Edith/Maddie writing from north of Boston, where all the leaves have turned, all the sandals are stashed, and all the tomatoes are above average – albeit green.
I’m so happy to welcome friend Judy Penz Sheluk back to the blog. Her new Marketville mystery is out today!
Here’s the blurb for Before There Were Skeletons: The last time anyone saw Veronica Goodman was the night of February 14, 1995, the only clue to her disappearance a silver heart-shaped pendant, found in the parking lot behind the bar where she worked. Twenty-seven years later, Veronica’s daughter, Kate, just a year old when her mother vanished, hires Past & Present Investigations to find out what happened that fateful night.
Calamity (Callie) Barnstable is drawn to the case, the similarities to her own mother’s disappearance on Valentine’s Day 1986 hauntingly familiar. A disappearance she thought she’d come to terms with. Until Veronica’s case, and five high school yearbooks, take her back in time…a time before there were skeletons.
Going Back to High School
After seven years of splitting our time between our condo bungalow in Southern Ontario and our place on Lake Superior, my husband Mike and I decided it was time to try lakeside living on a fulltime basis. There were a lot of reasons for the decision, though the eight-hour drive between the two and ever-rising gas prices was certainly a factor.
Anyone who has ever downsized can tell you that it means a lot of purging, not just dishes and furniture, but personal stuff. Now, I’m a minimalist by nature, buy a t-shirt, get rid of a t-shirt, that kind of thing, but Mike tends to hang on to things, even if those things are stored in boxes he never opens.
Before this move, he had the luxury of keeping those unopened boxes stashed away in a basement closet, promising to get to them “one day.” Knowing we’d be moving into a 1200 square foot house with limited crawl space, that day had come. We decided to treat the whole thing like a bit of a treasure hunt and began to dig.
While we didn’t find any gold or silver beyond some loose change, we did discover old report cards and a box filled with Mike’s high school yearbooks. Gosh he looked young and innocent. And having skipped a grade in elementary school, he also looked much smaller than a lot of kids in his class, especially in the early years.
After my initial fascination with the geeky guy in the pictures, I realized this really was a treasure trove. I found myself randomly selecting a handful of his classmates from grade 9 and tracked them through the years. Some remained throughout, joining sports or clubs, their achievements photographed and journalized (Mike played hockey and joined the wrestling team). Still others disappeared without a mention. Perhaps they’d moved, dropped out, changed schools…anything was possible.
And that’s when the idea struck me. Anything really WAS possible. I’d been looking for a way for my protagonist Calamity (Callie) Barnstable to learn more about her mother’s high school years. Her mother, you see, had dropped out of high school in her final year to have Callie. She’d also long ago dropped out of Callie’s life. But yearbooks…that might just be the “in” that I needed.
I decided that Callie’s estranged grandmother would be doing some downsizing of her own, and in so doing, come across her daughter’s Lakeside High yearbooks. And despite their fractured relationship, or perhaps because of it, she wants Callie to have them. Despite her reservations, Callie finds herself accepting them, albeit reluctantly.
It isn’t long before she’s going through the pages, night after night, getting to know her mother’s life pre-teenage pregnancy, one friend, and one secret, at a time.
Readers: Do you still have your high school yearbooks? If so, when was the last time you looked through them and what, if anything, stood out to you?
A former journalist and magazine editor, Judy Penz Sheluk is the bestselling author of two mystery series: The Glass Dolphin Mysteries and the Marketville Mysteries. Her short crime fiction appears in several collections, including the Superior Shores Anthologies, which she also edited.
Judy is a member of Sisters in Crime, International Thriller Writers, the Short Mystery Fiction Society, and Crime Writers of Canada, where she served as Chair on the Board of Directors. She lives in Northern Ontario on the shores of Lake Superior. Find her at judypenzsheluk.com.