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THIRTEEN WRITERS TAKE A STAB AT WITTY WHODUNNIT
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Novel: Local author Marcia Talley collaborates with other novelists to craft a murder mystery set in a posh
Chesapeake Bay community.

By Phil Greenfield
Special To The Sun

May 27, 2004

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 Gayle 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 Graves 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 not only to contribute her chapter, but to 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 of land.

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 face down in a sand trap on the community's posh golf course.

Additional corpses soon dot the landscape as Gryphon Gate's police captain, Diane Robards, makes her way through an unusually goofy band of suspects and some puzzling events, including a hilarious church service where strategically planted clues seemingly outnumber the parishioners.

Though Talley's strong local connections come through more vividly in her Hannah Ives mysteries -- which are set in the area -- readers might connect the moral chaos of Gryphon Gate with the internecine conflicts that ripped apart Annapolis' Fishing Creek Farms community a couple of years back.

But for more vivid images of the Annapolis area in print, stick around for Talley's fourth Hannah Ives mystery, In Death's Shadow, which will be released Aug. 31.

Anne Arundel Community College, the Ginger Cove retirement community (which provides more than its share of victims whose deaths Hannah must investigate) and Route 97 figure prominently in the soon-to-be-released whodunit.

"This is such a neat area," said Talley, "and what tremendous fun it is to imagine all these crazy things taking place here."


Copyright (c) 2004, The Baltimore Sun

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Last updated: 25 September 2005
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