At last, after twenty-three years and eighty novels, I get to answer that with a resounding yes! My romance HELLO IT’S ME premiered a few weeks ago as a Hallmark Movies & Mysteries television movie starring Kellie Martin. It was a thrill to see my characters come to life, and I thought the actors were well-cast and extremely talented. I will never forget the chill and thrill of seeing my name in the opening credits–as Associate Producer and under “Based on the novel by…”
A few hours after the movie aired, I was on a plane to Chicago to launch a six-week book tour for my two newly published novels, launching two brand new series.
One, NINE LIVES, is the first in my new traditional Lily Dale Mysteries series from Crooked Lane. Set in a real-life update New York Village populated by people who can communicate with the dead, the book officially goes on sale next week. I’ll be back to tell you more about it in November, or in the meantime, you can check it out on my website.
For now, I’ll focus on BLOOD RED, the first title in my new Harpercollins “Mundy’s Landing” suspense trilogy. I was ecstatic when it was released September 29th to rave reviews and became a Bookscan bestseller the first week! For a taste of the setting, you can view the video trailer here.
In most picturesque small towns, it’s not likely that murder will strike once in anyone’s lifetime, let alone twice. But in Mundy’s Landing, New York, where bloodshed isn’t just a tradition, but an industry, the odds are much, much higher.
The picturesque village of brick streets, church steeples, and gabled homes lies nestled on the eastern bank of the Hudson River, halfway between Albany and New York City. In June, July and August, flowers cascade over white picket fences, fountains gurgle on grassy greens, and the blue waters are alive with splashing kids and the hum of motorboats and jet skis. The rest of the year, the town is often shrouded in fog or mist, drenched in rain, or buried in snow.
It was to this punishing climate that the first settlers arrived nearly four centuries ago. That winter was particularly harsh; supplies quickly ran short. Of the three dozen colonists, only a handful survived: James and Eliza Mundy and their three children. In the spring, when another group of Colonists arrived, they discovered dismembered bones of those who had died. The Mundys admitted to having resorted to cannibalism in order to survive, but insisted they hadn’t murdered their fellow settlers; they had only eaten those who were already dead. Their pleas fell on deaf ears. Both parents were hanged in what is now the charming town commons. The Mundy children eventually outgrew the stigma and went on to become prominent citizens.
In the centuries that followed, that murky chapter earned Mundy’s Landing a place in American History textbooks alongside the mysterious lost colony of Roanoke, Virginia. But not long after the turn of the twentieth century, the village made headlines for an even more notorious crime.
One morning during the summer of 1916, a local family woke up to a grisly sight: a young woman was tucked into a vacant bed in their house, hair neatly braided, wearing a virginal white nightgown, hands clasped serenely over the coverlet. She appeared to be sound asleep—but she’d been murdered. The strangest twist: they had never seen her before in their lives. Nor had anyone else in town.
Soon after, the same thing happened to another local family, and then another. The Sleeping Beauty murders were sensationalized in the newspapers. Mundy’s Landing became Lizzie Borden’s Fall River of its day, drawing reporters, curiosity seekers, and amateur investigators.
The dead girls were never identified. The murders were never solved.
In the 1970s, when many upstate New York towns fell into decay and disrepair due to shuttered industry and urban renewal, Mundy’s Landing endured its share of seediness. Then, on the 75th anniversary of the crimes, the Mundy’s Landing Historical Society offered a reward to anyone who could solve the murders and identify the three dead girls. The invitation drew media attention and crime buffs from all over the world. That its objective remained unsatisfied only added fuel to the fire.
Mundy’s Landing found itself on the map again.
In the years since, the Sleeping Beauty Murders have become a pop culture phenomenon and cottage industry, having been the subject of movies and documentaries, true crime books, and Internet speculation. The homes where corpses turned up are still standing, now colloquially known as Murder Houses.
The ever-increasing reward is offered yearly on the anniversary of the crime spree at what is now a festival known colloquially as “Mundypalooza.” It draws people from all over the world: amateur sleuths, true crime buffs, the press—and, of course, mentally ill characters who are fixated on violence. Some locals deplore the hoopla as exploitive; others maintain that the lore of the Sleeping Beauty murders, combined with the resurgence of interest in the Cannibal Settlers, brings in a steady stream of tourism. The local economy is booming.
It is against this backdrop that my suspense trilogy unfolds. The unsolved historic crimes are a thread that runs throughout, but there individual open-and-shut cases within each novel. They feature a continuing cast of colorful secondary characters and various transients drawn to a mysterious town with a violent past. Readers might recognize a male/female pair of NYPD cops, Sully and Barnes, who made their debut in my recent novel THE BLACK WIDOW, reappear in all three Mundy’s Landing books.
Nine Lives can be purchased in hardcover and/or eBook formats for/from:
Blood Red can be purchased in mass market paperback or eBook format for/from: