By J. H. Bográn
In Jean Harrington’s new book THE MONET MURDERS, interior decorator Deva Dunne never dreamed she’d see a Monet hanging on someone’s dining room wall. Then she snags a client with two Monet seascapes. Her thrill lasts until she finds one of the paintings missing, cut from its frame, and the cook shot dead.
Rough-around-the edges, but gorgeous all-around Lieutenant Victor Rossi insists Deva leave the sleuthing to the police. But what could it hurt to come up with a list of suspects? Like the owner of the Monets, his trophy wife, and their frequent guests. Even the cook’s husband is suspect. Then Deva finds another victim, clutching a very strange set of clues.
Desperate to save her business amid all the negative publicity, Deva helps Rossi investigate. And when he needs advice decorating his bedroom, she just might have found a client for life. Unless the killer gets to her first.
Harrington discussed her latest novel with TheBigThrill:
What inspired the premise for THE MONET MURDERS?
The premise for THE MONET MURDERS was based on a “reality show” so to speak.—an art heist that took place a few years ago in Naples, Florida. Since Naples with its gorgeous subtropical climate and its Gulf views is the setting for all the books in my Murders by Design Series, I thought why not use a local crime as the basis of a plot?
The theft occurred in a mansion in Port Royal, Naples’s millionaires’ row. While the owners were out of town, two Impressionist masterpieces were stolen . . . simply lifted off the walls and disappeared. So if that could happen in real life why not in the life of my heroine, interior designer Deva Dunne? A case of fiction taking a cue from reality.
Tell us a bit about your main character?
Oh gosh, Deva Dunne is such fun to talk about. She’s 32 with red hair, gorgeous showgirl legs and attitude. The ‘tude, though, is partly a cover up of inner turmoil. A year ago, in book one, Designed for Death, her beloved husband had been killed in a car accident, and she was still grieving. By book two, THE MONET MURDERS, healing is setting in, and intrigued with Lieutenant Rossi, Deva is beginning to believe her life really isn’t over after all.
What kind of research did you have to do?
Two special sources I’d like to mention. One is Peg Longstreth of Longstreth & Goldberg Art. When I told Peg that in the book two Monet seascapes were hanging on the same wall, she threw herself back in her chair. That was a no-no. Each masterpiece deserved its own space. Also she informed me about the average size of a typical Monet, the average selling price today, and that I should create a fictitious name for the paintings, one Monet hadn’t used, which I did. Details all, but of wonderful help.
Also Robert K. Wittman, retired head of the FBI Art Theft Division, in his Naples lecture at the Philharmonic Center and in his book, Priceless, gave me an insider’s look at the so-called glam world of art theft.
Were you into paintings before this novel?
Ha! Great question. If I had the money, I would be. But I don’t. On the up side I do have a modest collection of Hudson River oils some of which were in the family and some I purchased over the years. They’re all dark and kind of gloomy but I love them.
How many Murders by Design are out in this ongoing series?
Two are out so far in e-book and audio format. In December, the first, DESIGNED FOR DEATH, will also be released in print for Harlequin’s Worldwide Mystery Library. Recently, Carina Press accepted a third, KILLER KITCHENS, due for publication in early 2013.
What are you working on now?
I’ve begun number four that I’ve given the fun title of ROOMS TO DIE FOR. (Chuckle) We’ll see if my editor likes that name when she sees it.
Any conferences or presentations for THE MONET MURDERS?
Whenever and wherever possible I talk around town—both in Naples and in Southwest Florida–to social clubs, reading clubs, women’s groups, alumni associations, libraries. My local RWA chapter is hosting a nationally advertised conference next February which I definitely plan to attend. And this month I’m booked into two radio talk shows. Plus there are great sites like this one which is another effective form of communicating with reading and writing friends.
What are your thoughts on digital books?
It’s exciting to be in on the cusp of a worldwide revolution—in this case digital publishing. By downloading e-books such as THE MONET MURDERS–had to get that in!—onto a Kindle or a Nook or an iPad, the reader can enjoy a virtual library at his fingertips. On a device roughly the size of a slice of bread. And the explosion has just begun.
Is there a place where we can sample the work?
For an excerpt of Chapter One, visit my website.
For 17 years, Jean Harrington taught writing at Becker College in Worcester, Massachusetts. Then she and husband Big John moved to Florida, and she’s been writing ever since. The first in her Murders by Design Mysteries, Designed for Death, was published in January in e-book and audio format. At year’s end it will also be released in print edition for Harlequin’s Worldwide Mystery Library. The second in the series, The Monet Murders, comes out in June. Currently working on the third book in her series, Jean is up to her knees in dead bodies and loving every minute of it.