Those of us who love to read or write mysteries know that relationships can be murder. Crimes of passion have been at the heart of countless tales of suspense. Just think of all the great plots set in motion by a relationship gone awry.
But what about relationships that develop after a crime has been committed, on the periphery of an investigation? How can an event change the way we interact with people we've known — or thought we knew — for years? Those were the questions I sought to answer when I started writing my novel Jump.
Jump begins when San Francisco's most despised landlord plummets 20 stories from the roof of his own apartment building. Was it suicide or did someone help him jump? Well, it turns out that everyone living on the top floor of the building had reason to want him dead, so there is no shortage of suspects. A classic whodunit, only in this case the murder — if there really was one — isn't the real story. The crime is merely a catalyst for uncovering the relationships between an eclectic bunch of strangers who call themselves neighbors.
I've lived in cities and apartments most of my adult life and had many neighbors over the years. People you greet in the hallway, wave at in the grocery, or chat with in the laundry room. Someone with whom you share the elevator, discussing the weather or last night's game until you reach your floor and say your goodbyes. But as Big Bird has asked so often over the years, who are the people in your neighborhood?
How well do you know your neighbors? Would you be friends if you didn't live down the hall from each other? Lovers? What do you have in common beyond the ground beneath your feet? Is your soul mate hiding in plain sight? And if an extraordinary event occurred to thrust you even closer together, how would your relationships change?
In describing my fictional neighbors, Library Journal refers to "rollicking humor and characters right out of a 1930s Agatha Christie country house mystery." There's the two young women paying for graduate school by operating a website that reveals much more than their SAT scores. A lonely jazz singer more than willing to confess to any crime, past or present. The B-movie producer with a swollen prostate and a shrinking bank balance. Two brothers at the end of the hall, who just quit their day jobs to sell pot for the Mexican mob. And the recently retired cop who grudgingly agrees to start an investigation of his own. The only thing they have in common is a general agreement that their landlord got what he deserved.
ForeWord magazine added, "this is one hilarious yarn with one of the most bizarre collection of tenants since One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest." But strange as they may be, all these characters are loosely based on actual acquaintances. People I knew in passing, familiar faces I always wondered about. Neighbors who are part of each other's worlds simply by virtue of a shared zip code.
Jump explores the possibility of those nascent relationships all around us. It's a mystery, but also a romance, a handy guide to finding true love in the midst of a multiple homicide.
So next time you find yourself sharing the sidewalk or an elevator with your neighbor, take a closer look. You just might be standing next to someone who secretly loves you. Or someone who wants to kill you. After all, in mysteries as in life, sometimes the two go hand in hand.
Thanks for reading.