But as she tells her friend Clara in the first book Dumpster Dying, it takes a lot of spunk to subdue tots on the run.
Grilled, Chilled and Killed takes Emily to a barbeque cook-off and to another dead body then transports her and her daughter out of Florida on a visit to Jekyll Island, Georgia. I’ve taken many vacations on Jekyll Island. It is a historically interesting location with restored cottages from the late eighteen hundreds, miles of beaches, bicycling paths and golf courses as well as a lovely campground. I just had to plant Emily and her daughter in the campground during a storm and use the weather as a perfect excuse to have Detective Lewis rescue Emily. The two are still circling around each other, each trying to outwit the other in solving the crime, both unwilling to admit how attracted they are to the other. I give them a soapy scene in the shower, yet manage to keep them at arm’s length. After all, there’s Emily’s other admirer to consider, the bass fisherman, Donald Green. He’s still a contender for Emily’s affections.
Best of all, I brought back the dirty cop and Lewis’ former partner now fired from the police department, Toby Sands. Toby tries hard to make his money making schemes work, but they always fail. And he’s got nothing going for him in the looks department either. He’s a bad guy, sure, but so pathetic is his scheming that one can’t help but feel a little sorry for him. Except he seems never to learn from his mistakes. Toby takes on an international criminal, attempting to both act as his partner in a kidnapping plan and run his own game. We know Toby will fail, but we hope he isn’t taken down by this ruthless man. Whatever would I do without bad boy Toby in my third book?
So here’s Toby at his best, or worst:
As Toby pedaled down the dirt road leading away from the docks, he could feel Smith’s eyes on his back. Only when he turned onto the bike path leading along the shoreline and northward toward the convention center did Toby shake himself free of the sensation of having been trapped like a mouse by a deadly snake. The reptile had let him go, but only for a while. Smith was playing with him. It was what he did. He did it well.
The wind increased in velocity and had shifted direction. Instead of picking up a tail wind as he had hoped, he was again heading into the blow. This time he didn’t spit his tobacco. Despite the size of the chaw, his mouth felt dry. A dust devil touched down on the path just as his front wheel crossed through it. The bike wobbled for a moment and toppled, throwing Toby onto the graveled surface. He hit head first and was unable to pick himself up because his foot had become entangled in the front spokes. He flailed around on the ground, but his arms were too short to reach down over his large belly and free his ankle. He lay there for a minute, like an upended turtle, then began thrashing around once more. This time foul words accompanied his gyrations. They did not help, so again he flopped back onto his side and began to cry softly. Life was hell, he thought to himself.