This past week I had the pleasure of seeing the last installment of my Endurance Mystery series launch on Amazon. Death Takes No Bribes is the finale of a trilogy that began with Three May Keep a Secret, and Marry in Haste. I have been fortunate to have had steadfast readers who have stayed through this series, beginning to end. I thank all of you who have followed the adventures of Grace Kimball and TJ Sweeney. It was my intention to create a series of books that celebrated the strength and friendships of women. In that respect, I have surely succeeded.

Out of necessity, I became what is currently known as a “hybrid” author—an author who has some self-published books, as well as books with a traditional publisher. When that publisher, Five Star/Cengage, took two years to get my second book out, I self-published an e-book novella about my detective, TJ Sweeney, called The Locket: From the Casebook of TJ Sweeney. Then, after the next book, Marry in Haste, Five Star abruptly abolished their entire line of mysteries with no explanation.

The final book, Death Takes No Bribes, is also self-published. However, I can assure readers that my freelance editor and my proofreaders are the same highly professional people who scoured my first two novels and made sure they were top quality with few, if any, typos or mistakes. I am thankful for their help. I also hired two topnotch women, Jennifer Zaczek (Cypress Editing) and Karen Phillips (Phillips Covers), who did the formatting and covers for my two self-published books. They made my job a cakewalk.

I have learned so much during the last five years of my work on this series. The publishing industry continues to change dramatically, and what is true one week is often not true the next. I’ve been to a huge book conference, Malice Domestic, in Bethesda, Maryland, during two of those years and met gifted mystery writers.

Still, the most important and satisfying part of this experience has been sitting down at my computer typing away as I put words into the mouths of Grace Kimball and TJ Sweeney. I will miss this entire group of characters as I venture into a new series without them. As we all know, life is filled with hellos and goodbyes, even for fictional friends. I will miss them.

When Marry in Haste came out, I posted about the characters’ lives in between the first two books. Now I do the same for the final time.

Marry in Haste ends on January 25, 2012. Death Takes No Bribes begins the following February 5. As with all good Midwestern conversations, a description of the weather is absolutely required. So here it is: The winter has been truly grueling with record snow in the small town of Endurance. Residents have been housebound for a considerable time, and the weather shows no sign of abating. There. That should be enough weather to satisfy Midwesterners.

When Marry in Haste ended, Grace was in a terrible fix. Her boyfriend, Jeff Maitlin, had vanished, off on some mysterious mission about his past. He didn’t return her phone calls or her voice messages. He always was the mystery man, saying practically nothing about his past or why he came from New York City to the small town of Endurance. Grace maintains hope that she will hear from him again, but so far, it hasn’t happened. Detective TJ Sweeney, as always, is skeptical.

Del Novak nursed Lettie Kimball through a badly sprained ankle when she fell off a ladder, and she’s fine now. In fact, Del has taken a part-time job doing custodial work at the high school, much to Lettie’s consternation. Simply adoring her full-time ought to be enough job for him, in her opinion.

TJ Sweeney breathed a sigh of relief after the last murder in her small town, and she figures she won’t see any more for years. She’s wrong, of course, or we wouldn’t be reading the third Endurance novel. Her cat, Eliot Ness, is still staying with Lettie, and he enjoys being spoiled rotten. I’m afraid TJ may have lost him indefinitely.

In Death Takes No Bribes, some new characters who live on Sweetbriar Court will appear, as well as a beautiful, taffy-colored English cocker spaniel named Stella.

Before long, however, some strange things will happen at Endurance High School, and TJ and Grace will be watching each other’s backs once again. You never know who might meet a tragic end in Endurance because, as Benjamin Franklin’s saying goes, “Death takes no bribes.”

Susan Van Kirk     May 13, 2017

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