Killer Close to Home is the third book in my Cluttered Crime mystery series about Chicago professional organizer, Crystal Ward. Her latest client is her backyard neighbor, Roscoe Tremaine, who’s recovering from a broken hip and preparing to move into assisted living. A widower and something of a curmudgeon, Roscoe’s been a friend to Crys and her husband, Rick, especially when a shooting left Rick paralyzed. Roscoe’s only family—his brother, two nieces, and one great-niece—don’t see him often…by choice. When he summons them to his house, he asks Crys to stay to meet them. To her surprise, he announces he’s changing his will to disinherit his nieces and giving ten thousand dollars each to Crys and his caregiver, Wink Keller.
That night, Roscoe’s house explodes. Although the cause is soon confirmed to be a gas leak, Crys begins to suspect that it may not have been an accident. Wink is fortunate to have survived the blast, but now he’s out of a job. The explosion also has another casualty. Trying to get out of bed to help, Rick falls and dislocates his shoulder, which requires surgery. Crys hires Wink to help her husband during his recovery.
Soon mysterious “gifts” begin appearing on the Wards’ front porch. What at first seem like childish pranks turn into vandalism and worse. Crys must learn more about the dysfunctional Tremaine family, a new neighbor overly anxious to be her friend, and Wink to stop a killer close to home before she becomes the next victim.
I’m often asked where I find my ideas, and the answer is everywhere! News stories are particularly helpful. Years ago I read about a woman who started a business delivering dead flowers and bouquets of black roses. Her clients included soon-to-be divorced spouses, victims of unhappy breakups, or others wanting to express their angry feelings in flowers. That feature story stuck in my memory and gave me an idea for one of the items found on the Wards’ front porch.
Another news story about a house that blew up provided inspiration for a cause of death that could look like an unfortunate accident. One of the worst gas explosions in recent U.S. history was in my former hometown, Indianapolis, in 2012. Much larger in scope than the one in my story, the Richmond Hill explosion killed two people, injured seven, and left twenty-seven homes uninhabitable. The owner of the house where the explosion originated and four others were convicted on multiple charges, including felony murder and deliberately causing the blast to collect insurance money. I couldn’t bear to destroy Crys’s house, not with so much else going on in her life in this book, so I scaled down the blast. Fortunately, my research led me to an article about an explosion similar in size to Roscoe’s that (oddly enough) had also occurred in Indianapolis. Maybe it’s good that I moved to Florida, where we only have to deal with hurricanes, sink holes, alligators, pythons, black bears, and heat stroke. Then again, maybe not!
I hope you’ll enjoy Killer Close to Home. Characters you’ve met in the first two books, Room for Suspicion and Deadlier Than Fiction, return to offer Crys support and comic relief, including Maggie, Mitch, and Connie, although you don’t have to read the previous books in the series to enjoy this one. If you prefer to listen to books, I’m excited to announce that all three Cluttered Crime mysteries will be released in audiobook format in February and March 2024. The fourth book, No Room to Hide, will be published June 6, 2024 and will also be available as an audiobook.
Wishing you all a happy new year and hours of reading pleasure in the coming year!
About the Author.
Carol Light is an avid reader and writer of mysteries. She loves creating amateur sleuths and complicating their normal lives with a crime that they must use their talents and wits to solve. She’s traveled worldwide and lived in Australia for eight years, teaching high school English and learning to speak “Strine.” Florida is now her home. If she’s not at the beach or writing, you can find her tackling quilting in much the same way that she figures out her mysteries—piece by piece, clue by clue.