Susan Van Kirk

The Art Center Mysteries by Susan Van Kirk

Susan Van Kirk By Susan Van Kirk
For the past eight years, I’ve written a series called the Endurance Mysteries. Their setting is the small town of Endurance in west central Illinois. The same main characters inhabit each book, so over these years I’ve grown to know these imaginary people quite well. It would be easy to keep writing this series—and I plan to write more—but I needed to head off in a new direction. And so the Art Center Mysteries were born. New setting, new characters, new research.

The characters in my Endurance series are like old friends, and many of them are seniors. My first novel in the new series is called Death in a Pale Hue. Jill Madison, the protagonist, is thirty years old, and her best friend Angie is the same age. I, on the other hand, am well into my senior citizen years, and I found myself calling my thirty-something daughter-in-law to ask advice about Jill’s frame of mind.

Jill has two vastly different brothers. The oldest Madison, Tom, is a detective in their town of 15,000. His ringtone on Jill’s phone is the theme from Law and Order. He is by-the-book, dot the I’s and cross the T’s, and protect his younger sister, Jill. Andy, the middle adult child, is the owner of a gift shop with his partner Lance, and his ringtone is “Welcome to the Jungle.” Jill thinks of her brothers as John Wayne and Looney Tunes. Tom cautions her to be careful, while Andy encourages Jill to do crazy things. Their family endured a tragedy together a few years earlier that has sealed their shared bond.

The new setting is Apple Grove, a small town with an art center Jill will manage. It’s named for Jill’s mother who was a world-class sculptor. The old building they refurbished was built in 1870. It has needed a great deal of work, including lifting the floors a good six inches. Jill oversaw this work despite the worries of some of her board members. Returning to Apple Grove after living in the Chicago art scene for nine years meant Jill would need to prove herself to people who remembered her as a kid. The president of her board and personal nemesis, Ivan F. Truelove III, emails her daily with suggestions about what she could do to make her work at the art center better. He is like a gnat, flying around her with irritation. But many people on her board have faith in her, so she must make sure her first big exhibit goes well. Nothing can go wrong.

All would go well except some unforeseen events throw Jill’s life and job into jeopardy. She needs good publicity and a smooth first exhibit to make sure her job is secure. Would an author let that happen? Of course not. It doesn’t take long for everything except a plague of locusts to show up, and Jill Madison—even with the help of her family and best friend—will find herself in trouble with her board and with a murderer who plans to paint her out of the picture permanently.
Susan Van Kirk is a Midwest writer, living in downstate Illinois. Her writings include the
Endurance Mysteries: Three May Keep a Secret, The Locket: From the Casebook of TJ Sweeney,
Marry in Haste, Death Takes No Bribes, and The Witch’s Child. Harlequin Worldwide
Mystery is currently republishing her entire series. A Death at Tippitt Pond is her standalone
mystery. She is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and is President of
the Guppy Chapter of Sisters in Crime. Her website and blog are at
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