By Maggie King
When asked what inspired me to write Murder at the Moonshine Inn, #2 in my Hazel Rose Book Group series, my answer is simple: family.
A dysfunctional family? You bet! For writers, they’re the best kind.
First, a little about the story. When Hazel’s father was two years old his parents divorced and his father disappeared from the lives of his child and former wife. Decades later, Hazel’s genealogist sister unearthed a slew of relatives previously unknown to them. The disappearing grandfather had remarried and started a new family. Hazel was soon in touch with relatives from around the country, including cousins who lived nearby in Richmond, Virginia.
Hazel strikes up a friendship with one cousin. Another died before Hazel could made her acquaintance. And another, Brad Jones, will have nothing to do with Hazel. His reason: Hazel just wants his money. Why else would she get in touch after all these years?
Hazel accepts Brad’s decision and doesn’t pursue him. She has weekly lunches with the friendly cousin. All is well.
But when Roxanne Howard, a high-powered executive, dies in a pool of blood in the parking lot of the Moonshine Inn, the victim’s sister asks Hazel to hunt down the killer. Hazel is faced with a tough choice. The victim was married to Brad Jones and he’s the prime suspect. The police can’t prove that Brad killed his wife and can’t come up with another suspect.
It shouldn’t be hard to find another suspect. Roxanne Howard wreaked havoc in the lives of any number of people. Brad’s son believed that Rox and Brad were behind his mother’s death; Rox’s former young lover holds Rox responsible for a tragedy in his family; and one of Rox’s employees filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against her. A reportedly deranged motorcyclist had taken a hammer to her windshield. But Rox was a train wreck in her own life as well, hanging out at the disreputable Moonshine Inn in “high dollar suits” and collecting DUIs like baseball cards. An angry regular from the Moonshine Inn could have ended the obnoxious woman’s life. The possibilities are endless.
Hazel feels obligated to find the killer and clear Brad of suspicion. Assuming he didn’t murder his wife. Never mind that Brad won’t give her the time of day—he’s family.
And you do anything for your family.
But back to what inspired me. There were two events that led to this story. The first was when my husband researched his family tree and discovered many new-to-him relatives. A long-ago divorce resulted in “lost” relatives. He contacted them and they remain in touch to this day. One family lives near us in Virginia and we often see them. We traveled to Montreal to visit another family. Only one relative refused to acknowledge my husband, suspecting that he wanted money.
The second event was when the mother of an acquaintance in California died and her widower lost no time remarrying a woman forty years his junior. His bride ran with a fast crowd who drank, took drugs, and engaged in casual sex. For a change of pace, she had a favorite redneck bar. My friend’s father was enchanted with his beloved’s beauty. She was enchanted with his fortune. He figured that marriage would tame her. She would not be tamed and continued her decadent lifestyle post-marriage.
I combined the stories, resulting in a Picasso-esque creation, and added a hefty dose of pure fiction.
I’m endlessly intrigued by family dynamics, especially when marriage brings new people into the mix—people who aren’t always welcome at family dinners and reunions. Or anywhere. If money’s involved, things can get quite interesting.
Sometimes murder follows.
Blurb for Murder at the Moonshine Inn
WHEN HIGH-POWERED EXECUTIVE Roxanne Howard dies in a pool of blood outside the Moonshine Inn, Richmond, Virginia’s premiere redneck bar, the victim’s sister enlists Hazel Rose to ferret out the killer. At first Hazel balks—she’s a romance writer, not a detective. But Brad Jones, Rox’s husband, is the prime suspect. He’s also Hazel’s cousin, and Hazel believes in doing anything to help family. Never mind that Brad won’t give her the time of day—he’s still family.
Hazel recruits her book group members to help with the investigation. It’s not long before they discover any number of people who feel that a world without Rox Howard is just fine with them: Brad’s son believes that Rox and Brad were behind his mother’s death; Rox’s former young lover holds Rox responsible for a tragedy in his family; and one of Rox’s employees filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against her. The killer could be an angry regular from the Moonshine Inn—or just about anyone who ever crossed paths with the willful and manipulative Rox.
When a second murder ups the ante Hazel must find out who is behind the killings. And fast. Or she may be victim #3.
Maggie is a member of Sisters in Crime, James River Writers, and the American Association of University Women. She has worked as a software developer, retail sales manager, and customer service supervisor. Maggie graduated from Elizabeth Seton College and earned a B.S. degree in Business Administration from Rochester Institute of Technology. She has called New Jersey, Massachusetts, and California home. These days she lives in Richmond, Virginia with her husband, Glen, and cats, Morris and Olive. She enjoys reading, walking, movies, traveling, theatre, and museums.
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