One Dead, Two to Go, by Elena Hartwell: A Private Eye Gets in Over Her Head

one_deadOne Dead, Two to Go ($14.95, 240 pages, ISBN: 978-1-60381-311-2), by debut novelist and established playwright Elena Hartwell, launches a new series: the Eddie Shoes Mysteries, set in Bellingham, Washington. Private Investigator Eddie Shoes takes on mobsters, hucksters, her ex, and her mother as she searches Bellingham for her missing client.

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** Also available in audiobook **

4 Stars: “Hartwell has created quite a winner in the unique and clever Eddie Shoes, and this first case features not only a twisting, turning, fast-paced plot, but also a number of nuanced, quirky relationships, making for a story that is fun and increasingly absorbing, especially as readers learn more about this headstrong heroine’s past…. This is a clever and well-paced mystery that will have plenty of readers eager for the next installment.”  Read more….

—Bridget Keown for RT Magazine

“Mystery, murder and mayhem collide in this intriguing new series! An original, well written gum-shoe, readers will find an easy ebb and flow of sequences with just enough mystery to keep them guessing. From their strained past to their bumbling investigation skills, this quirky combination of a mother-daughter reunion turned crime-fighting duo will captivate readers.… Avid Alphabet series connoisseurs should flock to this kick-off series.”  Read more….

—Roberta Gordon for InD’Tale Magazine

“I thought that this was a thoroughly enjoyable story, well written with fresh and interesting characters, hopefully this is the first of a nice long series…. Moira Driscoll was an excellent choice for this book, she gave each character a distinctive and easily identifiable voice. I thought she captured Eddies character perfectly, lively and feisty when appropriate, I especially appreciated how she conveyed all the hidden undercurrents of emotion in the relationship between Eddie and Chava. An all round high quality production.” (Review of the audiobook. Read more ….)

–Audiothing

“Oh, Eddie/Elena—please don’t stop. You’ve got me hooked, snooked, and ready for another long and lovely rain-drenched mystery-reading night from the pitch-perfect pavement-pounding Eddie Shoes.”

—Carew Papritz, author of the award-winning bestseller, The Legacy Letters

“One Dead, Two To Go is smart, page-turning fun, with the most feisty and likable P.I. since Kinsey Millhone. Looking for your next favorite detective series? Look no further.”

—Deb Caletti, National Book Award finalist and author of He’s Gone

“Private eye Eddie Shoes and her cardsharp mother plunge the reader into a tale of fractured relationships, mayhem, and thrills. I look forward to the next Eddie Shoes adventure!”

—Deborah Turrell Atkinson, author of the Storm Kayama Mysteries

“Elena Hartwell doesn’t just burst onto the scene with this clever mystery novel—she kicks the door in and holds the reader at gunpoint.”

—Peter Clines, Award-winning author of The Fold and the Ex-Heroes series.

“Attention mystery fans hungering for the good stuff: One Dead, Two to Go is a full course buffet. Infidelity, murder, and kidnapping are all on the menu, but the main course is Eddie Shoes (great name!), who is an engaging, resourceful, and tough female P.I. Throw in her poker-playing, Mafia-connected, breaking-and-entering mother Chava and a pot-boiler of a plot, and I finished this book with a full belly, yet starving for more Eddie Shoes adventures. The writing is cinematic and vivid, the characters well-drawn, but the dynamic between Eddie and Chava, which reminded me fondly of Cagney and Lacey, is what makes the story. Fans of the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich should definitely check out One Dead, Two to Go. Recommended.”

—Max Everhart, author of the Eli Sharpe Mystery series

“Playwright Elena Hartwell mines her glorious dramatic talent in a debut novel called ONE DEAD, TWO TO GO, where Eddie (Edwina) Shoes, a Bellingham P.I., solves the double crimes of money-laundering and murder with dedicated detective work, done with subtle sleuth’s irony—and the expert help of Chava, her humorous, clever, light-fingered, poker-playing Mom.”

—Robert J Ray, author of eight Murdock mysteries and the Weekend Novelist’s guides to writing

“Eddie Shoes is not just any PI. She operates out of Bellingham, tucked up in a cool, misty corner of Washington, not a place known to be a hotbed of trouble. Trouble finds her nonetheless. Hired to do surveillance on a cheating husband, she soon encounters a dead body and missing persons and steps into a maze of danger that includes the suspicious client who may or may not be a double-dealing grifter. Unlike the standard-issue PI, Eddie seems allergic to guns and violence and worries about a bad haircut as much as the stalking danger. Funny, clever, and full of grabbing plot twists, Elena Hartwell’s One Dead, Two To Go, the debut novel in her Eddie Shoes series, takes the mystery lover into unexpected territory, including the introduction of Chava, the intrepid mother who is kicked out of Vegas by the Mob and shows up uninvited on Eddie’s doorstep. This is a fast, memorable and entertaining read. Warning: you’ll want more.”

—Scott Driscoll, author of Better You Go Home

“Where One Dead, Two to Go triumphs is in its endearing heroine. In Eddie Shoes, we have a character who is smart and sassy and doesn’t make a big deal about herself, but who lights up the pages.”

—Bharti Kirchner, author of ten books, including her latest, Goddess of Fire: A Novel

“ ‘So I shot Karl.’ With those words, Elena Hartwell’s sleuth, Eddie Shoes, gets her ritual initiation into the bloody world of the PI. Eddie is a fascinating character and One Dead, Two to Go, is a polished first novel. Eddie is a study in 21st Century feminism wrapped in Northwest Gortex and Ms Hartwell is a terrific writer with fine control of the genre, an ear for sharp dialogue, and a smart mouth that makes her work a pleasure to read: ‘I finished the slideshow by adding the pictures of her husband pulling up in front and then him leaving a few hours later along with the shots of the mistress kissing him goodbye. The guy really did have great hair.’ I look forward to the next Eddie Shoes mystery. You will too.”

—Jack Remick, author of the California Quartet series and co-author, The Weekend Novelist Writes a Mystery

“With a good supporting cast, good conversations (especially Eddie’s internal dialogue) and a comfortable tone, this was an enjoyable read and I can’t wait to read the next book with Eddie, Chava and the gang.”

—Dru’s Book Musings

Private Investigator Edwina “Eddie Shoes” Schultz’s most recent job has her parked outside a seedy Bellingham hotel, photographing her quarry as he kisses his mistress goodbye. This is the last anyone will see of the woman … alive. Her body is later found dumped in an abandoned building. Eddie’s client, Kendra Hallings, disappears soon after. Eddie hates to be stiffed for her fee, but she has to wonder if Kendra could be in trouble too. Or is she the killer?

Eddie usually balks at matters requiring a gun, but before she knows it, she is knee-deep in dangerous company, spurred on by her card-counting adrenaline-junkie mother who has shown up on her doorstep fresh from the shenanigans that got her kicked out of Vegas. Chava is only sixteen years older than Eddie and sadly lacking in parenting skills. Her unique areas of expertise, however, prove to be helpful in ways Eddie can’t deny, making it hard to stop Chava from tagging along.

Also investigating the homicide is Detective Chance Parker, new to Bellingham’s Major Crimes unit but no stranger to Eddie. Their history as a couple back in Seattle is one more kink in a chain of complications, making Eddie’s case more frustrating and perilous with each tick of the clock.

Says Hartwell, “I always start from character. Eddie Shoes came to me by way of my husband. He made up the name one day when we were on a road trip. I got intrigued. Who was this Eddie Shoes? Was that the name her parents gave her? She had to be a private eye, but what was she like? Those questions got me started writing One Dead, Two to Go. I found myself really enjoying Eddie’s company. She’s quirky and flawed and I love her sense of humor. It didn’t take long for me to realize her sidekick was going to be her mother Chava. Chava takes risks her daughter doesn’t, which I thought was interesting. What kind of woman would produce a daughter like Eddie Shoes? I found myself as embroiled in their dynamic as the mystery itself. Those are the kinds of stories I like best, equal attention to plot and character, so that’s what I’ve striven to write. Currently working on the second book in the series, I continue to enjoy spending time with Eddie, and I hope readers do too.”

Elena Hartwell’s writing career began in the theater, where she also worked as a director, designer, producer, and educator. Productions of her scripts have been performed around the U.S. and abroad, with some of her plays are available through Indie Theater Now and New York Theatre Experience, Inc. She lives in North Bend, Washington, with her husband. For more information, click here.

Keep reading for an excerpt:

The loud pounding shouldn’t have come as a surprise. After all, the police weren’t used to people slamming doors in their faces, and that’s who I’d just locked out of my office.

“Eddie? What the—? Open the door.” Chance Parker’s voice hadn’t changed. It was still low, but carried a weight to it like every word he spoke mattered. I leaned against the glass with the hope my heart wouldn’t leap out of my chest and splatter on the ground at my, or worse yet his, feet.

The next rap was a knuckle on the glass, instead of the wood frame of the door. The sharp sound of it pulled me out of my panic, and I wrenched the door back open. Just like ripping off a bandage, best to get it over with quick.

“Sorry about that. I thought I heard the phone ring,” I said, my response inexplicable even to myself.

The woman with Chance looked at me like I might be certifiable; he just looked amused. I’m not sure which expression annoyed me more.

“Mind if we come in? We have a few questions for you,” Chance said, though it was clear he wasn’t going to take no for an answer. The “we” included Detective Kate Jarek, who introduced herself and said, “I understand you two know each other.”

“We do,” I said, looking to Chance to see if he planned to fill me in on what he’d told her about our history.

Chance rubbed the side of his cheek as if checking for stubble. It was an action I remembered well—an unconscious gesture he made when he didn’t know exactly how he wanted to respond. Chance was careful with his words, as if they were valuable and he might accidentally drop one he couldn’t afford to lose.

“Down in Seattle,” he said. His eyes held mine, and for an instant I thought he might say more. Something was there in the softness of his gaze, but that brief moment of connection passed and he glossed over a complicated relationship with that single sentence.

I told myself he couldn’t do anything else. Even if it might have felt good to hear he forgave me, now wasn’t the time.

Maybe we could see each other again soon. Alone. And I could find a way to make amends.

“Come on in,” I said, standing aside to let the two of them through the door. I shut it behind them, taking a deep breath before I turned around to face them.

Chance began to pace, his nervous energy filling the room. From the way he averted his gaze from the two of us, I could tell his mind was now focused solely on whatever brought him to my door. I respected that about him. His attention would be directed at you for a moment—intense, all consuming—then he’d turn outward again, as his work took precedence.

Chance was taller than Kate by at least six inches. I could look him in the eye if I were wearing tall shoes, so he stood just over six feet. His hair was brown, but if we were outside, sunlight would glint off red highlights. His eyes were the color of dark chocolate—that satiny look it took on when you melted it on the stove to make some delicious, fattening dessert you knew you shouldn’t eat but couldn’t help yourself from making.

“What can I do for you?” I asked, curious about why a Seattle detective—and my old flame—had appeared on my doorstep up here in Bellingham.

“We’ve got some questions about Deirdre Fox,” Kate said.

That certainly threw me for a loop. I don’t know what I thought they might question me about, but Deirdre Fox wasn’t even in the top ten.

“Okay,” I said, wanting to see where their questions would lead.

“Were you following her or working for her?” Chance asked, confusing me even further.

“Neither,” I said, which was technically true.

“Care to explain this?” Kate handed me a photo that looked like a still picture taken from a video surveillance camera. It wasn’t very high quality, but it was good enough to identify me in my Subaru taking pictures with my telephoto lens. I could tell from the background it was from my stakeout at Hallings’ dealership.

“Why would you think I was tailing Deirdre?” Maybe the woman had filed a report she was being stalked and my name had come up as the stalker.

Maybe I wasn’t as stealthy as I thought.

“Because she turned up dead this morning,” Chance said, carefully gauging my reaction. Shock kept me quiet and he continued, “In recreating her final day, we scanned the videotapes from her place of business, looking for anything unusual. Then you showed up.” Chance tilted his head in that way he had, eyes narrowed, reading your every move, like a cat getting ready to pounce.

Dead?” I repeated, trying to absorb the fact that someone I saw yesterday in her lingerie was no longer breathing.

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