Sunday, April 7, 2019

Guest Post by Albert A. Bell, Jr. : Death by Armoire

I have been reading mysteries since I was in seventh grade. I started with the inevitable Hardy Boys and Perry Mason. At some point I picked up a Nancy Drew. Yeah, I know, teenaged boy reading a book aimed at girls. But I read Little Women, too. And I will admit, in public for the first time, that I cried when Beth died.

Over the years I have read all kinds of mysteries, but my favorites have always tended to be the cozies. They involve an amateur sleuth, preferably a woman, who investigates a murder which the police don’t think is a murder. They’re set in a knitting store, a library, a bakery, or some other environment that we usually associate with women. The Hallmark Channel now offers a series of such stories, although I don’t think we’ll be seeing any more of Lori Laughlin’s “Garage Sale” movies. There are an amazing number of these cozy mysteries available today. I may offend some readers by saying that I do not like ones where cats, dogs, or ghosts help to solve the mystery.

I had already published several books in a series of mysteries set in ancient Rome when I decided to write a cozy, set in an antique store. Death by Armoire was inspired by memories of my grandfather’s antique/used furniture store in a small town in South Carolina. Maureen Cooper is a ghost-writer, penning books for celebrities. She likes that quiet, below-the-radar life. Then she learns that her ex-husband, Troy, has been found dead in the store, crushed by a large armoire that apparently tipped over him. It’s ruled an accidental death. But someone breaks into the store and goes through the armoire and other pieces of furniture that came from the same set. What were they looking for? Was Troy’s death really accidental?

As she tries to answer those two questions Maureen uncovers secrets about her family and her hometown that change her whole outlook on who she is. She has a dog, Pepper, who was Troy’s support dog, but he offers no help in solving the case.

When I was finished with the book I wasn’t looking forward to the whole process of finding a publisher. It can take a couple of years to get through that ordeal. I’m lucky to have an excellent publisher for my Roman mystery series in Perseverance Press, but they’re small and did not have room for another title in their list. I decided to do something I’ve often criticized people for: I self-published the book. It had gone through the vetting process of my writers’ group and a friend who is a free-lance editor, so it wasn’t as though no one had worked on it.

Once the book was published, I saw a notice about Writers’ Digest’s contest for self-published books. I entered Death by Armoire and WON the genre fiction category. I’m waiting for movie offers and other sorts of acclaim to come my way. Surely, soon.

You can find more information about this book and my other books at my website:

Death by Armoire by Albert Bell Jr.

I love everything about my house, but the one part that I would never give up is the front porch. The builders of big old Southern houses like mine, which goes back to 1887, understood the importance of a porch. My house, a joyously gaudy Queen Anne, faces east, with a huge magnolia tree and an ancient oak—and thus very little grass—in the yard, and the porch runs across the front and halfway back along both sides. On the south side there’s a large swing mounted from the ceiling.
At the northeast corner the porch bulges out to create a circular area where I have a table and chairs, the same table and chairs my mother had when I was a little girl growing up here.
Because of the conical shape of the roof over this area and the black shingles, I dubbed it the Witch’s Hat when I was a child, and the name stuck. It’s the perfect place to eat breakfast on a summer morning, as I did so many times as a child, as I did with my children, and as I was about to do now.
But now everything’s different. My children are grown, my mother died eight years ago, my father a year after that, and my cheating ex-husband Troy died a week ago.
As I arranged my breakfast on the table, Troy’s companion dog Pepper trotted up the steps and plopped down on his haunches next to me. I gave him the extra slices of bacon I had fixed, and they disappeared in two gulps. Pepper is a five-year-old Gordon Setter. Everybody thinks he’s named Pepper because of his color—the black that’s typical for a Gordon—but his name is actually short for Sgt. Pepper, after Troy’s favorite Beatles’ album.
Neither of my children can have a dog in their apartments—and Pepper’s too large for their apartments anyway—so I had to take him in. Gordon Setters are known for their loyalty and good nature. Pepper actually excels Troy in both those categories, but we’re still trying to figure out our relationship. I’ve never been a pet person.
My cell phone rang and I cursed myself for putting the thing on the tray when I came out here. Force of habit. It was my agent, Dave Siegler. I wasn’t sure whether he was calling about the book I was supposed to have finished this week or about the proposal he emailed to me on the day Troy died. We had talked once earlier in the week, when I called to tell him about Troy’s death, but we hadn’t discussed business, of course. I guessed he had waited as long as a New York agent could contain himself.

Albert Bell

Albert A. Bell, Jr discovered his love for writing in high school, with his first publication in 1972. Although he considers himself a “shy person,” he believes he is a storyteller more than a literary artist. He says, “When I read a book I’m more interested in one with a plot that keeps moving rather than long descriptive passages or philosophical reflection.” He writes books he would enjoy reading himself.

A native of South Carolina, Dr. Bell has taught at Hope College in Holland, Michigan since 1978, and, from 1994 - 2004 served as Chair of the History Department. He holds a PhD from UNC-Chapel Hill, as well as an MA from Duke and an MDiv from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is married to psychologist Bettye Jo Barnes Bell; they have four children and two grandsons Bell is well-known for the historical mysteries of the series, Cases from the Notebooks of Pliny the Younger. Corpus Conundrum, third of the series, was a Best Mystery of the year from Library Journal. The Secret of the Lonely Grave, first in the series of Steve and Kendra Mysteries for young people, won a Mom’s Choice Silver Medal and the Evelyn Thurman Young Readers Award.

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