Every so often when my husband and I are watching Dateline, I’ll look over at him and say, “If you get tired of me, divorce me. Don’t…” You may fill in the blank with whatever gruesome manner the featured spouse has used to off their partner.
On Dateline, there is always an insurance policy in play, usually a mistress or another man, and often heart-broken children left behind.
Dateline seems as interested in the “why” of these killings as the “how.”
In that, Keith Morrison (the host who exudes, “what drove the killer to do this?” with every nuance of his voice) and I are alike.
The answer is usually money.
Thus far, when I am writing mysteries, lucre has not appealed to me as a motive. I like secrets—the kind of secrets people will kill to keep.
In the country club murders, where appearance is everything (just don’t peek under the rug), characters will kill to hold onto their reputations, keep themselves out of prison, or avoid embarrassment. Far more interesting, at least to me, than a $50,000 life insurance policy.
Or perhaps not…
An excerpt from Guaranteed to Bleed follows:
Prudence Davies wasn’t as easily cowed. “I hear you had some trouble.” Her smile might look sympathetic but it didn’t reach her eyes. Those held all the warmth of an early morning in late January.
Grace looked pained.
“If you’re not careful, you’ll get a reputation as a black widow.”
I lifted the scotch to my lips and drank. “There are worse reputations to have.”
Prudence and my late husband had something of a…relationship. When I was feeling petty—and even when I wasn’t feeling petty—I dreamed of sharing the details of that relationship. But, lucky for Prudence, shielding Grace from Henry’s misdeeds was more important than dragging Prudence through the muck. Besides given Prudence’s predilections, she might enjoy the muck—or at least being dragged.
“Amy McCreary is talking about you as if you’re some kind of heroine.” Prudence lifted the corner of her too-thin upper lip. “Florence Nightingale reincarnated.”
“I called an ambulance.”
Prudence wrinkled her nose. “She’d be better off without him.”
Grace choked on her Tab.
Prudence gifted us another unpleasant smile, displaying her horsey teeth. “Everyone will know by tomorrow. The man who died in your backyard was some kind of con artist. John invested heavily. Lost everything.” She rubbed her hands together. Some clever German coined the word Schadenfreude with Prudence Davies in mind. She looked positively gleeful at the McCrearys’ misfortune. “Amy would be better off if he’d died. At least she’d have his life insurance.”
Henry once called Prudence a horse-faced, bony-assed harpy. That description was far too kind.
Julie Mulhern is a USA Today bestselling writer who grew up on a steady diet of Agatha Christie. She spends her spare time whipping up gourmet meals for her family, working out at the gym and finding new ways to keep her house spotlessly clean and she s got an active imagination. Truth is she s an expert at calling for take-out, she grumbles about walking the dog and the dust bunnies under the bed have grown into dust lions.