Lies, Truth & Mystery Writing

Thanks to "The Wickeds" for hosting me and my fellow Level Best Books authors to chat about one of our favorite topics–how mystery writers use elements of the truth to tell the lies at the core of murder mysteries.

And here's my contribution to that post:

My mystery, The Turncoat’s Widow, tells the fictional story of General Washington’s most reluctant spy, a young widow who races time and traitors to uncover a plot that threatens the new nation.

The book was born, so to speak, at the Morristown National Historical Park, where Washington and his men spent two miserable winters. I was volunteering there when I found a dry-as-dust old document, a Revolutionary War-era indictment for the crime of traveling to New York City “without permission or passport.”

A crime to head into Manhattan? I’ve lived in or near New York City for most of my life, and that document stopped me in my tracks. I brought it to one of the Park historians for an explanation.

The population wasn’t entirely sold on independence, he told me. Less than 50% of people south of New England supported independence, historians believe. And there was so much spying and smuggling between New York City and nearby New Jersey, that the government criminalized travel into the City without permission. I’d forgotten that England controlled NYC for most of the War.

A divided nation. Spying and smuggling. All of a sudden, the 18th century seemed very present. My plot started to take shape.

Facts alone don’t make a story, of course. I needed a heroine, and I found one I hope you like as much as I do. Becca Parcell is too busy struggling to survive in Morristown to give a fig – at least at first ­– who wins the War for Independence. But when the town wrongly accuses her of supporting England and causing her patriotic husband’s death, General Washington offers her a deal she can’t refuse.

The Turncoat’s Widow can be preordered now and will be published on February 16.

The Jacob Ford Mansion was Washington's headquarters in Morristown during the winter of 1779-1780. (Source:

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