By Dawn Ius
Wendy Tyson loves determined, gutsy women. Women who go after what they want. Women who aren’t afraid to speak up, to laugh, to fight for the underdog, to fall in love. Women, she says, who aren’t afraid to live. Tyson aspires to be that kind of woman every day. In the meantime, she writes about them.
Allison Campbell, an image consultant on the wealthy Main Line of Philadelphia, is one such woman. A complex character, Campbell grew up in a small town, born to an abusive father and a loving, but chronically ill mother. After a tragedy with a client during graduate school, Campbell is forced to find a new calling—and a new identity.
“Allison uses her education and her own haunting experiences to do her job—and to solve crimes,” Tyson says of her protagonist. “And while she helps others reinvent themselves, her best transformation was her own. Throughout the series, Allison never forgets her roots, and it’s the fact that she never quite fits in with the Main Line crowd that makes her so good at her job—and detective work.”
In DYING BRAND, the third of the Allison Campbell mysteries, Campbell attends an awards ceremony to honor a friend, but ends up investigating the brutal murder of her former boyfriend. Although Campbell hasn’t seen or spoken to him in years, damaging evidence begins to surface, making it appear as though she had more to do with him than she’s led everyone to believe.
Driven to find justice—and to keep her reputation and integrity in check—Campbell deconstructs the image her ex created for himself in an effort find the clues that will help make sense of his life—and death. And as her hunt for truth reveals each secret, Campbell’s past and present collide, in a mystery that is not just deadly, but the most personal yet.
“This book is different because Allison is so closely tied to the mystery she’s trying to solve,” Tyson says. “I think this book presents a turning point for Allison and I’m excited about that. In Killer Image, the Allison we meet is tightly controlled, almost rigid—she’s created a safe, tidy life for herself and she’s determined to keep it that way. By the end of Killer Image, and certainly in Deadly Assets, we see that resolve waning. Allison is learning to trust others and her own abilities, and she’s starting to develop faith in the future, even if that future is messier than she’d like it to be.”
In DYING BRAND, things begin to fall apart. Everything Campbell has started to believe in is challenged, forcing her to continue growing and adapting in her roles as both amateur detective and image consultant.
True, the career choice may seem odd for a sleuth, but, as Tyson notes, Campbell’s background in psychology, coupled with her past experiences, means she knows just about everyone in town. While the words “image consultant” can conjure up anything from glorified make-up artist to life coach and everything in-between, Campbell is more the latter, helping people get back on their feet after life events or tragedies that derailed.
“As a society, we’re fascinated by motive—we want to understand the reasons why people do things, especially awful things,” she says, noting that like her books, a rise in the pop culture “fixer” genre with TV shows such as Scandal and Ray Donovan dig deeper into those psychological elements of what draws an audience.
And like those on-screen protagonists, Campbell is haunted by a past that transforms this potentially “fluffy” career into something much darker.
“Some of the themes present in the series—the ability for people to change, family (especially the kind of family you create when your own family is dysfunctional), redemption, power as downfall, social mobility, good versus evil—can lead down a dark path, indeed,” Tyson says. “I try to balance the darkness with humor, though, and in the end, neither Allison nor her friends take themselves too seriously.”
Inspired by the work of Carolyn Keene’s Nancy Drew series, Tyson always knew she wanted to write. She tapped out her first story on an old children’s typewriter at the age of eight—but her journey to publication hit a few bumps along the road. While continuing to write, Tyson held many careers—therapist, corporate lawyer, and even veterinary assistant—often using her day job experiences to shape her characters and their fictional worlds.
“To be a successful lawyer, you must be a student of human nature, and you have to understand (or try to understand) what makes people tick,” she says. “You see the best and worst in humanity. I think writing provides a framework for working through everything you’ve experienced. Real crime is gritty and awful and often the bad guys and gals don’t get their comeuppance. In my novels, things aren’t black and white—but justice prevails.”
Fans of Tyson’s work can look forward to another Campbell mystery next summer, and the first book in a new series in February 2016.
Wendy Tyson is an author, lawyer and former therapist whose background has inspired her mysteries and thrillers. The first Allison Campbell mystery, KILLER IMAGE, was named a best mystery for book clubs in 2014 by Examiner.com, and the third Campbell installment, DYING BRAND, is due out on May 5, 2015. Wendy lives near Philadelphia with her husband, three sons and two muses, dogs Molly and Driggs.
To learn more about Wendy, please visit her website.