Message From The Author
My newest Berger-Mitry mystery, The Shimmering Blond Sister, is the seventh novel to feature the mismatched romantic duo of tubby Jewish New York film critic Mitch Berger and gorgeous black Connecticut State Trooper Desiree Mitry. We first meet Mitch and Des in The Cold Blue Blood. Mitch, whose beloved wife has died of cancer, decides to rent himself an antique cottage on the Connecticut Gold Coast in an ultra-WASP historic village called Dorset. When he digs up the cottage’s tomato garden he finds his landlady’s long-lost husband buried there. Des is the investigator who’s assigned to figure out what happened. Impossibly, she and Mitch fall madly in love.
Dorset is a fictional version of Old Lyme, which is the actual historic village on the Connecticut shoreline where I actually bought myself an antique carriage house more than 20 years ago. I was writing my Edgar Award-winning Hoagy and Lulu series at the time. Also doing a ton of television and movie writing in New York City. I needed a quiet place where I could get away and work. Like Mitch, I also needed a place where I could deal with my personal tragedy. My parents had just died – three weeks apart from each other, as it happened – and I was an emotional wreck. Old Lyme was where I healed.
As the years have gone by, I’ve taken to spending more and more time in my adopted village. Old Lyme is the first small town I’ve ever lived in. Always, it has felt like a foreign country to me. It has its own language and customs. Its own nuances, rhythms and history. Especially history. Everybody is related to everybody else. Everybody has secrets. I find the place and its people endlessly fascinating. I guess it was inevitable that it would become the setting for my next mystery series after I decided to retire Hoagy and Lulu. That’s just how a writer’s mind works. Mitch is an outsider from the big city same as me. And Des, who becomes Dorset’s very first black Resident Trooper at the end of The Cold Blue Blood, qualifies as even more of an outsider. Oddly enough, I originally intended the Des character to be a black man. But the early scenes felt flat to me so I tried turning him into a woman instead. A newly divorced woman, just for the heck of it. Suddenly, I had sparks flying all over the place. That’s how the creative process works sometimes – if you’re lucky.
In The Shimmering Blond Sister Des encounters a deadly new adversary who just may derail her career. An upcoming wedding between two local families threatens to unravel the fabric that holds the idyllic New England village together. And an elusive, ski-masked flasher is terrorizing wealthy widows after dark all over the Historic District. Otherwise, it’s just another typical summer in Yankee paradise.
Back when Mitch was a chubby 13-year-old living in New York City Beth Breslauer, a lovely blond single mother, lived across the hall with her young son Kenny. Beth was Mitch’s very first true love. These days, she’s a wealthy widow who owns a condominium in the Captain Chadwick House, the Dorset Historic District’s most exclusive condo complex. Kenny, a Cambridge-based computer wiz, is engaged to marry Mitch’s yoga teacher, Kimberly Farrell. Kimberly’s parents, Dex and Maddee, are Beth’s neighbors in the Captain Chadwick House. They are also social pariahs. Dex Farrell was one of the Wall Street power brokers responsible for the sub-prime home loan meltdown. He cost a lot of blue-blooded friends a whole lot of their blue-blooded money. Maddee, who yearns to be accepted again, is praying that Kimberly’s elaborate engagement party at the Dorset Yacht Club will bring those friends back.
Except that there’s a whole lot more dirt about Dex Farrell we don’t know yet. Plus Beth Breslauer isn’t exactly the person who she pretends to be. Or so claims Augie Donatelli, a retired New York City police detective who ranks as the biggest pain Des Mitry has ever encountered. Augie, the caretaker of the Captain Chadwick House, is positive he’s figured out the identity of the infamous Dorset Flasher. He also believes that Beth is the proud descendent of a long line of professional thieves.
Des dismisses his charges as the wild rants of a lonely, bitter drunkard. Which is rather unfortunate -- because when one of the residents of the Captain Chadwick House turns up dead it isn’t just members of the Farrell and Breslauer families who appear as if as they might be behind the murder. It’s Des herself. And until the killer is caught her career is hanging in the balance. That leaves it up to Mitch to find out what really happened, even though it means he’ll have to dig into the private lives of people who he knows and find out way more about them than he ever wanted to.
The Shimmering Blond Sister has given me a chance to do something I’ve been wanting to do for a really, really long time – bring back Detective Lieutenant Romaine Very of the NYPD, a favorite character of mine from the Hoagy and Lulu books. This one was absolutely the most fun to write of any in the series. I hope that readers enjoy it as much as I did.
- David Handler
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