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MISS MARPLE WEARS PRADA
OLD-STYLE SLEUTHING COMES TO RED DRESS INK
If miss marple had a better wardrobe and a really great plastic surgeon, she could've been Rachel Benjamin. The ultra-modern sleuth of Red Dress Ink's first chick lit mystery novel, The Pact (Dec.), may be a few decades younger and a couple of designer labels sleeker than Agatha Christie's famous sleuth, but she's just as savvy when it comes to solving crimes.
Penned by debut author Jennifer Sturman, the novel boasts a classic locked-room scenario. Five college friends and various others are on a wealthy family's estate to celebrate a wedding. But when the groom ends up doing
the Dead Man's Float in the Olympic-sized pool, everyone's a suspect.
It's up to sharp-minded Harvard Business School graduate Rachel to figure out if one of her former roommates might have followed through on the pact they jokingly made in college to save each other from entering into a disastrous relationship by any means necessary. Certainly, no one understood
why sweet, giving Emily was actually willing to marry that pretentious creep Richard, but could one of them really have killed him?
Sturman, who has more than a few things in common with the confident, loyal Rachel, decided to stick with topics she knew
for her first creative writing venture. "I just know from my own experiences, unfortunately, that people just do what they want
to do," she says. "Sometimes all your friends can tell you this guy is just no good, but you'll still go ahead and date him."
Inspiration also came in the form of her own former college roommate. While attending Harvard for her MBA, Sturman shared an apartment with a doctoral candidate who began penning a novel while writing her dissertation—romance author Michele Jaffe. "Michele was just so inspiring," Sturman says. "I mentioned I had this idea I was thinking about and she really encouraged me to go for it." Through her friendship with Jaffe, Sturman met other authors and became immersed in the writing community. The novel began to take shape on weekends over the course of a few years. Eventually, she secured an agent and a two-book contract with Red Dress.
The sequel to The Pact, due out from Red Dress in December 2005, will see Rachel return to Harvard to recruit new investment bankers for her firm and to attend a reunion with her roommates. But it won't be long before the bodies start piling up once more. "This one has a little more scope and some more locations to explore," Sturman says. "There are scenes that take place in Cambridge and all around Boston."
For now, going from the boardroom to the bookstore is a delight this Manhattan businesswoman isn't taking for granted. "I read every Agatha Christie I could get my hands on as a kid!" she says. "I've just always loved mystery novels and I'd wanted to write one for years. I can't believe this is really happening."—Tara Gelsomino
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