by Lorie Lewis Ham
This week we have a review of the latest Ross Agency Mystery by Delia Pitts along with an interesting interview with Delia. Details at the end of the post on how to enter to win a signed copy of the book and a link to order it from Amazon.
Murder My Past by Delia C. Pitts
Review by Lorie Lewis Ham
Murder My Past is the fifth book in the Ross Agency Mystery series. The series features Harlem private detective SJ Rook, known by most as just Rook. He works for Norment Ross and his daughter Sabrina. Rook is also dating Sabrina, or Brina as he calls her.
Rook has been rebuilding his life but everything gets shaken up when a part of his past returns in the form of his ex-wife Annie. Annie is in town for a convention. She is now a self-made millionaire with a thriving cleaning business, but her reasons for wanting to see Rook are personal. Seeing her throws him for a loop and has him considering leaving his new life behind, but before he can make any decisions Annie is murdered. Her murder sends him over the edge and he becomes obsessed with finding her killer at all costs.
Rook’s investigation leads him to a group of university professors who were buzzing around Annie when Rook met with her before her murder. He soon learns that the academic world can be filled with just as much envy, greed, and fraud as anywhere else. His investigation, and his desire to help a lonely widow who is suffering from dementia, also leads him to a mystery from the past—the disappearance 25 years ago of his boss’s wife, who is also Brina’s mother.
This book is filled with many surprise twists and turns and leaves you guessing all the way to the end. The characters are well developed and have interesting and complicated lives. Rook spends most of this book pretty messed up, searching not only to find the killers, but also to find peace with his own past and move on. My only complaint is that I missed that he didn’t have as much interaction in this book with Brina and Norment—I hope to see more of them in the next book—they all have a great chemistry together.
If you are looking for a well-written mystery with interesting characters be sure to check out Murder My Past, however I highly recommend reading the previous books first even though the mystery itself stands on its own.
Interview with Delia Pitts:
KRL: How long have you been writing?
Delia: I’ve written for as long as I can remember. In second grade, I wrote a ten-page thriller about a racehorse and the dynamic girl who saved him. I sold that story for two cents at the school’s spring fair! As an adult, I tried my hand at fan fiction, writing over 60 stories before I turned to writing original mysteries.
Delia: My first novel, Lost and Found in Harlem, was published in 2017. In it, I introduce down-and-out drifter, SJ Rook, an army veteran on the skids in Harlem. Rook stumbles onto a mysterious death and he recruits investigators from a small Harlem detective firm, the Ross Agency, to help him solve the murder. Rook is the central figure in my mystery series as we follow his twin journeys toward becoming a professional private eye and building a home for himself.
KRL: Oh how fun my son loves reading fan fiction! When did your first novel come out, what was it called, and would you tell us a little about it?
KRL: Have you always written mysteries/suspense and if not, what else have you written?
Delia: My fan fiction stories range from crime capers and humorous sketches to character studies, police procedurals and erotica. Some are novel length, some are flash fiction, most are in-between. My story, “Talladega 1925,” which was published in The Chicago Quarterly Review #33, is a fictionalized account of my family’s encounter with KKK night riders in small-town Alabama.
KRL: Oh wow! What brought you to choose the setting and characters in your latest book/series?
Delia: My latest book, Murder My Past, is the fifth novel in the Ross Agency series. Like its predecessors, it is set in contemporary Harlem and features the investigators of a tiny detective firm. In this book, I give readers an in-depth look into the troubled pasts which haunt Rook and his friends. The first book touched on Rook’s rocky divorce and on the disappearance of his boss’s wife. Now, in Murder My Past, we explore the impact of those traumas and solve the mysteries they hold.
KRL: Do you write to entertain or is there something more you want the readers to take from your work?
Delia: I write to entertain. I love to read a good story and hope to write them too. I try to build intriguing, multi-faceted characters and then throw them into tough situations. I enjoy exploring the contemporary lives of Black people in a complex urban setting filled with neighbors and colleagues from all walks of life. My characters are diverse in terms of ethnic background, national and regional origin, language, age, education, sexuality, economic resources, religion, and gender identity. This rich variety is the source of the entertaining stories I tell.
KRL: Do you have a schedule for your writing or just work whenever you can?
Delia: I try to write every afternoon. The sun beaming onto my back through the dining room window where I work is so encouraging and inspiring but, of course, life intervenes. So, I don’t beat myself up if I miss some days of writing.
KRL: What is your ideal time to write?
Delia: I do best when writing between three and eight p.m.
KRL: Do you outline? If not, do you have some other interesting way that you keep track of what’s going on, or what needs to happen in your book when you are writing it?
Delia: I don’t outline in the standard way, but I do take detailed notes on my ideas as they bloom, sometimes over weeks and months. I write bullet points on plot or characters or even extended passages of dialogue in notebooks. I’ll make lists of character names, book titles, words that fascinate me, snatches of conversations I’ve overheard. I collect clippings from news articles which inspire plot ideas. And I keep folders of photos for guidance including favorite hairstyles, fashions, interior décor, and architecture.
KRL: Did you find it difficult to get published in the beginning?
Delia: I went the Indie route from the start and never looked back. It was quite hard figuring all the angles of independent publishing – how to build a team of editors, designers, and formatters was something I knew nothing about. I’ve learned an amazing amount and met so many talented professionals who have contributed to my publishing journey. I also have no background in marketing, publicity, advertising, or promotion. So, I had to learn lots from scratch.
I surprised myself by enjoying the business side of the writing trade far more than I would have believed. I am active in two organizations, Sisters in Crime and Crime Writers of Color, which have been tremendous sources of support, information, and inspiration along the way. I have discovered I enjoy stretching my creative energy and imagination in new directions as an indie author.
KRL: Do you have a great rejection/critique or acceptance story you’d like to share?
Delia: Just as I was preparing to go live for a Zoom seminar one evening, I received an email informing me that my short story, “The Killer” had been selected for inclusion in Best American Mystery and Suspense 2021. That was a thrill I will never forget! I was buzzed throughout the Zoom session, grinning ear to ear like a maniac!
KRL: What are your future writing goals?
Delia: I’ve had great fun writing short stories, several of which have been published in journals such as the Chicago Quarterly Review and in anthologies of crime fiction. So, I hope to continue exercising my short fiction muscles in the future. I am also sketching ideas for a stand-alone novel. I have three more Ross Agency mysteries featuring PI Rook in various stages of completion. I plan to publish those over the next three years. I’d love to produce audio versions of my novels sometime in the future.
KRL: Who are your writing heroes?
Delia: Mark Twain, Virginia Woolf, Ernest Hemingway, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Raymond Chandler.
KRL: What kind of research do you do?
Delia: I read several newspapers every day as well as lots of biographies and histories for human interest stories, psychological details, and plot ideas.
KRL: What do you like to read?
Delia: I enjoy reading mysteries of all kinds – noir, hard-boiled, cozy, private eye, amateur sleuth.
KRL: What are your favorite TV shows or movies?
Delia: My two favorite TV shows were House and Person of Interest. I never pass up a chance to re-watch episodes of Vera, Inspector Morse, Father Brown, and Law & Order. On the movie side, I love the classic movie channel, so I frequently catch showings of noir standards such as Double Indemnity, Casablanca, The Maltese Falcon, Laura, The Blue Dahlia, Murder, My Sweet, The Postman Always Rings Twice, and Key Largo.
KRL: Have you any advice for aspiring or beginning writers?
Delia: Stick to it; believe in your own instincts and voice. Don’t go out of your way to collect or celebrate rejections, don’t be shy about seeking advice from others. You are never too young or too old to try new things so read a lot, listen more, and always/always support other writers!
KRL: What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
Delia: Two things: 1) I am the mother of twin sons and grandmother of twin boys!
2) I have a Ph.D. in African History and have done research in Senegal and the Gambia.
Delia: None right now, but I’m a confirmed cat person. That’s why I gave my private eye main character a cat!
KRL: Is there anything you would like to add?
Delia: I love learning from readers about what makes them tick. Get in touch. Let me know what you think about my books, about the characters, about writing, about the world.
KRL: Website? Twitter? Facebook?
Delia: Website: www.deliapitts.com
To enter to win a signed copy of Murder My Past, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “past,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen May 15, 2021. U.S. residents only and you must be 18 or older to enter. If you are entering via email please include you mailing address in case you win, it will be deleted after the contest. You can read our privacy statement here if you like. BE AWARE THAT IT WILL TAKE LONGER THAN USUAL FOR WINNERS TO GET THEIR BOOKS DUE TO THE CURRENT CRISIS.
Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & mystery short stories in our mystery section. And join our mystery Facebook group to keep up with everything mystery we post, and have a chance at some extra giveaways. Be sure to check out our new mystery podcast too with mystery short stories, and first chapters read by local actors. A new episode goes up next week.
You can use this link to purchase the book on Amazon. If you have ad blocker on you may not see the link:
Disclosure: This post contains links to an affiliate program, for which we receive a few cents if you make purchases. KRL also receives free copies of most of the books that it reviews, that are provided in exchange for an honest review of the book.