Brooklyn: A Small World—and a Giveaway!

Triss SteinTriss Stein is a small–town girl from New York state’s dairy country who has spent most of her adult life living and working in New York city. This gives her the useful double vision of a stranger and a resident for writing mysteries about Brooklyn, her ever-fascinating, ever-changing, ever-challenging adopted home. She is inspired by its varied neighborhoods and their rich histories. The first book in the series, Brooklyn Bones, is about the discovery of a body as a brownstone is being renovated in gentrifying Park Slope. The next, Brooklyn Graves, out in March 2014, is about historic Green-Wood Cemetery, Tiffany glass, a turn-of-the-last century mystery and some up-to-date crimes.

Writing mysteries is Triss’s third career. She started out as a children’s librarian with the Brooklyn Public Library system, which is when she started learning about all those neighborhoods. Later she transitioned into business research at places as diverse as McKinsey, the global consultancy, and DC Comics. She is the chair of the Mystery Writers of America/New York chapter library committee.


Last year, when Brooklyn Bones was published, Lelia kindly invited me to guest blog. I wrote about how I created Erica, the protagonist, and the ways she was not me. Necessarily for a mystery series, she lives a far more complicated life.

One important way she is not me is that she is a true Brooklyn girl, the product of a blue-collar neighborhood where kids take the bus to Brooklyn College and where settling down in a home near mom is actively encouraged. Erica has traveled only a few miles on the map, but it was a long personal journey to a shabby house in a gentrifying neighborhood (her parents were horrified) and an almost-Ph.D.

In the new book, Brooklyn Graves, the crime that starts it all is the murder of Erica’s friend Dima Ostrov. It is a friendship that exists partly because he too was a traveler, a Russian immigrant who is the head of maintenance at her daughter’s school. The two families have been close since their children went to kindergarten together.

From Russia to the other side of the world? And from one side of Brooklyn to…the other side of Brooklyn? Comparing them does sound ridiculous, I know.

Here’s where it started. When I was moving into my first New York apartment, I had made the big trip from a small city in New York’s dairy farm country to … the very big, very bad metropolis. That is how most of my high school would have seen it. My roommate had made an even bigger journey from Appalachian North Carolina. And we were fine with it, excited, and had not a single doubt we would make it work.

At the same time we knew a couple of guys who had moved home to Brooklyn and Queens after college and were now ready to move out on their own. And the angst! The opposition from parents! The need to sever some bonds! Those few miles were a bigger move for them than ours was for us.

That memory stayed with me.

That bond with the Ostrovs, plus the bond between their children, is what pulls Erica into the crime story. This solves the eternal problem of an amateur sleuth writer: how to get the protagonist into the midst of the crime solving? Because really, any sane person would leave it in the hands of the pros.

Based on her life in Russia, the widow does not trust the pros. And Dima’s teen-age son, trying to help, is putting himself at risk. And then, eventually, Dima’s second job and his murder converge with Erica’s actual job assignment, researching Tiffany glass and Tiffany history.

In Brooklyn, deathless art and and ugly actions, family conflicts and profound loyalties, and untold stories of all kinds, are never very far apart.


Brooklyn GravesA brutally murdered friend who was a family man with not an enemy in the world. A box full of charming letters home, written a century ago by an unknown young woman working at the famed Tiffany studios. Historic Green-Wood cemetery, where a decrepit mausoleum with stunning stained glass windows is now off limits, even to a famed art historian.

Suddenly, all of this, from the tragic to the merely eccentric, becomes part of Erica Donato’s life. As if her life is not full enough. She is a youngish single mother of a teen, an oldish history grad student, lowest person on the museum’s totem pole. She doesn’t need more responsibility, but she gets it anyway as secrets start emerging in the most unexpected places.

In Brooklyn Graves a story of old families, old loves and hidden ties merges with new crimes and the true value of art, against the background of the splendid old cemetery and the life of modern Brooklyn.


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of Brooklyn Graves by Triss Stein! The winning name
will be drawn on the evening of Tuesday, April 1st.