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SHADES OF MURDER A Mac Faraday Mystery by Lauren Carr
ABOUT THE BOOK:
Lauren is also the author of the Mac Faraday Mysteries, which
takes place in Deep Creek Lake, Maryland. The first two books in her series, It’s Murder, My Son and Old Loves Die Hard have been getting
rave reviews from readers and reviewers. The next book in this series, Shades of Murder, will be released May
2012. This will be Lauren’s fifth mystery.
Lauren’s sixth book,
Dead on Ice, will be released in Fall 2012. Dead on Ice will introduce a new series entitled Lovers in Crime,
in which Joshua Thornton will join forces with homicide detective Cameron
In a Place Far, Far Away Only in My Mind, or— What’s a
writer to do when she wants to humiliate someone but they won’t go along
By Lauren Carr
During my writing career, I have discovered that people are
both thrilled and anxious about the prospect of ending up in a book involving
murder and mayhem. After meeting me, some have to wonder, “How does she see me
in one of her books? A detective? A suspect? Oh, my heavens, certainly not a
My first series, the Joshua Thornton mysteries are set in
Chester, West Virginia; the small town where I had grown up. In A small Case of Murder, Joshua’s parents
discover a dead body in the barn on my brother’s farm. Mark has fun telling
people that actually no dead body was ever found on his farm. When researching A Reunion to Die For, I took a tour of
the county prosecutor’s office. Hancock County’s prosecuting attorney thinks
it’s a kick having a fictional counterpart.
However, while writing the Mac Faraday mysteries, I learned
that when it strikes too close to home, some people would rather the author
take her murder elsewhere.
My sister-in-law had asked me to set a murder mystery in her
home town, a sweet summer place in Wisconsin called Pelican Lake. At the time,
I was working on a storyline that wasn’t a good fit for Joshua Thornton. So I
went to work on a new series set on a lake in the resort town of Pelican Lake.
I had completed the first draft of It’s Murder, My Son in time for a visit from my sister-in-law. Excited
about a murder set in her town at her request, she asked for all the details. When
I mentioned that the murder victim was killed in her house, I was surprised to see horror on her face. Since her
home and property had a unique design and layout, anyone knowing her could easily
tell that the murder took place in her home.
For the sake of family harmony, I decided to do a re-write.
As luck would have
it, my family started vacationing at Deep Creek Lake in Maryland. Like Pelican
Lake, this Maryland town is a resort area. It was child’s play to pick up my
murder in Pelican Lake and plop it down in Deep Creek Lake, until I asked the
local police department to let me portray them as a bunch of idiots.
In the storyline for It’s
Murder, My Son, homicide detective Mac Faraday discovers that his birth
mother is the late Robin Spencer, America’s Queen of Mystery and he is her sole
heir. Upon learning that he has a half brother, police officer David
O’Callaghan, he moves to Deep Creek Lake to meet him.
Mac is drawn into the murder investigation of his neighbor after
Gnarly, his inherited German shepherd, drags home a dismembered head. When he
sees that the chief detective is an incompetent, Mac joins David in the
investigation. It is the perfect opportunity to get to know his brother better.
But, as luck would have it, Mac ends up making David the prime suspect.
While rewriting It’s
Murder, My Son, I was surprised when the local police department refused to
cooperate in my research. Unlike the Hancock County sheriff (a protagonist) in
the Joshua Thornton mysteries, the sheriff in Deep Creek Lake (an antagonist)
would only give me a tour of the jail if I brought my toothbrush and planned to
stay a while. Their resistance was understandable. Even though I promised
disclaimers in my acknowledgements about my work being completely fiction and
not based on anyone real, the police department was concern about their image.
So, out of respect for the real law enforcement, I created a
fictional resort town resting on the shores of the real Deep Creek Lake and had
a blast doing it.
In my previous series, my imagination was fenced in by the
boundaries of Chester’s realities. While I was able to move the barn on my
brother’s farm, I couldn’t get away with placing a twenty-five story high-rise on
Carolina Avenue. Nor could I change the town’s history to fit a storyline.
When a murder mystery is set in a real town, readers expect
the writer to be true to the facts. Even with a work of fiction, readers
familiar with the area have a hard time forgiving authors when they rewrite their
hometown’s history or change the streets. Even if the author had a legitimate
reason for making the change, to the reader, it looks like sloppy research. For
example, a woman once told me that she had stopped reading a series set in
Washington DC when the writer had placed an exit ramp off Rock Creek Parkway that
This all came back to me when writing Shades of Murder, my latest mystery. Even though it is a Mac
Faraday mystery, I brought back Joshua Thornton, who had reopened a seemingly
unconnected case in the Pittsburgh while Mac is investigating the murder of a
famous artist in Deep Creek Lake.
While I was free to let my imagination go when it came to
the fictional town of Spencer, Maryland, my writing had to be true in the
portions of the book taking place in Pittsburgh. After all, that is a real town
and a lot of readers would know if I had a character driving off an exit that
In one chapter, homicide detective Cameron Gates gives
Joshua directions to where a Jane Doe’s body had been discovered in a field.
Those directions to that field are real, right down to the mileage and
estimated time for driving them.
When I sat down to create the setting for It’s Murder, My Son, the first
installment in the Mac Faraday mysteries, it was like a bird set free from a
cage. My imagination opened its wings and soared. Since this was my town, I had
the freedom to do with it as I saw fit.
Thus, Spencer, Maryland, was founded.
Nestled in a corner of Deep Creek Lake, Spencer is named
after my protagonist’s ancestors. As the descendent of the town’s founders, the
character of Mac Faraday has political influence that he otherwise couldn’t have
Since my first draft had already been on a lake in Wisconsin, I duplicated
that setting in Spencer, but added some of my own touches. Mac Faraday’s cedar
and stone home rests at the end of the most expensive piece of real estate on
Deep Creek Lake. The peninsula houses a half-dozen lake houses that grow in
size and grandeur along the stretch of Spencer Court, which ends at the stone
pillars marking the multi-million dollar estate that had been the birthplace
and home of one of the world’s most famous authors.
My fictional setting’s affluence is born out of necessity. While
this lakeside town is small, it also has its own police department. In order to
make that feasible, I had to make Spencer a getaway for the rich and famous.
From the lakeshore, Spencer’s border stretches up and over a
mountain, on top of which rests the Spencer Inn, a resort and spa, which is
also part of Mac’s inheritance. Ironically, before his windfall, he couldn’t
have afforded to eat there.
While it is fun to create a fictional setting, the writer does
need to keep hold on the reins. The setting needs to fit with the surrounding
area. Readers familiar with Deep Creek Lake would never buy an exclusive resort
town like Spencer on their shores if in fact the area was an impoverished
swamp. In reality, Deep Creek Lake is a popular vacation spot for people from
Washington, Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and all the surrounding
areas. The million dollar homes in my setting fit right in with the other
vacation houses that dot the lake and mountainside.
Writing the Mac Faraday
Mysteries has been an amazing ride. But I have to admit, it was a challenge
researching the real city of Pittsburgh, studying the maps and wondering, “Hmm,
where’s the best place for a dead body to be found?” With Spencer, I can put
that dead body anywhere I want.
Which do I prefer? Real settings or fictional settings? They both
have their advantages.
As a writer, it is exhilarating to let your imagination go free
without the reins of reality. Who knows, maybe in Max Faraday’s next adventure,
I’ll have him go into a galaxy far, far away—or was that already done?
Book Excerpts :
“What does the letter say?” Archie came
back in from the kitchen. With the scissors, she broke through the plastic cord
wrapped around the box.
Mac was still reading
the first letter. “It’s a bunch of legal mumbo jumbo. This guy, Archibald
Poole, died. He had left this to Robin Spencer. In the event of her death
preceding his, it was to be passed on to her next of kin. Since that’s me, I
Archie stopped snipping.
Gnarly stopped sniffing.
“Did you know him?” He
was breaking through the seal of the white envelope addressed to Robin.
“Creepy old man. One of
those eccentric rich guys. He didn’t make it all on the up and up. I think
Robin remained friends with him because he was good material for her books. He
lived in a big mansion up on top of a mountain in southern West Virginia.”
Mac was only half paying
attention. “He left Robin a painting.”
With one end unsealed,
Archie peered inside the box to see that the contents were wrapped in brown
paper and padding.
Sitting on the top step
leading down into the dining room, Mac read the letter out loud:
you are reading this, then I’m dead and you are now observing my gift to you.
So, what do you leave to the girl who has everything? When that girl is Robin
Spencer, it’s a mystery.
will find that I have left you an Ilysa Ramsay painting. That alone makes it
worth a fortune. But, ah, my dear Robin, this is not just any Ilysa Ramsay
painting. It is her lost painting.
You will recall that
Ilysa Ramsay was brutally murdered on your own Deep Creek Lake in the early
hours of Labor Day in 2004. At the same time, her last painting was stolen from
her studio where her dead body was discovered. She had unveiled what she had
declared to be her masterpiece to her family and friends the same evening that she
Grasping the frame
wrapped in packaging, Archie tugged at the painting to pull it out of the box
while Mac continued reading:
in the art world has been searching for Ilysa Ramsay’s last work of art. With
only a handful of people having seen it; and no photographs taken of it before
its theft; its value is priceless.
my good luck would have it, a month after her murder, my guy called me. He had
been contacted by a fence representing someone claiming to have the painting
and wanting to unload it. Being familiar with Ilysa Ramsay’s work, I was able
to authenticate it. Also, I had seen reports from witnesses who had described
it as a self-portrait of Ilysa.
I write this letter, Ilysa’s murder has yet to be solved. Nor do I know who had
stolen the painting. It was sold to me by a third party.
so, my dear lovely Robin, I leave this task to you. Here is the painting that
the art world has been searching for, for years, and a mystery of who stole it,
along with who killed its lovely artist. Enjoy, as I know you will!
My Love, Archibald Poole
Her yellow suit droopy,
Archie slapped her hat down on the dining room table, and ripped through the
padding to reveal the painting of a red-haired woman lying across a lounge with
a red and green clover pattern. She was dressed in an emerald gown with a ruby
red choker stretched across her throat. Ruby red jewels spilled down her throat
toward the bodice.
Gnarly sat on the floor
at Mac’s feet to gaze at the painting.
They studied the image
what I always wanted,” Mac said. “A stolen priceless painting with a dead body
attached to it.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Lauren Carr fell in love with mysteries when her mother read
Perry Mason to her at bedtime. The first installment in the Joshua Thornton
mysteries, A Small Case of Murder was
a finalist for the Independent Publisher Book Award. A Reunion to Die For was released in hardback in June 2007. Both of
these books are in re-release.
The owner of Acorn Book Services, Lauren is also a publishing
manager, consultant, editor, cover and layout designer, and marketing agent for
independent authors. This spring, two books written by independent authors will
be released through the management of Acorn Book Services.
Lauren is a popular speaker who has made appearances at
schools, youth groups, and on author panels at conventions. She also passes on
what she has learned in her years of writing and publishing by conducting
workshops and teaching in community education classes.
She lives with her husband, son, and two dogs on a mountain
in Harpers Ferry, WV.