Saturday, May 06, 2017

Weekend Guest Elaine Viets

Please join me in welcoming Elaine Viets, last weekend's wonderful Guest of Honor at Malice Domestic, to Type M. Elaine's intriguing new series takes her full circle and in a new direction. She's here to tell us about it.



Going Back to the Dark Side
By Elaine Viets

            I've left the light and gone back home – and my home is dark, violent and bloody. After twenty-five cozy and traditional mysteries, I'm writing dark mysteries again: the Angela Richman, Death Investigator series.

          My first series, the Francesca Vierling newspaper mysteries, was hardboiled. When Random House bought Bantam Dell and wiped out that division, I switched to the funny, traditional Dead-End Job mysteries, featuring Helen Hawthorne. The Art of Murder, now in paperback, is the 15th Dead-End Job mystery. I also wrote ten cozy Josie Marcus, Mystery Shopper mysteries.

          I love both series, but I never abandoned the dark side. I wrote dark short stories for Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine and anthologies edited by Charlaine Harris and Lawrence Block. I wanted to spend more time on the dark side, but I didn't want to do another police procedural or a private eye with a dead wife or a drinking problem. Other writers had done those and done them well.

          Angela Richman, my new protagonist, is a death investigator in mythical Chouteau Country, Missouri, stronghold of the over-privileged and the people who serve them. Brain Storm was the first mystery in the new death investigator series. Fire and Ashes, the second Angela mystery, will be published July 25.

          My death investigator mysteries aren't too gory – not like Patricia Cornwell's "I boiled my dead boyfriend's head." This series is closer to Kathy Reichs' Tempe Brennan series. Janet Rudolph, who heads Mystery Readers International, believes this may be the only death investigator series.

          Many readers aren't familiar with DIs, but the profession is nationwide. At a murder the death investigator is in charge of the body, and the police handle the rest of the crime scene. The DI photographs the body, documents its wounds, records the body core temperature, clothing and more. Death investigators work for the medical examiner. They are trained professionals, but do not have medical degrees.  They're like paralegals for the medical examiner. I wanted the training – and the contacts – to make the new series accurate. I passed the Medicolegal Death Investigators Training Course for forensic professionals at St. Louis University, a two-credit college course.

          Here's how the sizzling Fire and Ashes begins:

          Five fire engines, two ladder trucks, a portable light truck, a battalion chief’s van, and what looked like every cop car in Chouteau County were fighting this fire. Death investigator Angela Richman knew it was already too late—she was summoned only for death. Tonight, someone had died in that blazing building, choked by the smoke and seared by those flames. Angela oversaw the bodies at Chouteau County crime scenes or unattended deaths. The death investigator reported to the county medical examiner.
         Who was it? Angela didn’t know yet. The detective’s call was cryptic: “Luther Ridley Delor’s house is on fire. One body so far. They’re bringing it out. Get over there now.” Seventy-year-old Luther called himself a financier to take away the sting of how his family made a trainload of money: running a nationwide chain of payday loan companies. People—especially desperate ones—knew the slogan “You get more with Delor.” Was the old man dead? Was the victim his young fiancée? Or did a friend or servant die in that hellish fire?
          Luther's fiancée, a twenty-year-old Mexican-American manicurist, Kendra Salvato, is blamed for the fatal fire. After all, she's an outsider who's already made off with $2 million of the old lech's money. She's also accused of setting arson fires in this posh neighborhood. The Forest burns with prejudice and betrayal, and Angela has to fight it with the forensic facts.

                                                  ****
Elaine Viets has written 31 books four series: the dark Francesca Vierling newspaper mysteries, the traditional, humorous Dead-End Job mysteries, and the cozy Josie Marcus, Mystery Shopper mysteries. She returned to the dark side with Brain Storm, the first mystery in her Angela Richman, death investigator series. Fire and Ashes is her latest novel. You can find Elaine at www.elaineviets.com   
Pre-order the Fire and Ashes e-book for $3.99 through July 25 here: http://tinyurl.com/ltfxsyy

17 comments:

Vicki Delany said...

Sounds fascinating, thanks for letting us know about the new series, Elaine. And congratulations on being GOH at Malice. It was great seeing you and meeting your husband.

John R. Corrigan (D.A. Keeley) said...

Elaine, thanks for sharing. I appreciate the info about DIs. Personally, I was unaware. Great post. You've hooked me.

Frankie Y. Bailey said...

Elaine, how long was the course? Was it difficult?

Sybil Johnson said...

Hi, Elaine. This series sounds fascinating. I knew DIs existed before hearing you describe the book at Malice, but didn't know a whole lot about them. I tend to read stuff more on the cozy end, but I do enjoy stuff on the darker side on occasion. I shall check this out.

Rick Blechta said...

I think I've got to add yet another book to my to-be-read pile. Thanks for stopping by!

Elaine Viets said...

Thanks for adding me to Mount TBR, Rick. Hope you'll enjoy Angela's adventures.

Elaine Viets said...

I like cozies, too, Sybil. They're my comfort read. But I enjoy venturing into the dark side.

Elaine Viets said...

The Medicolegal Death Investigators Course was crammed into one very long week, Frankie -- lectures and slides from 8 AM to 6 PM, and videos at lunch -- including an autopsy video on the last day. I was harder for me than the rest of the class, because I'm not a forensics professional but I was surprised how helpful my classmaters were and I've stayed friends with some of them.

Elaine Viets said...

I love hooking -- er, I mean, getting new readers interesting my novels, John.

Elaine Viets said...

Good seeiing you at the Malice Domestic conference, too, Vicki, and congratulations on the good review of your new mystery in Booklist.

Donis Casey said...

How wonderful that you are able to change directions and write a series that is quite different from the one readers have been familiar with for a while! This DI series sounds fascinating and now I'm going to have to see whether my local university offers a course. Even if one is not writing about a death investigator per se, I can imagine that the course would be invaluable to anyone who writes mysteries. I'll be looking for the new book, Elaine

storytellermary said...

I'm looking forward to this book, and missing the tradition of a spring book event . . . Write On! <3

Gerald Lenaz said...

All the best with the dark side titles But from folks @cloakanddaggermysteries your dead end job and shopper series are welcomed relief (and fan favs) to the plethora of hard edged crime novels

Gerald Lenaz said...

All the best with the dark side titles But from folks @cloakanddaggermysteries your dead end job and shopper series are welcomed relief (and fan favs) to the plethora of hard edged crime novels

Elaine Viets said...

Thanks, Gerald. I'm still writing Dead-End Job stories. There's a short story called "Good and Dead" in the anthology "Blood on the Bayou," and I'm working on another short story for Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. Stay tuned for more.

Elaine Viets said...

I miss the spring book tour, too, Mary, but not the violent spring weather. Last year's tour was through tornado country! Saw lots of friends, but the skies were not so friendly.

Elaine Viets said...

Hi, Donis. The DI course is so helpful for mystery writers. You'll learn so much and get lots of plot ideas. Good luck!