By Kay Kendall
Today marks a red letter day for me. I sent the manuscript of my second Austin Starr mystery to my publisher, Stairway Press of Seattle. Part of my celebration is sharing with you a short excerpt from the book, RAINY DAY WOMEN, to be published in June 2015.
The tale is set in 1969, when my amateur sleuth Austin Starr is now the harried young mother of a three-month-old son. Despite her family duties—to husband and son—and the demands of her grad student career, she rushes to the aid of her best friend, Larissa. She is a prime suspect in the murder of the leader of her women’s liberation group in Vancouver. Soon another member of a women’s group in Seattle is killed. Austin must find the real killer before her friend is jailed for murder.
In the excerpt below, Austin questions Mia, a friend of the dead women’s liberation leader, Shona. I hope you dig the sixties atmosphere, when in my book the Pacific Northwest is drenched in blood, not rain, for a change.
“I’m busting to know what you think of him. Tell me.” I guess my voice got loud because two passersby gawked at us.
Mia rolled her eyes to the heavens. “More questions.” A heavy sigh escaped her lips. “Jack always said I was ballsy. Of course, I took that as a compliment. He doesn’t like wimps. The problem with Jack and me, however, was that we were competitors.”
“At what?” I said.
“We competed for Shona’s time, attention, and affection. Jack and I never talked about it, but my sense is we both knew what was going on. He worked at getting under my skin, and he succeeded. Jack belittled everything I did, called me ‘poor little rich girl.’ He was jealous of my wealthy family, but I wouldn’t let Shona tell him how I’d been sexually abused.”
“Sounds tricky for you to put up with. What happened when he succeeded in getting under your skin. How did you react?”
She ran her hands through her short hair and gazed across the street at the tall trees on campus. I let her drown in her own thoughts for a while, hoping she’d come out with something useful in solving the puzzle of two deaths. Or, at the least, one—Shona’s.
After a few moments, she turned to me and took off her sunglasses. “Once Jack and I came to blows at a party, and I was the one who ended up throwing the first punch. He was a drinker, and I did dope. In my experience, our two types don’t mix well. That night he was ragging on me about being rich, and I had reached my limit. I drew back my arm, aiming for his arrogant mug, but Shona jumped between us. I pulled the punch, and it hit her shoulder instead, but not a hard blow. Jack cackled in triumph and started pushing my buttons again, making nasty taunts. With Shona there, I pulled my punches in general and just stomped off.”
“Then I guess you won’t have an unbiased answer to my next question.”
“Go ahead,” she said. “Shoot.”
“Could Jack have murdered Shona, and perhaps Bethany, too?”
“My honest opinion?”
“Jack could be the murderer.” Mia stopped and put her sunglasses back on. “Absolutely, and there is no doubt in my mind.”
Kay Kendall set her debut novel, DESOLATION ROW--AN AUSTIN STARR MYSTERY in 1968. The sequel is Rainy Day Women, will be out in 2015. Her amateur sleuth Austin Starr must prove her best friend didn't murder women’s liberation activists in Seattle and Vancouver. A fan of historical mysteries, Kay wants to do for the 1960s what novelist Jacqueline Winspear accomplishes for England in the 930s–write atmospheric mysteries that capture the spirit of the age. Kay is also an award-winning international PR executive who lives in Texas with her husband, three house rabbits, and spaniel Wills. Terribly allergic to the bunnies, she loves them anyway! Her book titles show she’s a Bob Dylan buff too.