Writer revisits Magothy for mystery Arundel real estate agent does sleuthing on side in Lee's second book

October 30, 1997|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

A pair of Anne Arundel County real estate agents have been murdered.

Local female real estate agents have been getting obscene phone calls. Are they being made at random, or is the killer stalking prospective victims by phone?

No wonder so many agents are attending self-defense workshops, stocking up on pepper spray, and showing houses with a buddy.

All this murder and mayhem along the Magothy can mean only one thing: Eve Elliot, Anne Arundel County's real estate agent turned super-sleuth, is at it again, courtesy of author Barbara Lee, whose first whodunit, "Death in Still Waters" (now in paperback), introduced the intrepid and melancholy detective in 1994.

Once again, Anne Arundel County becomes the backdrop for a tale of suspense, and local mystery fans can delight in reading about familiar shopping areas, restaurants, and roads as the suspects and red herrings parade by. Marley Station, West Annapolis, Maryland Avenue, a forever clogged Church Circle, the Naval Academy Chapel, Ritchie Highway, and Ann's Dari-Creme, "Home of the Famous Footlongs," are but a few of the venues Lee describes. The 52-year-old author plainly keeps a close watch on us Arundel types from her home in Columbia.

Born in Cooperstown, N.Y., Lee worked in New York City as one of the editors of the Nancy Drew series before heading south to write for Maryland Magazine and to establish herself as a corporate writer for local real estate companies.

Lee's interest in that industry pervades her books, and the adeptness with which she describes the tribulations of Eve's profession has caught the attention of real estate agents who have made her one of their own.

She's been invited to speak at real estate functions and has been requested to remind real estate agents about the safety procedures she researched for her books.

"It's such a tough and exposed profession," she says. "My editor asked me, 'Can't you get Eve out of her car?' But I stuck to my guns. That's where real estate agents spend all their time."

Lee gets plenty of offers for help with her books. "People want input," she says with a laugh. "They tell you what they want to read. They make plot suggestions. My neighbor insisted that Eve belonged back with her husband."

Thankfully, that advice was ignored, and Eve has met an enigmatic Annapolis real estate mogul who, one suspects, will be brought back in the third book.

That next novel, tentatively titled "Dead Man's Fingers," is written. But before it can be submitted, Barbara Lee has some serious research to do.

"People don't realize the number of facts you have to check when you write fiction," she says. "I have seven pages of things to check out. Are the fire engines in that area yellow or red? Believe me, if you get it wrong, your readers will let you know about it. It's a fun thing to get up in the morning and just make stuff up, but checking on the details is a killer."

Pub Date: 10/30/97

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