Leslie Nagel is a writer and teacher of writing at a local community college. Her third Oakwood Mystery Series is The Advice Column Murders. A small-town resident her entire life, Leslie feels her fictional world contains some delightfully fun characters. Here’s the story behind the latest murder in the town of Oakwood.
After the written word, her passions include her husband, her son, and daughter, hiking, tennis and strong black coffee, not necessarily in that order. “I have lived in Oakwood all my life, and I love it,” Leslie said. “While my books poke sly fun at some of the personality types we all find in suburban America, there is no intention to lampoon or satirize Oakwood or its citizenry. It’s an amazing, beautiful place to live. If I’d grown up somewhere else, I doubt I’d be writing. Come to think of it, I actually don’t know who or where I’d be. I met my husband in seventh grade at Oakwood Junior High!”
The importance of family
Leslie said each book in the Oakwood Mystery Series centers around themes of family, duty and community. “Nothing is more important to me than family, which is why my stories all revolve around variations on that theme. If you boil down the motivating factors for any good story, you’ll find the characters were ultimately driven to act because of a crisis, memory, or duty connected to family.”
This focus on family takes a deadly twist in The Advice Column Murders when an unhappy family moves into town and their adult daughter is murdered in the basement. Soon, everyone in town suspects the other members of the household. Leslie said, “Against the family’s will, my protagonist peels away layers of mistrust and deceit to get at the truth. Ultimately, the motive behind the murder stems from betrayal of one family member by another, but not in the way anyone expected.”
The Advice Column Murders and Oakwood, Ohio
“My hometown of Oakwood, Ohio is quite real, as is our local paper,” Leslie said. “The Oakwood Register has a society column; the “Police Blotter” is breathlessly anticipated each week. A few years ago some friends and I decided it was a great pity we didn’t have an advice column. A glass or two of wine later, we were making up ridiculous queries and responses. That idea lingered, and—presto! ‘Ask Jackie’ was born.”
With this third book in the series, Leslie feels her fictional world now contains some well-developed characters. She said. “A favorite of mine and many of my readers is Dmitri, Charley’s loyal, flamboyantly hilarious friend. He loves being in the thick of things, and that gets him into trouble more often than not. I wondered what mischief he might get up to that could lead—inadvertently of course—to a murder?
“As a rule, Jackie’s tone is devilish, sly, and light hearted—which is why the serious subject of the letter from ‘A Tortured Soul’ has Charley so worried. When she makes the connection between that letter and the murdered woman next door, and because she also suspects she knows who the mysterious ‘Jackie’ is, she has no choice but to investigate.”
Suggestions for crime scenes.
“While its circulation is relatively small, the Oakwood Register is available online,” Leslie said. “I went to school with the publisher (of course I did), so naturally I paid her a visit and asked permission before I turned her paper into a major plot point in a murder mystery. She was so taken with the idea of ‘Ask Jackie’ that she insisted on running the column in the paper! Anyone who wants more ‘Jackie’ may go to http://www.oakwoodregister.com/ and check out all the March 2018 issues. The April 4th issue coincides with the launch of this book. It contains the infamous letter from ‘A Tortured Soul’ that triggers the murder.”
Leslie said the series has become quite well known in Oakwood. “Everywhere I go, friends greet me with suggestions for crime scenes. ‘You should kill someone in Dorothy Lane Market!’ ‘You know, the tennis courts would make a perfect place to dump a dead body.’ ‘If you decide to poison someone, do it in the high school cafeteria. Everybody will just suspect the food.’
“When people who don’t know the context overhear these conversations, I get the strangest looks. Folks begin edging away from me, shielding their children and so forth. One of these days I expect to hear a knock at my door and find an Oakwood officer wanting to have a little chat.”
Learn more about Leslie Nagel and The Advice Column Murders at LeslieNagel.com.