Tuesday, September 17, 2013

"Murder and Marinara"

A Jersey girl born and bred, Rosie Genova left her heart at the shore, which serves as the setting for the Italian Kitchen Mysteries. An English teacher by day and novelist by night, she also writes women’s fiction as Rosemary DiBattista.

Genova applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Murder and Marinara, the first of the Italian Kitchen Mysteries, and reported the following:
In my debut mystery, Murder and Marinara, the main character, Victoria Rienzi, is a mystery writer who returns home to the Jersey shore to work on a historical novel based upon her family; part of her research involves working in the family restaurant, the Casa Lido. In the following scene, Victoria is with her sister-in-law, who serves as the Watson to her Sherlock. The two women are discussing the mysterious death of television producer Gio Parisi, who was found dead behind the restaurant. Victoria stresses that the cause of death is still unclear, however, and quotes fictional detective Lord Peter Wimsey on the subject of murder: “If you know how, you know who.”
“The hell with Lord What’s His Name.” In one wave of her manicured hand, Sofia dismissed Dorothy Sayers, along with all logic and reason. “There’s a lot we can do in the meantime. We can find out if he owed anybody money, who he had fights with, particularly his wife. I hear she’s a lot younger than he is.”

I grinned. “That makes her guilty for sure.”

“Too bad she wasn’t there. Not that I’m counting anybody out at this stage of the investigation.”

“Hey, don’t you have classes to teach or something?”

Sofia glanced at the corner of her computer screen. “Not for another hour.” She looked up at me and smiled. “You’d be amazed at what I can find out in sixty minutes. And don’t try to act like you’re not interested, because you are.”

She was right; I was interested, but more than that, I was worried about protecting the Casa Lido. I stood up and pushed in the chair. “Okay, I give. We can do some research. But that’s all.”

She jumped from her seat and high-fived me, nearly knocking me off my feet. (For a little girl, she packs a punch.) “You go, SIL,” she sang out. “And keep me posted.” She settled back in her chair, her eyes glued to the screen. “In the meantime, I’m gonna dig up all I can on the widow.”

* * *

I had just pulled into the restaurant parking lot when my phone buzzed, but I didn’t recognize the number. “Good morning, Victoria,” purred a female voice in my ear. “This is Nina LaGuardia from News 10.”

I muttered a forbidden word and sighed. “How did you get my number, Ms. LaGuardia?”

The lovely Nina chose not to answer, and instead fired a few questions of her own. “How are you and your family holding up? Is it true that your brother used his position on the police force to keep them from closing the Casa Lido?”
What happens on page 69 is significant for several reasons. First, we see that the main character, Victoria, tends to live in her head. As a writer of mysteries, her understanding of murder comes from Dorothy Sayers and Agatha Christie, and her own experiences as a mystery writer. Getting involved in a real murder is going to move Victoria from thought to action, and drive home the point that real life murders don’t follow a formula. In terms of the case, we learn that the dead producer’s wife was younger than he was, but that she was not on the scene when he died.

We also get a sense of Victoria’s relationship with her sister-in-law Sofia. The two women are close, with obvious affection for each other, but are also brutally honest. Sofia tends to strong-arm Victoria, but also makes the observation that Vic is already curious about the murder. In fact, this page represents a turning point for the main character; when Victoria agrees to do some research, it’s the first step in her taking an active role in the investigation. And part of what drives her is the need to protect the reputation of her family and their restaurant. After the scene break, the phone call from the reporter adds another layer of pressure for Victoria, as her brother’s reputation is at stake now as well. I think this page is representative of my character’s motivation, her loyalty to her family, and the humor that runs throughout the book.
Learn more about the book and author at Rosie Genova's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue