A Wicked Welcome to Kathleen Marple Kalb! **giveaway**

by Julie, falling in Somerville

I am thrilled to welcome Kathleen Marple Kalb back to the blog today! She’s got a new series, and is here to tell us all about it.

A Diagnosis, not a Definition

Plenty of writers borrow a little from friends or family for a character. It’s a great way to create real and relatable people. But Henry Glaser, the son of my main character in The Stuff of Murder, is special. He’s an eight-year-old with a photographic memory and Type-1 Diabetes.

And he – and I – owe a lot to my neighbors and a very close friend.

Toward the end of lockdown, while I was working on the Old Stuff Mysteries idea, our neighbors’ son was diagnosed with Type-1. Since Covid is so dangerous for people with diabetes, they suddenly had to be as careful as our family is for my husband, an immune-compromised lymphoma survivor. 

So, the boys, who’d always spent some time together, now became an informal pod.  Hosting playdates and pitching in with school pickup, I became familiar with the everyday basics of keeping a child with Type-1 on track. More, I quickly learned it doesn’t stop a kid from being a kid – it’s just part of life. Something to watch. 

Often, I wrote while the boys played, working on my new project, the Old Stuff Mysteries, a contemporary series featuring an historian who solves crimes with her expertise in old things. One afternoon, I was thinking of ways to make sure the fictional community is as diverse as the real world…and the boys ran past, in the middle of some wild cops-and-robbers game. 

ART from Pixabay. Sketch of running kid by Prawny.


That day, I talked to my close friend and best beta reader, whose adult son also has Type-1. She loved the idea of Henry. But she also wanted me to make sure diabetes wasn’t the only thing – or even the first thing – we know about him.

A condition isn’t who you are, after all. It’s something you have. 

Enter the photographic memory.

That’s from my own son. I’ll never forget frantically running around the house looking for something (irony alert: I no longer remember what!) and having my then two-year-old calmly inform me: “it’s downstairs between my truck and the ball.” 

It was. Exactly. 

Giving Henry a photographic memory is a great trick for solving mysteries; he can be counted on to bring up a key clue no one else noticed. It also makes the point that Henry’s Type-1 doesn’t define him.

Once I had the idea for Henry, I spent plenty of time on research and conversations with my friend and my neighbors, getting a sense of what it’s really like to parent a child with Type-1. Henry’s mother, Christian, the main character, is more worried about and focused on his condition than he is, but she also works very hard to let him be as normal as kid as he possibly can be. 

Sometimes she’s too focused on his condition to see other things – entirely normal mom behavior. No spoiler, but that dynamic is a key part of the big scene where Christian catches the killer.

One thing I can promise you WON’T be a part of an Old Stuff mystery: insulin as a weapon. I didn’t realize it until I started promoting the series, but diabetics apparently don’t appear very often in mysteries, except as an excuse to use insulin. Henry is anything but an excuse.

Question: Have you read mysteries with key characters who have chronic health issues – and how were they handled? (One randomly-chosen commenter gets a copy of THE STUFF OF MURDER.)

ART from Pixabay. Sketch of running kid by Prawny.

Kathleen Marple Kalb describes herself as an Author/Anchor/Mom…not in that order. An award-winning weekend anchor at New York’s 1010 WINS Radio, she writes short stories and novels including The Stuff of Murder, from Level Best Books. She, her husband, and son live in a Connecticut house owned by their cat.

THE STUFF OF MURDER: When Hollywood comes to small-town Connecticut, it should be the stuff of dreams – but when a fading movie star ends up dead, a whole different kind of stuff hits the fan.  Unity Historical Society head and antique household items – stuff! — expert Christian Shaw is on set when actor Brett Studebaker falls to his death from the pulpit in an old church. She, the “dads she should have had,” Garrett and Ed, her son Henry, who has a photographic memory and Type-1 Diabetes, and her colorful friends end up helping Assistant State’s Attorney Joe Poli in his investigation. (As does her giant tuxedo cat, Cookie, Ed and Garrett’s big red mutt Norm, and Joe’s tiny dog Cannoli!) Woodworking, embroidery, old poisons, and vintage weapons all figure in the case, which comes together in a wild scene at the Historical Society on Fourth-Grade Field Trip Day.

Buy the book here!

49 Thoughts

  1. Kathleen, this book sounds delightful! I love it when a kid plays a role in solving the murder. And good for you for studying his condition and letting it have a bit part.

  2. Kathleen, I love the sound of this new series. (Still holding out hope for more Vermont Radio Mysteries too!) I’m definitely going to have to pick this book up!

    Off the top of my head I can’t remember a specific character that I read who has a chronic health issue. Of course, it is early in the morning and I’m probably forgetting someone.

    1. Aw, thanks! There IS at least one more Vermont radio book…it’s just a question of how it’s going to get out into the world. As for the question — that’s why I asked it! I know at least one older character develops a health issue as a series goes along, but that’s not really the same thing.

  3. I cannot think of any character I’ve read about in cozy mysteries with chronic health conditions, which is odd when you think about it! I wonder if maybe that’s a normal thing of cozies?? Regardless, your book sounds really interesting with a mom and son!

    1. Thanks a lot! I wasn’t really trying to break ground nearly as much as I was trying to bring a little light on what my close friend and my neighbors do in parenting kids with Type-1.

  4. THE STUFF OF MURDER sounds like a fabulous concept rolled up into a wonderful book! Definitely one I would very much enjoy reading. It’s now on my TBR list.

    With all the books I’ve read, I’m sure there are some that I have read with key characters who have chronic health issues, but for the life of my my memory isn’t bringing any of them up right now. As you see, I definitely don’t have a photographic memory. LOL

    Thank you for the chance to win a copy of THE STUFF OF MURDER. Would love to read and review it.

    Have a terrific Tuesday and upcoming Thanksgiving!
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

    1. Thank you so much! I agree — I’m sure health conditions have come up in series, but I have a hard time coming up with characters. Happy Thanksgiving to YOU!

  5. I can’t remember a title of a mystery with a character having a chronic condition but i think it is great idea! I’m also glad to hear that there is at least one more radio mystery coming our way.
    fruitcrmble AT comcast DOT net

  6. Congratulations, Kathleen. As someone who has MS, I was struck by this sentence: “A condition isn’t who you are, after all. It’s something you have.”

    I’ve had people ask why I don’t talk about my MS more and that sentence sums it up. It’s not that I DON’T talk about MS (I’m saying it now in front a bunch of people, some of whom I barely know), but it’s not the first thing I want people to think of when they think of me. It’s just a thing, a part of my life.

    I can’t think of any mysteries with a sleuth who has a chronic condition. I have a note for an idea of a cop-turned-PI who has MS scribbled away somewhere, but it’s not something I have time to explore right now.

    1. Thank you for sharing this, Liz. The responses to this question might just suggest that there’s a space just waiting for your idea when you have time. I know I’d read it!

  7. I’ve read Becky Clark’s Crossword Puzzle mysteries, where the main character has severe OCD. It is handled very compassionately in the series and also the series makes it a point to elaborate how this condition can be helpful in some cases. I love the premise of your new series and am looking forward to reading it!

  8. I haven’t seen characters with chronic health conditions in cozies before but I have in romance and suspense. I like to see it with as long as it is straightforward and real about what it is like to deal with these issues.
    Looking forward to reading this new book

    1. Thanks, Eva! That’s exactly what I’m trying for — and hopefully what people get when they see how Christian and Henry deal with his condition.

  9. The Stuff of Murder sounds unique and intriguing. What a creative idea. Many mysteries which I read have the major character with afflictions. Ian Rutledge mysteries are captivating and the major character, an inspector suffers with shell shock but forges through with strength and determination.

    1. Thank you, Anne! Your mention of Ian Rutledge reminded me. Lord Peter Wimsey has the same issue, and Sayers handles it pretty well for the time.

  10. “The Stuff Of Murder” sounds like an interesting book. I can’t recall ever reading a book featuring a person with a serious health condition. Educating readers about Diabetes is a plus. Looking forward to reading the book.

    1. Thank you, Dianne! I agree with you — it’s good to get information out there, especially if I can weave it into a fun ride.

  11. I love that you are “normalizing “ a very common condition that is very misunderstood. Lord Peter Wimsey suffers from shell shock, but I can’t think of anyone else off hand. Unless you count getting old. 🙂

    1. Thank you, Ginny! I just remembered Lord Peter a few minutes ago! I know you’re kidding about age — but I’ve read some terrific mysteries where the author does a great job of handling an aging main character’s new limitations and insights.

  12. This mystery is amazing and fascinating. I look forward to reading The Stuff of Murder since it is extremely special. Combining mystery and a chronic illness is wonderful. The Buck Schatz mystery series involves an elderly man who is infirm and filled with vitality to solve crimes.

  13. I love everything about this and I so appreciate you showing representation in an accurate and thoughtful way. And it’s set in CT – yay!! Best of luck with this new series. I always love your covers!

    1. Oh, thank you — that’s exactly what I’m working for. I’ve been really, really lucky with cover art. This one is by Shawn Reilly Simmons at Level Best, and she just nailed it. There’s even a teensy rainbow flag on one of the buildings, a reference to Christian’s “two dads,” Garrett and Ed!

  14. What a fabulous concept! The now grown daughter of a good friend of mine has Type I diabetes. I remember admiring how casually the family handled it. I can’t think of any series characters with chronic illnesses. Well, maybe The Fog Ladies series, they suffer from the usual suspects of advanced age!

    1. Thank you so much, Kait! I had exactly the same feelings about my good friend and my neighbor — they both really rolled with it, and I wanted to show how families can handle big issues and still let a kid be a kid. The Fog Ladies rule!

  15. Hello Kathleen. You have piqued my interest, so I must check your books out! I love the story about your son with photographic memory. I can’t even remember my own phone number unless I say it aloud… hahaha 🙂 I have never read a book with a character with chronic health issues before. Thank you for introducing me to THE STUFF OF MURDER, and for the fun times you will have given to me while I read it. Happy Thanksgiving! Luis at ole dot travel

  16. I don’t recall ever reading a mystery that had a key character with a chronic health condition. If I did, I certainly don’t remember it right now.

    1. Thank you so much, Barb! Shawn Reilly Simmons at Level Best really did an amazing job with the cover!

  17. I can’t think of one in a cozy. In romance, Katie Mettner her characters have handicaps and yet maintain their independence which I think is great.

    1. I do too, Cherie! It’s great when writers do a little more to reflect reality, even within the genre.

  18. I didn’t mean to be anonymous before. LOL. I love everything about this and I so appreciate you showing representation in an accurate and thoughtful way. And it’s set in CT – yay!! Best of luck with this new series. I always love your covers!

    1. Awww, thank you! Word Press has made me anonymous before, too! Really appreciate the good wishes, Korina!

  19. Ellery Queen had a blind sleuth. Sometimes the sleuth has a broken arm or some temporary injury to deal with. Your book sounds interesting. Thanks for the chance.

  20. I can’t remember reading of a character who has a condition. I think I’d remember it if I did. I love your post and how you are not using insulin as a weapon. Thank you for the chance to win and review. aprilbluetx at yahoo dot com

  21. I do not remember reading a mystery with chronic health issues with a key character. That would be interesting as I deal with chronic health issues. Thank you for sharing. God bless you.

  22. I don’t remember reading about a character with a chronic condition in a mystery. Your book sounds really interesting!!! Thanks for the chance!!!

  23. Kathleen, congrats on the new release! I’ve read the Mack’s Bar Mysteries (Milwaukee setting) by Allyson K. Abbott in which the protagonist has synesthesia, a neurological condition that affects sensory perception and contributes to her ability to solve the crimes. I’m very much looking forward to reading your new book!

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