Ann Parker here, Monday's child for the Lady Killers, heading back from Malice. While I try to deal with jetlag and catch up with a mountain of work, I'm turning the virtual podium over to mystery author Beth Groundwater and her character, Claire Hanover. Beth Groundwater’s first mystery novel, A REAL BASKET CASE, was published in March 2007 and was nominated for a Best First Novel Agatha Award. The second in the Claire Hanover gift basket designer series, TO HELL IN A HANDBASKET, will be released this month. It is set in Breckenridge, CO and opens with a death on the ski slope. As Kirkus Review said, "Groundwater's second leaves the bunny slope behind, offering some genuine black-diamond thrills." Between writing spurts, Beth defends her garden from marauding mule deer and wild rabbits and tries to avoid getting black-and-blue on the black and blue ski slopes of Colorado. Please visit her website. Now, let's see what Claire Hanover has to say ...
News from Summit County, Colorado
A reporter for the Summit Daily News, the local newspaper covering events in Breckenridge and other Summit County, Colorado locales, offers this extraordinary report to the readers of The Lady Killers blog:
Ina Bigjam here. I talked recently with Claire Hanover about the death of Stephanie Contino at the Breckenridge Ski Resort yesterday. Claire is a gift basket designer visiting Summit County from nearby Colorado Springs. Here’s my interview.
Claire, can you tell us what happened yesterday?
Oh, it was horrible! Poor Stephanie. She was an excellent skier. But somehow she crashed into a tree on the ski slope and suffered a massive head injury that killed her. I can’t imagine what her parents and her brother must be going through! She was skiing with us when it happened, and I feel so guilty.
But it was an accident, right?
That’s what they say, but I don’t believe it. None of us actually saw Stephanie hit the tree. Afterward, I saw ski tracks in the snow that showed someone deliberately hit her and forced her to crash into that tree. But before I could point the tracks out to anyone, the ski patrol obliterated them with the rescue sled, so now no one believes me.
But that's awful! How did you know Stephanie Contino?
I just met her yesterday, but she seemed like a lovely girl, poor thing. She was the sister of my daughter Judy’s boyfriend, Nick. But you know, there’s something fishy about that family, and I’m afraid Judy may be in danger, too. I wish I could just leave Breckenridge and take her with me.
Why can’t you?
You obviously haven’t met my daughter. She’s the definition of stubborn, barely listens to what I have to say, then ignores my advice and does what she wants. Three months ago, I worried that she would do something stupid in France during her spring semester art study program, like starting to smoke pot or heaven forbid, getting a tattoo or piercing. Fortunately, nothing so far! But she’s showing all the signs of having fallen in love with Nick. She refuses to talk about leaving him, even for a short while.
What are you going to do?
I’ve got to convince Detective Silverstone of the Summit County Sheriff’s Office that Stephanie was murdered and that my Judy needs protection. Oh God, I’m scared to death that she’ll be hurt. And when one of my kids is threatened, my Mama Bear claws come out!
How did you come to be in Breckenridge?
Roger and I thought it would be a nice romantic getaway after the trouble with Enrique in Colorado Springs that almost ruined our marriage. And, it would be a chance to visit with Judy during her spring break. Since she’s gone to France, heck, since she’s gone off to college, I really miss her. Unfortunately, she invited her boyfriend and his family to come, too, so it hasn’t been the cozy family vacation that I envisioned, not at all. I wish to God they hadn’t come. Then poor Stephanie might still be alive.
What was the trouble with Enrique that you mentioned?
I don’t want to talk about it. You can read about it in Beth Groundwater’s book, A Real Basket Case, if you really want to know. Let’s just say that I’m extremely grateful Roger didn’t end up in prison.
Can you tell me a little about yourself?
My husband Roger and I live in Colorado Springs, Colorado. I have a part-time gift basket business that I run out of a workroom in our basement, and I’ll be donating a basket to the Summit Foundation fundraiser that’s coming up soon. As for skiing, Roger and I started when we were dating in college. We usually rent a place in the mountains for a week at least once each winter.
Something’s been troubling me. If you were skiing with her, why didn’t you see Stephanie’s accident?
Because I’m not in great shape. I can ski the expert slopes every now and then, but they really make my knees ache. It’s hard to keep up with the kids, and I could tell Judy was getting impatient with me. I told the girls to go ahead. God, I wish I’d been able to keep up with them! Maybe then…
At this point, Claire Hanover, who had been holding back tears throughout the interview, choked up and couldn’t continue. You can be assured that I’ll be following this story closely for the Summit Daily News. This has been Ina Bigjam, reporting.
*Note: This interview took place after the events chronicled in chapters one and two of Beth Groundwater’s mystery novel, To Hell in a Handbasket, the second in the Claire Hanover gift basket designer mystery series. For reviews, excerpts, discussion questions, and more information about the book, and to see where Beth will be signing copies this summer, please visit her website. Claire Hanover has agreed to answer questions from The Lady Killers blog readers since her interview with Ina Bigjam had to be cut short, so have at it!
If you comment on Beth Groundwater’s guest blog post here, or comment on her blog during the tour, you will be entered into a drawing for an autographed set of both books in the Claire Hanover gift basket designer mystery series: A REAL BASKET CASE and TO HELL IN A HANDBASKET. Good luck!