“I love it! A classic locked room mystery with all the ambience of Britain set in the 1970s American South.” —Stephen L. Brayton, Writer Beat
Cornelius Astor-Beaudry, fondly known as “the Colonel,” invades the serene sanctity of Raymond Hilary’s antiquarian bookstore in a dire search for a particular book on poisons. A maid at a local Georgia mansion called Wisteria Pines has been found dead, the deed done apparently by poisoning.
From the moment the Colonel steps into Raymond Hilary’s life, Raymond is caught up in a flood of events racing and raging beyond his control. Their first evening together becomes a white-knuckled ride to Wisteria Pines on the news that the patriarch, Angus Callahan, has also been found dead—but in a locked room with bars on its windows.
It had happened right after a voodoo doll had been found nailed to the mansion’s door. Somehow three different wills appear to be involved, along with missing precious stones, Cajun legacies and legends, the founding of Acadia, the French Revolution, the British Crown Jewels, and an inheritance worth $6 million. Read “Murder at Wisteria Pines” today.
Targeted Age Group:: Young adult to adult
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I grew up in Georgia and Alabama, which certainly inspired the settings, but I also have always been fascinated with crime literature, both fact and fiction. I spent untold hours immersed in the mesmerizing worlds of the great fiction detectives. When I read the Sherlock Holmes stories, I knew, even as a boy, that one day I would attempt to entertain others the way Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had entertained me through so many sleepless nights. To invoke Doyle’s name and that of his great detective is an honorable homage, not hubris, and I don’t aspire even to walk in their shadow. I do hope, though, that readers might find in my work something magical, something fun, something that will hold them in guileless wonder as they struggle to guess whodunnit, and in doing so that they will find something of the deep love I have for the endless wonders of the American South.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
The inspiration for the Colonel can be stated in two words: Mark Twain. The moment the Colonel first stepped onto a page, though, he took on his own inimitable, assertive personality. He irrevocably and unmistakably is Cornelius Astor Beaudry; he is not remotely Twain and never will be. Although he owes something of his conception to Twain’s image, he became an amalgamation of many men who I knew—or knew of—from the South, men of stature, men of courage, men of wit, men of will. One day I hope to grow up to be like some of them, but it’s a long row to hoe.
Raymond Hilary was inspired by so many Brits from so many literary sources that I couldn’t catalog them all. I only hope that he embodies some of the grace, humor, and endurance of those amazing people, who I admire unabashedly.
I didn’t choose the right-hand hallway so much as I simply went that direction, feeling my way gingerly. Almost immediately I saw that the first doorway on my right was partially opened onto a blackness that was some shade or so deeper than that in the hallway.
I stopped and again whispered Marie’s name.
The odor was not my imagination. I knew that now. What was it? And where were the damned light switches!
I pushed gently on the partially opened door with my left hand, and advanced in a shuffling sort of way just barely into the room, feeling all the while with my right hand for a cursed light switch. I can’t say with any certainty whether my foot encountered a curiously yielding mass or my hand found the switch first, or whether they were simultaneous occurrences. I do know that my fingers fumbled to operate that switch sufficiently long that mental flash-cards first of voodoo dolls and then of the dead body of Marie Dubois managed to assault my senses in the darkness before the light flooded the scene and I was staring down at the blood-crusted severed head of a black pig grinning back at me from the floor at my feet.
Jon Randall has been hooked on mysteries ever since he was given a set of annotated Sherlock Holmes stories as a young man. He began writing his stories about the Colonel and Raymond Hilary in the dead of night while still working a day job and raising a family. In the peace and quiet of a cottage on the Elk River in his beloved South, he finally was able to finish this seminal story about Raymond Hilary meeting and becoming the personal assistant to Colonel Beaudry. Mr. Randall has two other novels and a collection of short stories about their adventures in the works.
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