This Blog Tour, organized by Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours, introduces readers to the first two books in the Big Lake Murder Mystery series by Lesley A. Diehl. In this post, Emily Rhodes, the protagonist in the series, tells us a bit about herself.
Guest Post – Emily Rhodes
When I was younger and working as preschool teacher, I never thought my retirement would be the way it is. I dreamed of retiring to North Carolina where I could still enjoy the change of seasons. Instead here I am in rural Florida, and I can’t say I’ve retired at all because I’m working nearly full-time as a bartender at the Big Lake Country Club. A bartender! Me! I’m as surprised as anyone that I would trade chasing preschoolers around the playground for slinging beers and Crown Royal to golfers. But I needed the money after the love of my life, Fred, died suddenly of a heart attack. There was the shock of his death followed by grief, of course, but what was totally unexpected was that he had never changed his will, and that will left everything to his ex-wife. I had no legal standing. I was only his live in girlfriend in the eyes of the law. So until I could hire a lawyer, I had to pay the bills. Hence, I have become an expert at mixing martinis and handling the drunks who insist they “just need one more drink.”
The first bartending job I got was in one of my favorite bars, the Burnt Biscuit, but when I denied drinks to a drunken rancher, actually the rancher who owned the biggest spread in the area, I got fired. Rancher, you say? Isn’t this Florida, you ask? Yes, but this is rural Florida, inland, away from the beaches and bikini-clad babes. The is the land of cattle, cowboys and alligators. It reminds me of Texas with palm trees. It’s hot, it’s muggy, and there is a huge lake here, but the color of the water is brown and it is inhabited by hundreds of alligators. You don’t take a dip in those waters. In fact, you have to watch where you’re stepping in your back yard. Some alligators like to get close and friendly especially if some idiot has been feeding them.
I’m making the best of living and working here. After I got fired, I was hired at the country club. The pay is so-so, but I get free greens fees and I manage to fit in a round every now and then. I’ve met some nice people here: my boss Clara, my neighbor Vicki and some gals I play golf with. Clara was kind enough to hook me up with her father who is a lawyer, so I have legal representation for contesting Fred’s old will. You wouldn’t think his ex-wife would be interested in his piddly little estate especially since she has remarried and is richer than anyone has a right to be, but she’s also greedy, and just plain mean. She likes to see me squirm as I struggle to pay the mortgage on the park model trailer Fred and I lived in. I’m not convinced Clara’s father, Hap, is the best choice of a lawyer, but he’s the only one I can afford (he asked for scratch-offs for payment).
There are some other folks I’ve met, but I’m not certain how I feel about them. One is Detective Stanton Lewis, a homicide detective with the local police department. I guess I forgot to mention that that drunken rancher ended up in the country club dumpster where I found him one night when I took out the garbage. Actually, I fell into the dumpster onto his body. So of course, I’m the police’s prime suspect for his murder. Detective Lewis is a steely-eyed, no nonsense detective who asks questions that will make you squirm. He does his homework, too. He knows more about a suspect than the suspect knows about himself, in my case, herself. And there’s something else. He’s about the handsomest man I’ve ever met. Aside from the fact that he’d like me to confess to the murder, I also get the feeling he’s more than a little interested in me personally. All of that makes me nervous because I find him just yummy, and I’m supposed to be grieving for Fred.
I had to hire a part-time bartender at the country club, and the only one I could get on such short notice was an bass fisherman named Donald Green. He is the most unpleasant man, seems to hate winter visitors, especially Yankee women who he views as having too much attitude. He means me, of course. He seems to get along with other women just fine. Some even seem to find him kind of attractive with his lean, muscular body and long silver hair that he wears in a ponytail. But I’ve never seen him smile unless he’s talking about fishing. It’s said he has the fastest bass boat on the lake. He took me out in it once fishing, but all I caught was another dead body. I still wonder if he did that on purpose. I’m conflicted in my feelings about him because sometimes he can be kind and generous like when he helped me with my car.
These two men are unlike any men I’ve encountered before. I think living in the Big Lake area of Florida brings out some primitive aspects of everyone’s character. Maybe I like that I’m more assertive and certain of myself now than I was before. And maybe I like my men a little on the wild side.
About Dumpster Dying
Emily Rhodes came to rural Florida for the cowboys, the cattle, and to do a little country two-step, not to fall head first onto a dead body in a dumpster. Ah, the golden years of retirement in the sunshine state. They’re more like pot metal to Emily, who discovers the body of the county’s wealthiest rancher in the Big Lake Country Club dumpster. With her close friend accused of the murder, Emily sets aside her grief at her life partner’s death to find the real killer. She underestimates the obstacles rural Florida can set up for a winter visitor and runs afoul of a local judge with his own version of justice, hires a lawyer who works out of a retirement home, and flees wild fires hand-in-hand with the man she believes to be the killer.
About Grilled, Chilled and Killed
It seems as if Emily is destined to discover dead bodies. This time she finds one of the contestants at the local barbecue cook-off dead and covered in barbecue sauce in a beer cooler. She should be used to stumbling onto corpses by now and the question of who killed the guy should pique her curiosity, but Emily decides to let Detective Lewis handle this one, at least until she figures his theory of who did the deed is wrong, wrong, wrong. Lewis’ denigration of Emily’s speculations is condescending enough to stimulate her dormant snooping skills. As the two of them go on their separate paths to find the killer, Lewis’ old partner, Toby the dirty, tobacco-spitting cop interferes in the investigation leaving Lewis with the wrong man in jail. Killers, bootleggers, barbecue and feral pigs—it’s a lethal game of hide and seek in the Florida swamp.
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About the Author
Lesley retired from her life as a professor of psychology and reclaimed her country roots by moving to a small cottage in the Butternut River Valley in Upstate New York. In the winter she migrates to old Florida—cowboys, scrub palmetto and open fields of grazing cattle, a place where spurs still jingle in the post office, and gators make golf a contact sport. Back north, the shy ghost inhabiting the cottage serves as her literary muse. When not writing, she gardens, cooks, frequents yard sales and renovates the 1874 cottage with the help of her husband, two cats and, of course, Fred the ghost, who gives artistic direction to their work. She is the author of a number of mystery series and mysteries as well as short stories. The third book in the Eve Appel murders (from Camel Press) A Sporting Murder was awarded a Readers’ Favorite Five Star Award and her short story Gator Aid a Sleuthfest (2009) short story first place. She has fired the alligator that served as her literary muse when she is in Florida and is interviewing applicants for the position.