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The Best Laid Plans


Sometimes even The Best Laid Plans don’t turn out well as Jessie Schroeder found in book one of the Jessie Schroeder Mystery Series. Jessie, fleeing St. Louis after a devastating divorce, has returned to her hometown of Riverport, a small town high on the bluffs of the Mississippi River, where she hopes the comforting presence of family and old friends will bring peace and harmony back into her life and help restart her successful career as a children’s author. These hopes are quickly dashed when she is thrust into the middle of a gruesome murder.
Her gardener and handyman, Willy Bachman, is accused of the crime, and Jessie finds herself alone in proclaiming his innocence. Even Sheriff Gil Keller is convinced Willy is guilty. This is particularly upsetting for Jessie as she and Gil are two-stepping their way around a fledgling relationship. When Willy is found dead, presumably in a flash flood, the Sheriff announces “case closed.” Jessie refuses to believe Willy is a murderer and begins her own investigation.
Starting with a single critical piece of evidence, Jessie uncovers a maze of political malfeasance and greed in Riverport that places her own life in jeopardy. Jessie operates in classic cozy detective mystery style in this genre first popularized by Agatha Christie. Loosely the elements of the cozy genre are that the protagonist is an amateur sleuth, usually female, the murder is often done off stage, and the sex scenes tend to be inferred rather than described in detail.
The settings for the mysteries are flexible and may occur in the country or a small town or a sprawling metropolis, the author’s choice. The cozy mystery genre continues to grow in popularity as readers increasingly want to have their murder mysteries solved cerebrally rather than by brute force. That is not to say that the female detective is not often in life-threatening situations. The long-running TV series, Murder, She Wrote, introduced thousands to the genre.
Two of my favorite contemporary cozy authors are Gillian Roberts and Rosemary Harris. Roberts writes The Amanda Pepper Series. Amanda Pepper is a Philadelphia high school English teacher. There are 14 books in the series. Harris writes the A Dirty Business Series featuring Paula Holliday who owns a gardening business. Roberts and I both have short stories featured in the anthology Untreed Detectives. My story is titled Breathing Under Water.
The second book headlining Jessie Schroeder is Thicker Than Water in which the murder is complicated by arson, a multi-million inheritance, and good old fashioned religion. Number three is The Ayes Have It in which the body comes complete with a Bibical passage skewered to his chest. The fourth book underway in the series is A Change of Scene in which Jessie ventures out of the Midwest into New Mexico to teach a workshop at a summer art institute only to find murder again.
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