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About the Book
Death by Armoire
By Albert Bell Jr.
Publisher: Claystone Books
250 pages, April 16, 2017
Genre: Cozy Craft & Hobby Mysteries
Also available for Kindle
Maureen Cooper values her quiet life in the small Southern town that has been her family’s home for generations. Her work as a ghost-writer for celebrities allows her to work from her large, Victorian house. But when her ex-husband Troy is found dead under a massive armoire in the antique store he and his father maintained as an excuse for their hoarding, distressing complexities mount. Who broke into the store and searched through the armoire and related pieces? How does Troy’s current love interest fit in? What about his high school sweetheart who returns from a prison sentence, and who fathered her son? Will Maureen’s involvement with a local police lieutenant give her an advantage in discovering the truth, or will he betray her to protect a crooked cop?
Praise for the mysteries of Albert A. Bell, Jr.:
Second in the Pliny series, The Blood of Caesar, was named a Best Mystery of 2008 by Library Journal.
Outstandingly researched and laden with suspense,… one of the masterpieces of the historical mystery genre. Highly recommended for all collections. —Jo Ann Vicarel, Library Journal, Starred Review
Hits the ground running … a clever and highly readable whodunit. —Kirkus Review (Fortune’s Fool)
Excerpt from the Book
Death by Armoire by Albert Bell Jr.
I love everything about my house, but the one part that I would never give up is the front porch. The builders of big old Southern houses like mine, which goes back to 1887, understood the importance of a porch. My house, a joyously gaudy Queen Anne, faces east, with a huge magnolia tree and an ancient oak—and thus very little grass—in the yard, and the porch runs across the front and halfway back along both sides. On the south side there’s a large swing mounted from the ceiling.
At the northeast corner the porch bulges out to create a circular area where I have a table and chairs, the same table and chairs my mother had when I was a little girl growing up here.
Because of the conical shape of the roof over this area and the black shingles, I dubbed it the Witch’s Hat when I was a child, and the name stuck. It’s the perfect place to eat breakfast on a summer morning, as I did so many times as a child, as I did with my children, and as I was about to do now.
But now everything’s different. My children are grown, my mother died eight years ago, my father a year after that, and my cheating ex-husband Troy died a week ago.
As I arranged my breakfast on the table, Troy’s companion dog Pepper trotted up the steps and plopped down on his haunches next to me. I gave him the extra slices of bacon I had fixed, and they disappeared in two gulps. Pepper is a five-year-old Gordon Setter. Everybody thinks he’s named Pepper because of his color—the black that’s typical for a Gordon—but his name is actually short for Sgt. Pepper, after Troy’s favorite Beatles’ album.
Neither of my children can have a dog in their apartments—and Pepper’s too large for their apartments anyway—so I had to take him in. Gordon Setters are known for their loyalty and good nature. Pepper actually excels Troy in both those categories, but we’re still trying to figure out our relationship. I’ve never been a pet person.
My cell phone rang and I cursed myself for putting the thing on the tray when I came out here. Force of habit. It was my agent, Dave Siegler. I wasn’t sure whether he was calling about the book I was supposed to have finished this week or about the proposal he emailed to me on the day Troy died. We had talked once earlier in the week, when I called to tell him about Troy’s death, but we hadn’t discussed business, of course. I guessed he had waited as long as a New York agent could contain himself.
Interview with the Author
What initially got you interested in writing?
As a kid I moved around a lot, no more than three years in any one place. I’m an introvert anyway, but those moves made it difficult for me to connect with people. I was always the new kid. Books became my friends. I enjoyed English classes in high school. A couple of teachers read things I had written to a class. I was so quiet I think people were surprised when I got that sort of recognition. Various teachers encouraged me along the way, sometimes indirectly. One of the readers on my dissertation committee said, “You write well, even when you don’t have much to say.” I published several pieces while I was in grad school and really enjoyed the sensation of seeing my work in print.
What genres do you write in?
I am primarily a writer of mysteries. My main series is historical, set in ancient Rome, but I have also done some contemporary mysteries. My latest, DEATH BY ARMOIRE, is a cozy set in an antique store in South Carolina, where I’m from. I’m proud to say it won the Genre Fiction category in Writer’s Digest’s 2018 Contest for Self-Published Books. I have also written several middle-grade mysteries and a couple of non-fiction books.
What drew you to writing these specific genres?
Mysteries have been my favorite type of reading since I was about 12 years old. Hardy Boys, Perry Mason, Agatha Christie—that whole line of “classics.” I like books that have a plot. I confess that I like cozy mysteries, as ephemeral and trivial as they may seem. One of my early books, DEATH GOES DUTCH, fits into that category, and DEATH BY ARMOIRE certainly does too.
How did you break into the field?
I joined a writers’ group in 2001. One evening I didn’t have anything particular to present to them, so I pulled out a few pages from a historical mystery I’d been fooling around with. They enjoyed it and encouraged me to develop it. When it was done, I went to an online mystery group and asked if anybody knew an agent/editor who might be interested in a Roman mystery. I hooked up with Ingalls Publishing Group (no longer in existence) and after that with Perseverance Press.
What do you want readers to take away from reading your works?
I hope they like the characters. I also hope they feel like they’ve learned something. I always learn something from the research I do when I’m writing. In DEATH BY ARMOIRE, for example, I learned quite a bit about Arts and Crafts furniture. I think readers will find the book interesting on that level as well as in terms of the plot.
What do you find most rewarding about writing?
Once when I read a passage to my writers’ group a collective gasp went up around the table. I thought, That’s exactly the reaction I wanted at that spot. I can’t be there to listen to every reader’s reaction, but I try to elicit something like that at appropriate places.
What do you find most challenging about writing?
When I’m about 2/3 of the way through a book, I know where it’s going to end, but getting from that 2/3 mark to the end is usually the most difficult part. All the threads have to be tied up. I have to go back and make sure something I wrote on p. 40 doesn’t contradict something on p. 127.
What advice would you give to people wanting to enter the field?
If you can be happy doing anything else, do it. If you can’t, then write.
What type of books do you enjoy reading?
Mysteries, historical novels, biographies.
Is there anything else besides writing you think people would find interesting about you?
I enjoy my flower beds and my collection of baseball cards from the 1950s.
What are the best ways to connect with you, or find out more about your work?
My web site is www.albertbell.wixsite.com/writer. There is a “Contact Me” button there.
About the Author
Albert A. Bell, Jr discovered his love for writing in high school, with his first publication in 1972. Although he considers himself a “shy person,” he believes he is a storyteller more than a literary artist. He says, “When I read a book I’m more interested in one with a plot that keeps moving rather than long descriptive passages or philosophical reflection.” He writes books he would enjoy reading himself.
A native of South Carolina, Dr. Bell has taught at Hope College in Holland, Michigan since 1978, and, from 1994 – 2004 served as Chair of the History Department. He holds a PhD from UNC-Chapel Hill, as well as an MA from Duke and an MDiv from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is married to psychologist Bettye Jo Barnes Bell; they have four children and two grandsons Bell is well-known for the historical mysteries of the series, Cases from the Notebooks of Pliny the Younger. Corpus Conundrum, third of the series, was a Best Mystery of the year from Library Journal. The Secret of the Lonely Grave, first in the series of Steve and Kendra Mysteries for young people, won a Mom’s Choice Silver Medal and the Evelyn Thurman Young Readers Award.