When a Novelist Personally Knows the Victim…and the Killer

Aug 11, 2021 | 2021 Articles, Books & Tales, Mysteryrat's Maze

by C. Hope Clark

Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win an audio book of Reunion on Edisto, and a link to purchase it from Amazon.

Stan was the muscular star quarterback of my high school class. Karen was a sweet, pretty, varsity cheerleader, and the love of his life. Though rather cliché at first blush, they were an item in their teenage years, but real life sent them in different directions, to different spouses and careers…though they didn’t stray far from their home town. Stan even became high school principal.

In my earlier years as a budding novelist, Stan would message me at night. He suffered from extreme insomnia, and he’d ask how the writing was coming, and sometimes we talked high school.

We hadn’t been tight friends, but we’d been two of the twelve Senior Superlatives in the yearbook, and a dozen years later became neighbors for a while. He was even tee-ball coach to my two sons. More than acquaintances, you could say, though not traveling in each other’s regular circles.

Then he and Karen came full circle, both single again, and married. In storybook wedding style, they read their vows on the high school football field, with so many high school folks in attendance. It was a feel-good romance.

But in 2019, headed to my mother’s funeral, of all things, I heard over the radio that Karen had been murdered, her body found dumped in a forest twenty miles away from town. Stan had reported her missing. I was stunned. Hubby, a retired federal agent, was driving and listened to me as I read all I could find online about the crime from six different news sources.

“He did it,” he said.

I caught myself trying to find reasons it wasn’t Stan. “But I know him,” I said. “We all went to high school together.”

Hubby gave me a you-are-smarter-than-that look.

A few days later, Stan was arrested for murder.

As a mystery novelist, I write death as a catalyst, an event, a curiosity, or a poetic means to an end. I’ve lived too long for death not to have crossed my path before, but Karen’s death was light years different than those. Though I considered myself a strong person, I admittedly found myself struggling with the fact I’d conversed so easily with a criminal and let him coach my children, like any of that held a connection, or could be forecasted.

Another alumnus told me I ought to write a true crime book about this. But I didn’t write true-crime, and I had a publisher that expected at least one novel a year, if not two. So I wrote Reunion on Edisto.

The seventh book in the Edisto Island Mysteries, Reunion served as my interpretation of how deeply people feel a murder when they know the person killed . . . and the killer.

Edisto Beach Police Chief Callie Morgan has no desire to relive her senior year and the nightmare of a murder and a suicide that shook her high school to its core. But when the reunion committee convenes on Edisto Beach for a planning retreat, she has no choice. Every person on the committee could be a suspect in the unsolved murder, and one classmate, now a bestselling author, threatens to weave them into a tell-all true crime novel. Until she disappears the first night of the committee retreat. Callie must sort out fact from fiction in a race against the clock to find a cold case murderer who may have just killed again.

Reunion on Edisto contains many pieces of the real crime. Football games, cheerleaders, Senior Superlatives, the death of a cheerleader, a home town’s confusion and pain, and alumni all too familiar with each other. I even threw in an author as one of the alumni, who’d been editor of the high school yearbook…like I was.

Reunion served as my way of dealing with a real murder, putting a period on that episode in my life, while spinning a mystery an outsider would never see being related to the real deal.

Six months later, Stan had a heart attack from the stress and his lifestyle choices before he could reach his trial, probably the best for all parties concerned, especially for a small town still in shock that one of its prized sons could do such a thing.

I put closure on a feeling that had no name. But best of all, I received a message from Karen’s best friend, thanking me for the nod to Karen…and the dedication in the book that read:

This tale of fiction is dedicated to the Summerville High School Class of 1974, Summerville, SC. They know why. Go Green Wave.

To enter to win an an audio book of Reunion on Edisto, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “reunion,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen August 21, 2021. U.S. residents only and you must be 18 or older to enter. You can read our privacy statement here if you like..

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 went up last week.

You can use this link to purchase the book on Amazon. If you have ad blocker on you may not see the link:

C. Hope Clark is author of twelve books in two award-winning series: The Edisto Island Mysteries and The Carolina Slade Mysteries. Her third mystery series is expected out in Fall 2021. She lives on the banks of Lake Murray in central South Carolina when she isn’t vacationing and signing at Edisto Beach, where her books are strong sellers. You can learn more on her website www.chopeclark.com.

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.


  1. Wow! What an amazing story. Having vacationed on Edisto Island many years ago, I am going out right out to get book one in the series!

    • Thanks so much, Kathy! People who visit Edisto “see” Edisto in the pages of these books. Hopefully you will as well.

  2. Sounds like a great book to listen to. Thanks for the chance.

  3. Thank you for the chance to win your wonderful giveaway!!!!

  4. We have a winner!


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.