Hazel Rose is the amateur sleuth starring in my debut cozy mystery, MURDER AT THE BOOK GROUP. Born and raised on the east coast, Hazel lives in Los Angeles for many years, making her living as a computer programmer. When her fourth husband goes on a skiing trip with a sweet young thing he wraps himself around a tree, leaving Hazel well-fixed. Dispirited and at loose ends, she packs up and returns to the east coast, her fortune and her glamorous calico, Shammy, in tow.
They settle in Richmond, Virginia, with Hazel’s cousin Lucy and her cat, Daisy.
With no money worries, Hazel busies herself with volunteer work, starts a mystery book group, and eventually tries to pen a romance. But five years go by and she realizes that her life is stalled and she can’t seem to restart it. She still lives with Lucy and the cats or, as she prefers to spin it, “She and Lucy live together.” She’s commitment-phobic after so many failed marriages. She has a sometimes relationship (it’s “complicated”) with Vince Castelli, a retired homicide detective. She loves Vince (she thinks) but doesn’t relish the idea of a failed fifth marriage. Her erratic love life makes romance-writing challenging as she must often rely on her memory of love and romance. When writing, current, um, experience, makes all the difference between a sizzling romance and a ho-hum one.
Hazel is slim and attractive, walks a lot, goes to the gym, and tries to eat well. If she could, she’d perpetually wear jeans and sweats, but can, as they say, “clean up well.” Her concession to vanity is an ongoing battle to keep her chestnut tresses gray-free. She gazes at the world through money-green eyes. In one passage she remembers “… One of my exes declaring an exact match when he held a dollar bill up to my eyes.”
Environmentally-minded and frugal, Hazel has little regard for high-living. Her idea of a perfect evening is one spent reading or watching a movie, curled up with Vince (if in on-again mode) and her cats.
When Carlene Arness, current wife of Hazel’s first husband, drinks poisoned tea and dies at a book group meeting, Hazel refuses to believe that Carlene committed suicide. The note found near Carlene’s body indicates that she did, but Hazel maintains that anyone with a modicum of forgery talent could produce a note. Plus Hazel has high-minded ideas about seeking justice. Here’s her cousin Lucy, trying to talk Hazel out of investigating Carlene’s death and realizing that her efforts are in vain: “You always did have a strong sense of justice. I remember visiting you when you were only ten and you’d be outraged at something you read in the paper about a bad deal someone got.”
Maybe finding Carlene’s killer will recharge Hazel’s stalled life.
Unless the killer stalls it for good.