by Cynthia Chow
This week we have a review of The Devil Laughed by mystery author Gerrie Ferris Finger and an interview with her. At the end of this post are details on how to win a copy of the book.
The Devil Laughed: A Moriah Dru/Richard Lake Mystery By Gerrie Ferris Finger
Review by Cynthia Chow
After her relationship with her former partner at the Atlanta Police Department made working with later officers too difficult, Moriah Dru left the department to found Child Trace, an investigative agency dedicated to finding lost children. Dru now works with the courts, private clients, and frequently with the imperious Judge Portia Devon, a friend who just invited Dru, her boyfriend and ex-APD partner Richard Lake, and his daughter on a Fourth of July holiday boating trip out on Lake Lanier, Georgia. The group has the unexpected privilege of witnessing the discovery of the Scuppernong, a sailboat that went missing four years ago, along with its four passengers, only one of whose bodies was ever recovered. Johnny Browne, along with his wife and their friends Laurant and Janet Cocineu, were last seen scandalously drunk and their lecherous behavior and wealthy status has made them a topic of gossip lore ever since.
The recovery of the sailboat brings in Evangeline Bonnet Broussard, the unnaturally mature and unappealing twelve year-old daughter of Candace Browne and her first husband, the fatal victim of a bank robbery. While Dru has dedicated her life to finding children she has never had one as a client and she’s not sure that she wants one now. Nicknamed by Lake and Dru as Princess Pita for Pain-In-The, Evangeline is more akin to a dowager empress, demanding that Dru locate her mother and that Child Trace provide daily, if not hourly, reports. She is accompanied by her uncle Baron Bronnet Broussard, a man who has taken his family’s connection to the pirate inspiration for Rhett Butler to heart by literally dressing and acting like the film version of the character. Clearly a sidekick following in the Evangeline’s wake, Baron nevertheless provides ample assurance that she is more than willing and capable of affording to employ Dru.
Having witnessed the Scuppernong’s retrieval, Dru already feels personally invested in discovering the fate of its passengers, and what she finds is a history of dead spouses and an incestuous web of financial and sexual connections between the couples, the local law enforcement, and the close-knit townspeople.
Assisted by Lake, who continued to advance up the ranks of the Atlanta Police Department, and her computer guru Daniel “Webdog” Caldwell, Dru commences an investigation into the extraordinarily complex mystery surrounding the downed sailboat. At times so acrimonious that one actually shot the other, Laurant Cocineau and Johnny Browne as well battled over the Crescent Moon Winery purchased by Browne, where Candace dallied with the manager and whose ownership is now being contested by Laurant’s nephew Emile. Dru finds herself unexpectedly charmed by the young man who shares his view of Evangeline as a tiny demon and so she is shocked when they are both violently attacked. The stakes get raised when another young girl in the town goes missing and Portia and Dru shift into high gear to save two girls who couldn’t have less in common.
The debut of this series won the author the St. Martin’s Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Novel and this third in the series continues to prove that she was completely deserving of that honor. Dru’s voice wields an occasional black humor that makes this very complex mystery a pleasure to read and one can completely believe that she has the skills to disarm an attacker and still be able to make morbid jokes concerning a friend’s bullet wounds. The number of witnesses, victims, and suspects is at times mind-numbing and the author interweaves enough complications that the resulting solution is a surprise, if an uncompleted one.
Dru is a thoroughly admirable, has a dry wit, and proves herself as a very competent and capable investigator. Her love and need to protect children is entertainingly contrasted with her understandable dislike for Evangeline, and I love how the author treats their relationship. This is a novel with a strong vein of humor but at its heart proves to be a noir mystery that demands a reader’s full attention. Dru and her team are a winning combination in this twisty tale of jealousy, betrayal, and greed.
Use this link to purchase this book & a portion goes to KRL:
Interview With Gerrie Ferris Finger:
KRL: How long have you been writing?
Gerrie: That’s an easy one. As long as I can remember. I never kept a diary, per se, but scribbled a lot of ideas and stuffed them in drawers. In elementary school I was always the first one done with my story, and the last one to turn in my arithmetic (is it still called that?)
KRL: When did your first novel come out? What was it called? Can you tell us a little about it?
Gerrie:Look Away From Evil was published in 2000 and was the first in the Laura Kate O’Connell Series. Three other books succeeded that: When Serpents Die, Honored Daughters, and Wagon Dogs . Laura Kate is called home after the deaths of her uncle and aunt to care for her cousins on a plantation in South Georgia. As southern “aristocracy” people will tell her things — things that she needs to know to solve mysterious murders.
KRL: Have you always written mysteries/suspense? If not what else have you written?
Gerrie:Yes, I have, after I retired from writing and editing newspaper copy.
KRL: What brought you to choose the setting and characters in your latest book/series? Please tell us a little about the setting and main character for your most recent book.
Gerrie:The Devil Laughed is the third in the Moriah Dru/Richard Lake Series. As a policewoman, Dru learned how to investigate crimes. When she left the force, she started Child Trace, a child finder agency. Lake is still with the Atlanta police department so he aids her in investigations. The Devil Laughed takes place in Atlanta, North Georgia and Wilmington. Wine is at the center of the mystery thriller.
Do you write to entertain or is there something more you want the readers to take away from your work?
I have a theme, but mostly to entertain. In THE END GAME, the first in the series, Dru hunts for two foster girls after their foster home and family is burned in a fire. She learns the girls were targets for the sex slave trade out of the country. Atlanta has a problem with sexual slavery and foster children are particularly vulnerable.
KRL: Do you have a schedule for your writing or just write whenever you can?
Gerrie:I write every day, usually in the afternoon when all the “chores” are out of the way and I can concentrate on creating or editing.
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?
Gerrie:I do not outline, per se, but I have a general idea where the plot is going and who the victims and bad buys are. It can be difficult, but that’s what revising and editing is all about. You don’t want to mention something or refer to someone in a chapter when you haven’t set the stage or introduced the character yet.
KRL: Did you find it difficult to get published in the beginning?
Gerrie:Like everyone, I’ve garnered my share of rejections.
KRL: Do you have a great rejection/critique or acceptance story you’d like to share?
Gerrie:I entered the Malice Domestic/St. Martin’s Best First Traditional Novel contest in 2009 and was accepted for publication at Minotaur by renowned mystery editor, Ruth Cavin.
KRL: Most interesting book signing story-in a bookstore or other venue?
Gerrie:I’ve been rained out – a hurricane in Del Ray Florida — shut out –no one appears — and been told by buyers that they would be buying on line after reading half the book — no kidding, a woman in Barnes & Noble took the book to the cafe and, over coffee, read (or skimmed) half of it, even dog-earring the page where she quit.
KRL: Future writing goals?
Gerrie:Continue with what I’m doing now.
KRL: Writing heroes?
Gerrie:Many including Eudora Welty, Shakespeare, Patricia Wentworth, Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, Greg Iles, Dennis Lehane, P. D. James, Minette Walters, Henry James -Joyce Carol Oates – the list is endless.
KRL: What kind of research do you do?
Gerrie:Whatever it takes — call people, internet, library, go to the scene.
KRL: What do you read?
Gerrie:Anything and everything.
KRL: Any advice for aspiring or beginning writers?
Gerrie:Do not give up. If you’ve just started writing, don’t automatically succumb to publishing the book yourself. Go the traditional route first. Try for an agent. Listen to their criticisms and then self-edit. When you think your book is just about perfect, hire a professional to edit.
KRL: How do you feel about the growing popularity of e-books?
Gerrie:I’m all for them. All my books, including some I’ve self-pubbed, are also available as e-books. I read on Kindle.
KRL: Website? Twitter? Facebook?
KRL: How do you compete in an overcrowded market?
Gerrie: Like every other author in the business: the web, blogging, social networks, getting to know local librarians and getting a publicist.
Today, even the biggest and best houses don’t shell out the money they used to for authors to promote themselves. Their staff publicists do very little except send out Advance Reader Copies for review. Most stop getting their midlist authors signings at big box stores like Barnes & Noble, etc. and, unfortunately, many of those are going out of business.
I do more regional signings and book fairs. I’ve gotten to know the booksellers in my area and they are happy to host me for many signings a year.
To enter to win a copy of A Killing at The Devil Laughed, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Devil,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen August 24, 2013. U.S. residents only.
Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & short stories, including more fashion related mystery reviews & giveaways in this very issue, in our mystery section.