Sometimes it can take a long time for an idea to become a book. I remember that the initial idea for SUSPECT came to me in 1997 when I was reading about a winery in either Hermann or Augusta, Missouri. It was reopening some of its old cellars after years of disuse. I remember thinking “What if they found a body down there?” That gruesome thought probably came from years of being addicted to the books of Elizabeth Peters and Barbara Michaels. (They’re actually the same person writing in two slightly different genres.) Instead of letting it drop, I found myself thinking about whose body this could be and why it would be there. After about of a week of this, it became clear that this idea had taken root and was turning into a story. Eventually, I decided to move the setting to a bed and breakfast.
I’m not sure when I decided to have the mystery weekend. But that wasn’t an especially big leap. There was a bed and breakfast in Hermann that put them on. I knew what fun they could be because I attended one back at SubBase Bangor in Washington State when my husband was serving on the U.S.S. Alaska. My group quickly and correctly identified the victim, a talkative, extremely dynamic, larger-than-life writer who was clearly impressed with his own abilities. We trailed after him like a bunch of groupies in order to catch clues. Our table won.
One of the odd moments for me that evening was when I was making a trip to the bathroom after the murder and before the interrogation of the suspects. A serious-looking marine was sitting quietly in a corner of the lobby. He looked slightly familiar, but I couldn’t place him. On the way back into the dining room, I looked at him again and belatedly recognized the victim. He must have been able to tell by the widening of my eyes that I’d just realized who he was because he smiled and gave me a quick nod. I’m sure that moment had echoes in SUSPECT.