But here’s the thing: though I was writing romance, I was reading mysteries, and itching to write one. I had a problem, though. All the good detectives were taken, or at least all the good detectives with interesting occupations. Cooks, ministers, spouses of ministers, landscape architects, knit shop owners . . . everything I thought of–everything I thought would make for an interesting protagonist in a mystery series–had already been used.
Then I interviewed for a part-time job as a tour guide at a historic cemetery in Cleveland near where I live. I didn’t get the job, but as I was leaving the cemetery, I did get the idea for Pepper Martin.
Pepper’s spoiled and beautiful, a feisty redhead who was raised with all the privileges that came along with her upper-middle class upbringing. But then her cosmetic surgeon dad went to prison for Medicare fraud. And her status-conscious fiancé dumped her. With no place to turn, Pepper takes a job as a tour guide at Garden View Cemetery.
Boring! At least that’s how Pepper sees her job. But boring or not, it should be a piece of cake. It would be, if not for the fact that Pepper trips and hits her head on a mausoleum one day. After that?
Well, that’s when the ghosts started showing up.
In the first four installments of the series (“Don of the Dead,” “The Chick and the Dead,” “Tombs of Endearment” and “Night of the Loving Dead”), Pepper deals with dead-but-not-gone mobsters, a famous author, a sexy (too bad he was dead) rock star and a very recently made ghost with a grudge, and an agenda. They all have a couple things in common. For one, they can’t cross over to the Other Side until all their unfinished business is finished and their murders are solved. And the other? Each ghost threatens to haunt Pepper unless she investigates their cases.
Now, in “Dead Man Talking,” book #5 in the series of Pepper’s adventures, Pepper’s working on the restoration of an old, run-down cemetery, and her life is getting more complicated than ever. For one thing, there are two teams of people working on the restoration, and Pepper’s been assigned to work with the felons doing community service. For another, the whole thing is being filmed for a TV show called “Cemetery Survivor.” And if all that isn’t bad enough, Pepper bumps into the ghost of a man who claims he was wrongly convicted of a murder. Now in addition to pulling weeds, planting grass, and having to make sure she looks her best for every episode of the reality series, Pepper has to prove the ghost is not guilty. And digging for the truth is bound to put her in grave danger.
I’m excited about “Dead Man Talking.” It’s got great action, a twisty-turny mystery and, of course, Pepper in all her glory. Between a career that’s exasperating, a love life that’s about to throw her for a loop, and the ghosts that just keep on comin’, she’s got her work cut out for her!
Make sure and leave Casey a question or comment along with your email addy as she is giving away to one lucky winner their chose of one Pepper Martin book! Check back at the end of the week to see who won.
The ghosts were waiting for me when I arrived at Monroe Street Cemetery that morning.
I figured they would be. They’d been hanging around my office at Garden View Cemetery ever since the day a couple weeks earlier when my boss, Ella Silverman, informed me that instead of leading tours through Garden View that summer, I would be spending my time working on a restoration project at Monroe Street.
Back at Garden View, I’d pretty much been able to ignore this pack of annoying spooks, and I knew why. They were buried here at Monroe Street and far from where they were resting (but not at peace), they didn’t have nearly as much ghostly oomph. Here they were as lively as the dead are likely to get, and way pushier than ghosts have any right to be.
Then again, I guess I couldn’t blame them. Thanks to their daily visits to my office, they’d had a chance to look around Garden View, and they were bound to be pissed. After all, Monroe Street and Garden View are as different from each other as cemeteries can be.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a cemetery geek. Not like Ella. But I do know that in the hierarchy of burying grounds, Garden View is at the tippy-top. Its three hundred acres are as swanky and pristine as Monroe Street is . . . well, far be it from me to judge, but it’s hard to escape the facts. This one hundred and seventy-five-year old, thirteen-acre patch just to the west of downtown Cleveland was nowhere near as elegant–or as well-maintained–as Garden View. The city-owned Monroe Street had been neglected for years, and it showed. From where I stood, I could see the overgrown paths and shaggy lawn. Oh yeah, and the few hundred vandalyzed and toppled headstones thrown in just for good measure.
But of course, if Monroe Street were perfect, it wouldn’t need to be restored, I wouldn’t have been there in the first place, and the gang of irritating ghosts wouldn’t have been all over me like–
Well, like ghosts on the world’s one and only private investigator for the dead.