The First Time I Read: Welcome Bonnie Stevens

I'm pleased to have award-winning writer B.K. (Bonnie) Stevens as my guest today on Birds and Books. Bonnie's literary inspiration is renowned English writer Dorothy Sayers best known for her mysteries featuring Lord Peter Wimsey. Although I've read several Lord Wimsey novels, Gaudy Night has escaped me. It is now on my must-read list. Read on to find out more about Sayers and about Stevens' latest mystery Interpretation of Murder.
The First Time—Dorothy Sayers
B.K. Stevens
The first time I read Dorothy Sayers, I was in college, spending a summer studying at Oxford. Someone suggested I read Sayers’ Gaudy Night, which takes place at Oxford. Back then, I wasn’t interested in mysteries—I hadn’t read one since my Trixie Belden days—but I decided to read this one for the sake of the setting.
The setting is wonderful, but I enjoyed other elements of the novel even more. I loved the almost Dickensian characters, so funny but often so deeply moving, too. The central characters, as you may know, are Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane—both strong, both witty, but both profoundly bruised by life. The tensions between them don’t result from the sorts of superficial romantic misunderstandings we see in many books: These two characters are different in fundamental ways, and they have real problems to resolve.
I also loved the plot and the theme—I’ve never read another mystery in which plot and theme come together so seamlessly. There are no true red herrings, no irrelevancies thrown in simply to mislead readers. In one way or another, all the evidence is relevant. The challenge is to interpret it correctly, and I’ll admit I didn’t meet that challenge. When I reached the final pages, I smacked my hand against my forehead and said, “Of course! That’s the only possible explanation! How did I miss it?” To me, that’s what the best mysteries do. They play absolutely fair with the reader but manipulate point of view so cleverly that surprises are still waiting at the end, and the resolution of the plot illuminates themes developed throughout the book. Sayers made me a lifelong fan of mysteries, but I’ve yet to find another one that rivals Gaudy Night.

 B.K. Stevens (Bonnie K. Stevens) has published almost fifty short stories, most of them in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine. One of her stories was nominated for Agatha and Macavity awards and also made the list of “Other Distinguished Mystery Stories” in Best American Mystery Stories 2013. Another story won a Derringer from the Short Mystery Fiction Society, and another appeared in Family Circle after winning a suspense-writing contest judged by Mary Higgins Clark. Her first novel, Interpretation of Murder, will be published by Black Opal Books on April 11, 2015. In August, The Poisoned Pencil/Poisoned Pen Press will publish her first young adult novel, Fighting Chance. B.K. has also published a mystery e-novella, One Shot (Untreed Reads), articles that have appeared in The Writer and other publications, and three nonfiction books.

Blurb—Interpretation of Murder
When American Sign Language interpreter Jane Ciardi agrees to work part time for a Cleveland private detective, she thinks it’s just a way to earn extra cash. Officially, her job is to keep tabs on a deaf African-American teenager whose odd behavior alarms her wealthy father. Soon, Jane realizes she also needs to discover the truth behind two murders—including the murder of the first interpreter the detective hired.
To get closer to the teenager, Jane joins an upscale fitness center. She’s attracted to the owner’s son—but can she trust him? The more Jane learns about the center, the more she suspects some people go there to get more than a workout. Somehow, she realizes, the center’s secrets are connected to the two murders and to the deaf teenager’s odd behavior. Jane’s struggle to unravel all the secrets tests her resourcefulness, her integrity, and her courage.   

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