By Lois Winston
Most mystery writers and readers are fascinated by true crimes. Even if our reading doesn’t branch out beyond cozy mysteries, many of us watch everything from Murder, She Wrote reruns to each iteration of the Law & Order franchise. Some of us have even become hooked on true crime podcasts.
Me? I’m a news junkie. All my books have been inspired in some way by actual events, or human-interest stories. Inspired is the key word, though. For instance, in A Stitch to Die for, the fifth book in my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery Series, I wove in a thread about Munchausen by Proxy Disorder after reading about several high-profile cases.
However, I’ve never incorporated an actual crime into one of my plots—until now. For Guilty as Framed, the eleventh book in my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery Series, I’ve centered the plot around a yet unsolved crime that took place in 1990.
For years I’ve been fascinated with the burglary at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. It’s still considered the largest art heist in history, and to this day, not only haven’t the perpetrators been caught, but none of the artworks have ever been recovered. Worst of all, many of the suspects have since died.
But how do you incorporate a true crime cold case into a cozy mystery, especially when that crime might one day be solved, no matter how the likelihood diminishes with each passing year? I certainly couldn’t have my sleuth find the paintings or unmask the actual perpetrators. I don’t write alternate-reality fiction. In addition, the crime was committed in Boston, and my amateur sleuth resides in New Jersey. Besides, Anastasia is in her mid-forties. She would have been an adolescent at the time of the theft.
This was the puzzle I set for myself. Like my sleuth, I can be extremely stubborn when I set my mind to something. I may fail at a task, but I rarely give up and walk away. It helps that I’m a pantser and not a plotter. So I started out by reading everything I could get my hands on about the theft, watched a few documentaries, then just started writing, allowing my brain free rein. After writing myself into a few corners, backtracking, and beginning again…and again…and again, I came up with a story that uses various events from the actual crime, making them plausible within the pages of my story. Of course, I had to take authorial liberties along the way, but hey, I’m writing fiction. I can do that.
I invented several characters for the purpose of advancing my plot. I’ve also changed the names of suspects and their relatives, whether they’re still alive or not, to protect the innocent, the not-so-innocent, and yours truly. But in the end, I stayed true to the major events of the crime but found a way to involve my sleuth.
It’s just too bad that Anastasia couldn’t solve the mystery of what happened to all those missing artworks. There’s still a huge reward outstanding for any information leading to their recovery, and anyone who knows anything about Anastasia knows she could really use the money.
An Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery, Book 11
When an elderly man shows up at the home of reluctant amateur sleuth Anastasia Pollack, she’s drawn into the unsolved mystery of the greatest art heist in history.
Boston mob boss Cormac Murphy has recently been released from prison. He doesn’t believe Anastasia’s assertion that the man he’s looking for doesn’t live at her address and attempts to muscle his way into her home. His efforts are thwarted by Anastasia’s fiancé Zack Barnes.
A week later, a stolen SUV containing a dead body appears in Anastasia’s driveway. Anastasia believes Murphy is sending her a message. It’s only the first in a series of alarming incidents, including a mugging, a break-in, another murder, and the discovery of a cache of jewelry and an etching from the largest museum burglary in history.
But will Anastasia solve the mystery behind these shocking events before she falls victim to a couple of desperate thugs who will stop at nothing to get what they want?
Guilty as Framed is currently available for pre-order and will be released September 6th. Find links here.
USA Today and Amazon bestselling and award-winning author Lois Winston writes mystery, romance, romantic suspense, chick lit, women’s fiction, children’s chapter books, and nonfiction under her own name and her Emma Carlyle pen name. Kirkus Reviews dubbed her critically acclaimed Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series, “North Jersey’s more mature answer to Stephanie Plum.” In addition, Lois is a former literary agent and an award-winning craft and needlework designer who often draws much of her source material for both her characters and plots from her experiences in the crafts industry. Learn more about Lois and her books at her website www.loiswinston.com where you can also sign up for her newsletter and follow her on various social media sites.