By Elaine Viets
My fifteenth Dead-End Job mystery, The Art of Murder, opens at Bonnet House, where I worked as a volunteer greeter.
Bonnet House was the colorful home of artists Evelyn and Frederic Clay Bartlett. Evelyn enjoyed her long life. She took up collecting miniature orchids at age 101. Bonnet House, built in 1920, is filled with light, life and color. It’s Frederic’s idea of a Caribbean plantation house, built around a courtyard sheltered by feathery palms and bright with flowers. The house has whimsical touches: gilded baroque columns swirl around the drawing room doors, balconies are frosted with New Orleans wrought iron, and Evelyn’s collection of brightly painted wooden animals, including giraffes and ostriches, are everywhere.
Frederic built Evelyn the charming Bamboo Bar and Shell Museum as a birthday present. Most men won’t even fetch their wives a drink, but Evelyn had a custom-built bar. Evelyn drank exotic Rangpur lime cocktails, made from maple syrup, rum, and Rangpur limes she grew in the gardens. Since Evelyn lived to be 109, this has to be a health drink.
In The Art of Murder, private eye Helen Hawthorne is dragged to Bonnet House by her landlady, seventy-six-year-old Margery Flax – and dragged is the right word. Helen feels the same way I do about house tours, but she’s soon fascinated by the quirky mansion-turned-museum. The two women stop to see a painting class in the courtyard, and admire the work of a gifted young artist, Annabel Lee Griffin.
Later, they also see Annabel’s deadly end. Helen is hired to investigate her death. Was Annabel killed by her jealous husband? Her best friend? A lover from her bohemian past? Helen has her own brush with death as she searches for this artful killer.
Next time you’re in Fort Lauderdale, visit the Bonnet House museum at bonnethouse.org. It’s even prettier than these Website photos. See how Frederic and Evelyn mastered the art of living.
The Art of Murder has been on the Pub Alley Mystery Bestseller list for three weeks. Elaine Viets is the author of 29 mysteries in three series, both hard-boiled and cozy: the Dead-End Job mysteries, the Josie Marcus Mystery Shopper mysteries, and the Francesca Vierling mysteries. She has won the Anthony, Agatha and Lefty Awards. Follow her at www.elaineviets.com