Hemlock Needle by Keenan Powell

In Anchorage, Alaska, Yup’ik Eskimo chief financial officer and single mother, Esther Fancyboy, walks out of a party and into a blizzard. She is never seen again, leaving behind a seven-year-old son, Evan. The local cops say she’ll come home when she’s done partying, but family friend Maeve Malloy doesn’t think it’s that simple. She goes looking for Esther just as she’s getting bad news of her own, a career-ending accusation.

When Esther’s body turns up in a snow berm and a witness is shot to death in front of Maeve, she suspects Evan might be in danger. Maeve must race against time to save the boy–along with her career, and maybe her life.

The Big Thrill caught up to author Keenan Powell to discuss the second installment in her Maeve Malloy mystery series, HEMLOCK NEEDLE:

What attracts you to this book’s genre?

The puzzle.

What was the biggest challenge this book presented? What about the biggest opportunity?

The biggest challenge this book presented was describing the professional challenge my protagonist is facing without making her sound like a wimp. The biggest opportunity was researching Yup’ik culture.

Was there anything new you discovered, or that surprised you, as you wrote this book?

In working with a writing group and beta readers, I was surprised by how resistant people can be to a bad guy’s evil intention or an unfair turn of events. After I spent more effort explaining why the bad guy does what he does from his point-of-view or why the unfair thing is how the cookie crumbles, they were able to get past that and move on with the story.

Which took shape first: plot, character, or setting?

Plot.

*****

While in high school, Keenan Powell illustrated the first edition of Dungeons and Dragons (known as Original Dungeons and Dragons) but chose not to pursue art as it didn’t seem practical. So law school it was. The day after graduation, she moved to Alaska, where she has been practicing law ever since, including ten years of criminal defense.

In 2009, there was a string of homeless deaths which the Alaska Medical Examiner had ruled were the result of “natural causes.” While attending a legal seminar, she learned of a little-known law that permits the medical examiner to declare death by natural causes without performing an autopsy. These deaths and that loophole inspired her to write the first Maeve Malloy Mystery, Deadly Solution.

Several years ago, she was retained by a group of Yup’ik fishermen to challenge the state fishing regulations, as a result she was visited Kwethluk, Alaska, during fishing season. She saw firsthand a fish camp where natives live while they harvest, how they dried fish outdoors on racks, and went to dinner in one of the villagers’ homes where fresh-caught salmon and akutaq was served. That visit inspired Hemlock Needle, the second Maeve Malloy Mystery.

To learn more about Keenan, please visit her website.

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