Susan Breen introduces a charming new series heroine in this poignant and absorbing cozy mystery with a bite.

When Sunday School teacher Maggie Dove finds her hateful next-door neighbor Marcus Bender lying dead under her beloved oak tree—the one he demanded she cut down—she figures the man dropped dead of a mean heart. But Marcus was murdered, and the prime suspect is a young man Maggie loves like a son. Peter Nelson was the worst of Maggie’s Sunday School students; he was also her late daughter’s fiancé, and he’s been a devoted friend to Maggie in the years since her daughter’s death.

Maggie can’t lose Peter, too. So she sets out to find the real murderer. To do that, she must move past the grief that has immobilized her all these years. She must probe the hidden corners of her little village on the Hudson River. And, when another death strikes even closer to home, Maggie must find the courage to defend the people and the town she loves—even if it kills her.


Q: Aloha Maggie, thanks for stopping by the blog. Why don’t you tell our readers a little bit about yourself–maybe something they might not guess?

            My name is Maggie Dove. I’m a 62-year-old Sunday School teacher, and the worst trouble I ever got into was when I accidentally set off the church fire alarm while baking pretzels with my class. So you wouldn’t think I’d be investigating a murder, but someone I love was accused of the crime and I knew I couldn’t just stand by. I live in a pretty, old house in a small village on the Hudson River. There’s a small hiding place in the house that my abolitionist ancestors used to hide runaway slaves escaping to Canada. I drive a bright red Audi TT, which is a little florid, but I used to be a mystery writer and my detective drove that type of car. I love it.  My husband was a professor of Russian, so although I’m not an expert, my house is full of books and maps about Russia, and it looks like one of the people in my village works for the CIA.

Q: Who’s the character you get along with the best? 

There are many people I love in my small village of Darby-on-Hudson. In fact, that’s what made my murder investigation so difficult. The more questions I asked, the more I came to realize that the murderer must be someone I love. If I were to pick one person I’m especially fond of, I’d say it’s 6-year-old Edgar Blake, who is the worst of my Sunday School students. Edgar’s a handful, but he has a warm heart, and I feel like I connect with him. Maybe because I’ve always followed the rules, I’m intrigued by people who don’t. Some of my favorite people are the kind who get into a lot of trouble.

Q:  Which other character do you have a conflict with? 

The character who I have the worst conflict with is my neighbor, Marcus Bender. We had a huge argument over the oak tree on my front lawn. You wouldn’t think anyone would have a quarrel with a tree, but Bender did. He wanted me to cut it down because he said it blocked his view of the Hudson River. I love that tree. My father planted it when I was a girl, my late daughter played on it. Its gentle branches have brought me a great deal of comfort and joy. Bender offered me money to buy a new one, and put it somewhere else. I turned him down. Then one morning I went outside and smelled lye in the tree’s dirt. My neighbor was poisoning my tree. I was furious, pounded on his door, told him to stay off my lawn or I’d kill him. The next morning, I found his corpse under that tree.

Q:  Just between you and me: What do you really think of your author?

I love my author, Susan Breen. Or as I think of her, the Boss. She knows lots of fun jokes. She and I share a love of bread pudding. My only quarrel with her is that she’s awfully bossy. She insists I get up and do things when I’d be happiest sitting by the Hudson River, looking at the boats go by.

Q: What’s next for you?

I enjoyed this adventure so much, even though at times my life was in jeopardy, that I decided, with some friends, to set up a detective agency. Of course, it takes a lot of skill and training to be a detective, so right now I’m involved in studying to get my detective license.


About The Author  


Susan Breen is the author of The Fiction Class, her debut novel that won the Washington Irving Book Award. Her stories and articles have appeared in many magazines, among them The Best American Nonrequired Reading, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Compose, Writer’s Digest, and The Writer. She teaches at Gotham Writers in Manhattan; is on the faculty of the New York Pitch Conference, South Carolina Writers Workshop, and the Women’s National Book Association; and is a member of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters-in-Crime. Breen lives in a small village on the Hudson River with her husband, two dogs, and one cat. Her three children are flourishing elsewhere.

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