Wired for Murder, the second book in my Market Center Mysteries series has just released. It’s the sequel to A Gift for Murder, which was published in hardcover by Five Star, Mass Market paperback by Harlequin Worldwide and ebook by myself. Because Five Star cut its mystery line before this book was published (though it had received editorial approval), I decided to go ahead and publish it myself.
A number of people have commented on the unique setting and I’ve been asked often why I chose it.
As a former editor at several trade publications, I’ve attended a number of trade shows and talked to probably hundreds of people involved, from the staff of the centers where they're held to exhibitors, attendees, service people and other members of the press covering the event. Although most appear to be the standard, well-dressed business types, the personalities behind the designer suits are often much more colorful.
As anyone who has ever been to a trade show knows, they are a combination of circus show, street fair market, and high-stakes salesmanship. Exhibits are set up to attract and keep the attention of attending retail buyers, and the people who work at them can be just as brazen, pushy, kind, irritating, sweet, smarmy, loud and overbearing as the gimmicks they use to gain notice.
At the very first trade show I attended I realized it would make a perfect setting for a murder mystery or a series. The contained time period and place; the cast of characters, many of whom know each other and are often friends, competitors, enemies, and sometimes even lovers; and the high stakes, taken together provide the ingredients for a tense story.
The setting would also help resolve one of the major dilemmas of an amateur sleuth story. The police are generally much more effective at solving crimes than civilians. They have access to resources way beyond what the rest of us can call on.
But someone who worked at the Market Center and knew how the business ran, who met and talked to the people involved on a daily basis, might have a realistic chance to learn more about the situation that the police could hope to in the short space of time that a trade show takes. And if she’s someone like my heroine, Heather McNeil, someone who is a good listener and a good problem-solver, the kind of person people talk to and spill their guts to on occasion, it becomes much less of a strain on credulity to think she could uncover a murderer faster than the police might.
Heather McNeil, assistant to the director of the Washington DC Market Show Center, handles many of the day-to-day issues that arise during the shows, exhibits, and conferences being held there. The first day of the Business Technology Exposition provides her with plenty of opportunities to demonstrate her skill at settling disputes, refereeing arguments, and even breaking up fights.
When the president of industry-leader MegaComp has a very public argument with a man who accuses the company of stealing an important technical concept, she watches it but doesn’t have to intervene. Later, though, the accuser returns a phone call from Heather, and she becomes an unwilling audience to his murder.
Heather is more than happy to leave the investigation to the police, but she’s the person everyone talks to and she soon learns more than she wanted to know about the victim and all the people who didn’t like him very much, including several who might have motives for murder.