Meet Erica Coleman—a gifted and quirky private investigator with an OCD-like passion for neatness and symmetry, a penchant for cooking, (ten terrific recipes are included), and a weakness for chocolate.
In A Death in the Family, the second in the Erica Coleman series, private eye Erica Coleman and her family happily anticipate Grandma Blanche’s eighty-first birthday celebration in the picturesque town of Florence, Oregon. But when the feisty matriarch, a savvy businesswoman, suspects wrongdoing and asks Erica to investigate her company, things get sticky.
Before the investigation can even begin, Blanche’s unexpected death leaves Erica with more questions than answers—and it is soon clear Grandma’s passing was anything but natural: she was murdered. When another relative becomes the next victim of someone with a taste for homicide, Erica uses her flair for cooking to butter up local law enforcement and gather clues.
Erica’s OCD either helps or hinders her—depending on who you talk to—but it’s those same obsessive and compulsive traits than enable Erica to see clues that others miss. When she narrowly escapes becoming the third victim, Erica is more determined than ever to solve the case.
Excerpt from A Death in the Family
“It’s hard to believe she’s gone,” Kristen said dolefully. “When I moved here, I thought I’d have years with Grandma. She was always so active—I thought she’d keep going for years.”
“And all the time, her heart was getting weaker,” Trent said glumly.
Walter commented, “The last time I saw her, Blanche said the doctor told her she had the constitution of a mule.”
There were a few smiles at this, but Martha’s brow furrowed in confusion. “But Mom’s death didn’t have anything to do with how healthy she was.”
“What are you talking about?” Trent’s impatient voice billowed out and filled the small room.
Martha squirmed but fluttered on, “Well, after what Mom said when she came to visit me, you know—about how something wrong was going on in the company—I worried that something might happen.”
Her response reverberated around the room. Everyone went very still—as if they were holding their breath.
Martha’s eyes went from one to another. “I didn’t mean—oh, I shouldn’t have said anything,” she stammered. Her voice was pure distress. “It’s just that . . . well, we’re all family here, so it’s okay, isn’t it? I mean, no one else knows.”
“No one else knows what?” Trent said brusquely.
Visibly flustered, Martha’s hands twisted in her lap. “And . . . and Mother was very old and—and the police haven’t even come, have they?”
Erica wondered what Martha could be getting at. Everyone darted quizzical looks at each other, trying to make sense out of Martha’s confused chirruping.
After meeting blank looks all around, Martha blurted, “I mean, that’s good . . . isn’t it? For the family?”
The room remained deadly silent as Martha’s cheeks flamed red.
There was a rumble as Walter cleared his throat. “Why would the police come?”
“Why, to arrest someone.” Martha sounded surprised—as if he had asked something that was completely and absolutely self-evident. She stared at Walter, as if he and he alone could straighten everything out. “Isn’t that why they’re doing an autopsy? I mean, don’t they always do an autopsy when someone has been murdered?”
Marlene Bateman Sullivan was born in Salt Lake City, Utah and graduated from the University of Utah with a BA in English. She is married to Kelly R. Sullivan and they are the parents of seven children.
Her hobbies are gardening, camping, and reading. Marlene has been published extensively in magazines and newspapers and has written a number of non-fiction books, including: Latter-day Saint Heroes and Heroines, And There Were Angels Among Them, Visit’s From Beyond the Veil, By the Ministering of Angels, Brigham’s Boys, and Heroes of Faith. Her latest book is Gaze Into Heaven; Near Death Experiences in Early Church History, a fascinating collection of over 50 documented near-death experiences from the lives of early latter-day Saints.
Marlene’s first novel was the best-selling Light on Fire Island. Her next novel was Motive for Murder, which is the first in a mystery series that features the quirky private eye with OCD, Erica Coleman.
This or That
TV or Movies?
I love them both! There is something about watching a movie on a big screen, but it’s also nice to watch TV while in your pajamas and with your cat snuggled in your lap.
Hot or Cold?
I’d rather live where it’s cold. You can always put on a sweater, turn up the heat, flip on the fireplace, or have hot chocolate, but when you’re hot, you’re stuck and sticky.
Coke or Pepsi?
Neither. I swore off soft drinks when someone told me they were just “liquid calories.”
Cats or Dogs?
What? Cats OR dogs?? Why not both—then you get the best of both worlds. I have two dogs and four cats. There’s something to be said for cats and their independence. I think of them mostly as furry house decor. But dogs are altogether different. Dogs give you real companionship. They welcome you home, watch at the window when you leave, and adore you whether you’re wearing make-up or not.
Introvert or Extrovert?
Definitely an introvert. I’m a very shy person.
Text or Talk?
There are definitely places and uses for both. For quickies, text is great. But sometimes, the texting turns into a monster, becoming tedious. Since I can be longwinded, sometimes it’s just easier to call and talk about whatever it is that’s on your mind.
City or Country?
I was raised on an acre and a half, and I loved the country feel of it all. My father raised mink, gladiolus, and later, large pumpkins. We had all kinds of fruit trees, raspberry bushes, rhubarb, and when I was little, chickens. Now, the old homestead is an office complex. It’s sad to drive past the place where I used to light sparklers, bat a tennis ball against the garage door, pick the peonies, run through the sprinklers, and lie under the apple tree reading a book.
Top Five Lists
Favorite TV Shows
Games you like to play
My three favorites are:
Hand and Foot
Settlers of Catan
Games I play because my kids want to;
Apples to Apples
Anything with chocolate. My love of chocolate is part of the reason I made my main character, Erica Coleman, crazy about chocolate. She always has a few good jokes about chocolate. Such as: “My therapist told me the way to achieve true inner peace is to finish what I start. So far today, I’ve finished 2 bags of M&M’s and a chocolate cake. I feel better already.” Dave Barry
Here’s another one;
The problem: How to get 2 pounds of chocolate home from the store in a hot car.
The solution: Eat it in the parking lot.