Marja McGraw – Having a Great Crime – Wish Your Were Here
This week, I’m welcoming back one of my favorite authors, Marja McGraw.
Marja McGraw was born and raised in Southern California. She worked in both civil and criminal law, state transportation, and for a city building department. She has lived and worked in California, Nevada, Oregon, Alaska, Arizona, and Washington. She wrote a weekly column for a small town newspaper in Northern Nevada, and conducted a Writers’ Support Group in Northern Arizona. A past member of Sisters in Crime (SinC), she was the Editor for the SinC-Internet Newsletter for a year and a half. Marja writes two mystery series: The Sandi Webster Mysteries and The Bogey Man Mysteries, which are light reading with a touch of humor. She also occasionally writes stories that aren’t part of a series. Marja says that each of her mysteries contains a little humor, a little romance and A Little Murder! She now lives in Washington, where life is good.
Cold Cases vs. New Cases
Crime and criminals are as old as the inhabited world. It’s a fact of life. Consequently, in addition to daily troubles, there are old unsolved cases, most of which will probably never have their answers come to light.
In the Sandi Webster series, the protagonist is a young female private investigator. She and her husband/partner, Pete, handle current situations on a regular basis. However, once in a while, someone brings an old case to their attention.
I enjoy creating cold cases, partly because the mystery of the unsolved case takes place in another time. My characters don’t have to deal with death on an up close and personal level in those particular situations. They may have to deal with someone who’s involved with the crime in one way or another, but they’re not on the scene during the original crime. Yes, they can be placed in a dangerous situation, but that’s not something they expect when working on a cold case.
Such is the case with “Having a Great Crime – Wish You Were Here,” A Sandi Webster Mystery. It’s light reading with a little humor and deals with, as it turns out, more than one vintage crime.
Having a Great Crime – Wish You Were Here.
1936 – In the small farming community of Battle Ground, Washington, a scream is heard and actress Bonnie Singleton is found dead. With no evidence or suspects, the crime goes down in history as an unsolved murder. The only one who knows the truth is Bonnie Singleton, and her voice has been silenced.
That is, until many years later when Sandi Webster-Goldberg and her husband, Pete, go on a belated honeymoon to a new Bed and Breakfast in the small community.
Plenty of surprises await the couple when the proprietor of the B&B asks for their help. She doesn’t want her business to be known as the local haunted house.
Have Sandi and Pete ever been able to turn down a challenge? The request to find the truth has been made and once again they’re reluctantly on a cold case.
Excerpt from Chapter Two (Discussion with Bea, the owner of the Bed & Breakfast):
I reigned in my frustration and set my plans for relaxation aside. Maybe we could work some fun time into our honeymoon. I mean, it could happen.
“Why do you want me to look into this murder?” I hoped she had a good reason.
She did, and it had to do with her proposed livelihood. “This was a notorious murder. You may have heard of it. The victim was a famous actress, and this house was her getaway spot. You must have heard of the Bonnie Singleton murder, right? Um, unfortunately her death was what really made her famous.”
It rang a bell with me, but not a very loud one. “Bonnie Singleton? Wasn’t she an actress back in the 1930s?” I watch a lot of old movies and I was sure I’d seen her in at least one of them.
“Yes, and she was known for being sultry and a red hot babe. She was kind of like Jean Harlow or Mae West, or an early Marilyn Monroe.”
Okay, that description made me laugh. Aunt Bea talking about red hot babes?
“So what’s the issue?” Pete set his empty glass on the table.
Bea sat up straighter. “There are those who want to stay here just in case she haunts the house, which she doesn’t. There are others who don’t want to stay here because of the murder. I know there was a murder at your mother’s B&B, but it wasn’t in newspapers all over the country. They’ve even done specials on television about Bonnie’s unsolved murder.”
Ah, there it was. The murder had never been solved. She thought I could figure it out.
She held her hands out, palms up. “Your mother told me stories about you solving cold cases. I’m hoping you’ll do the same for me. I don’t want ghost hunters roaming around the house. I’d like to have guests who come here to unwind and enjoy life – to have fun.”
Pete nodded. “I can understand that.”
“How was she killed?” It was coming back to me slowly. I’d heard the story, but I didn’t remember any of the details.
“She was beaten and stabbed. The story goes that the beating should have killed her – that the stabbing was almost an afterthought.” Bea rubbed her arms, the thought chilling her. “There weren’t too many suspects. Most of them could account for their whereabouts when she died. Others didn’t like her, but didn’t seem to have a motive. And there wasn’t much in the way of evidence. They never found the murder weapon.”
“Do you have anything that might give us some clues?” I asked.
“There are plenty of newspaper articles, and the police must have an old file. I’m sure they’d let you look at it since the crime happened so long ago.
“There was a woman in town who was a little girl when all of this happened. At the time, she and her family lived across the road in a small house, but the house was torn down years ago. She and her brother used to play out here and she made friends with Bonnie. She remembered a little about people who visited the house. She said she remembered the actress as being warm and friendly, and funny. Sadly, she also remembered hearing screams the night of the murder. She passed away a couple of years ago.”
“Did she see anything that night?” Pete crossed his arms across his chest and leaned back, legs stretched out in front of him, looking comfortable. He was once a cop, and he learned to try to put people at ease when possible so they’d talk more.
“You know? I never asked her. I’m sure the police must have, though.”
We’d certainly need more to go on than what Bea had told us so far. “Do you know if the police found any letters? Pictures? Anything that might help?”
“Honestly, there wasn’t actually a police department here until the city was incorporated in the 1950s. From what I understand, it was all farms around here in the old days. I think there were some marshals at that time. You’d have to check. I don’t even know if there are still police records from that time period.” She smiled. “It was a small place and Main Street was pretty much the whole town. Other than that, it was all farms.”
Thank you, Evelyn for having me in today.
You’re welcome, Marja. It’s always a pleasure.
Marja and I would love to hear from you, so please feel free to leave a comment.
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