13 writers take a stab at a witty whodunit

Novel: Local author Marcia Talley collaborates with other novelists to craft a murder mystery set in a posh Chesapeake Bay community.

Howard Live

May 27, 2004|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Writing is normally a solitary pursuit, and so it is for Marcia Talley, one of the Annapolis area's renowned authors of murder mysteries, when she's meshing the minutiae of character and plot in the successful Hannah Ives detective series she writes for Morrow/Avon Publishers.

Now, however, Talley has teamed up with 12 other novelists - all female, and all practitioners of the mystery genre - to whip up a spicy, witty whodunit for St. Martin's Minotaur Press called I'd Kill for That.

Like Naked Came the Phoenix, the first serial novel Talley edited, I'd Kill for That was composed round-robin style, one chapter per author - a process that plainly tickles the editor.

"Usually, we're all terribly responsible for our characters, which makes us pretty careful," said Talley of the Gingerville community south of Annapolis. "But in a book like this, we can have them do and say any damn thing we want them to, then turn it over to the next writer and say, `OK, what are you going to do with that?' "

That gauntlet was thrown down to Talley, who wrote Chapter 3, and to other front-line authors such as Gale Lynds, best-selling author of The Coil and co-author of The Paris Option with Robert Ludlum; Lisa Gardner, whose book The Perfect Husband was snapped up by Hollywood; Anne Perry, author of Seven Dials and No Graces as Yet; and Heather Graham, who has crafted some 90 novels under the pseudonym Shannon Drake.

The tumultuous final chapter was penned by Katherine Neville, whose international bestsellers such as The Eight and A Calculated Risk blend history, mystery and hints of otherworldly power.

As editor, it was Talley's job to contribute her chapter and keep her colleagues in the same stylistic ballpark while outlining the basic scenario of the story.

Set on the Chesapeake Bay, Gryphon Gate is an upscale waterfront community for the ultra-rich, pampered and privileged. Trouble comes to paradise in the form of Vanessa Smart-Drysdale, ex-wife of Gryphon Gate's prime developer and mayor, who is out to develop a 300-unit condo project of her own on an adjoining tract.

Environmentalists, politicians, businessmen, the media and some of Gryphon Gate's most libidinous residents cause a ruckus in the wake of Vanessa's plan and, before you know it, a dead body is discovered.

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