The Trouble With Charlie by Merry Jones

By Austin Camacho

Merry Jones, known for her complex characters, multiple plot twists, and plenty of suspense, is at it again with a new mystery novel, THE TROUBLE WITH CHARLIE.

As the story opens Elle Harrison is preparing to divorce Charlie.  A good friend invites her out to help her prepare to rejoin the single world.  When Elle returns home she learns the trouble with Charlie: he’s dead.  He’s in her den.  Her kitchen knife is sticking out of his back.  Suddenly, Elle has a murder to solve.  So she becomes an amateur sleuth, but not by choice.

“When she finds her soon-to-be-ex-husband murdered in her house, she becomes the logical suspect,” Jones says.  “In order to clear herself and prove her innocence, she begins to investigate who else might have wanted to kill Charlie, and one discovery leads to another until she’s over her head in Charlie’s secrets and trouble.”

But even after his murder Elle has more trouble with Charlie.  He doesn’t seem to want to STAY dead.  Charlie’s ghost appears to her, blaming her for his death.  Or does he?  It’s never really clear if the apparition is real or just a figment of Elle’s imagination, and the author says that’s no accident.

“For me, some of the most delicious suspense comes from that shadowy place where perception overlaps with imagination,” Jones explains.  “Charlie may be a ghost haunting his widow.  Or he may be a trick of Elle’s mind–She isn’t really sure which it is, and that leads to a lot of tension.”

Jones seems to enjoy exploring the ways perceptions can be colored by emotions–For example, how what we experience is affected by our fears, longings and hopes.  She says this is a story she really wanted to tell, and actually wrote it before her popular Harper Jennings series (SUMMER SESSION, BEHIND THE WALLS, WINTER BREAK.)

This is definitely a mystery novel, but when you start to mix in thriller conventions and elements of the paranormal classifying the book becomes challenging.  Even the author is challenged by what best to call this one.

“Suspense novel with supernatural overtones” Jones suggests.  “Murder mystery with paranormal twist?  Psychological thriller?  All of the above?”

Jones has a reputation for having a fine touch with a plot twist.  In this book they appear when Elle uncovers evidence that Charlie had been involved in international crimes.  This evidence could ruin the lives of many of Charlie’s rich and powerful clients and so puts Elle’s life in danger.  But amidst the story-turning, Jones never loses sight of the importance of character development.  For her, things just happen the way they should.

“It’s funny–I don’t think of plot twists as twist,” Jones says.  “I work with a plot and a sub-plot, and I try to foreshadow what’s coming in ways that are clear at the end of the tale, but not obvious along the way.  In THE TROUBLE WITH CHARLIE, I follow the same process, laying out facts and clues and giving the reader alternate answers to every question.  But Charlie’s life and his relationship with Elle are the focus.  She’s discovering who he was only after he’s dead–There are disturbing crimes and murders, but the book is kind of a love–or hate–story between Charlie and Elle”

Merry Jones already has two successful series under her belt – the Harper Jennings thrillers and the Zoe Hayes mysteries.  She doesn’t need another.  THE TROUBLE WITH CHARLIE works wonderfully as a suspenseful, engaging, stand-alone mystery novel.  The question is: will it stay that way?

“Not sure yet,” Jones says.  “I’m considering a sequel for Elle and her pals.  I thought CHARLIE would be a stand-alone, but it turns out I miss the characters (sometimes they interrupt my thoughts and I seem to overhear them talking), so I might bring them back.”

*****

Merry Jones is the author of the Harper Jennings thrillers (SUMMER SESSION, BEHIND THE WALLS, WINTER BREAK), the Zoe Hayes mysteries (THE NANNY MURDERS, THE RIVER KILLINGS, THE DEADLY NEIGHBORS, THE BORROWED AND BLUE MURDERS); humor (including I LOVE HIM, BUT…) and non-fiction (including BIRTHMOTHERS: Women who relinquished babies for adoption tell their stories.)

To learn more about Merry, please visit her website.

Austin Camacho

Austin Camacho

Austin S. Camacho is the author of six novels in the Hannibal Jones Mystery Series (most recent being 2015's Pyramid Deception) and four in the Stark and O’Brien adventure series (the latest being The Ice Woman Assignment) and the detective thriller Beyond Blue. He is also editorial director for Intrigue Publishing. To learn more about Austin, please visit his website or find him on Facebook.
Austin Camacho

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