My mystery stories all take place on and around Keuka Lake, one of New York State’s lovely Finger Lakes. But I’ve chosen to call it Crooked Lake, an old name long familiar to denizens of the area. And it is here on this beautiful body of water which the Iroquois referred to as “canoe landing,” that a local sheriff and a vacationing music professor collaborate to bring murderers to justice. When the first of the Crooked Lake mystery novels opens, the sheriff, Carol Kelleher, and the professor, Kevin Whitman, do not know each other. That changes very quickly when Kevin takes an early morning swim and returns to find a powerful and arrogant owner of a local winery dead on his dock. Initially, the sheriff regards Kevin as a suspect in the man’s murder, as well she might. But as the plot unfolds, they become better acquainted, and in due course they team up to become crime solvers.
Carol is a young, late-thirtyish woman who was practicing law in the state capitol when her father, the sheriff of Cumberland County, suddenly dies of a heart attack. She is persuaded to come back to her roots and run for office to replace him. She succeeds, only to be confronted with that body on Kevin’s dock just a few months into her new job. Carol must learn on the fly, using her knowledge of the area, her native intelligence, and a healthy dose of common sense to identify the killer from among a number of suspects, all of whom had a compelling motive to kill the winery owner.
The professor is happy each year to exchange teaching and research at a college down in the city for the pleasures of a leisurely summer at the lake. In his early forties and recently divorced, Kevin would be hard-pressed to say which he prefers: listening to opera or swimming in Crooked Lake. Suddenly, the body on his dock creates a new passion, playing detective. He likes to think outside the box, and while the sheriff is sometimes annoyed when he insinuates himself into her investigation, she comes to acknowledge that he has a sharp mind with the occasional useful idea.
By the time the sheriff and the professor are confronted with another murder, they have begun a tentative relationship. Unfortunately, he gets caught up in a small lie, which threatens to put an end to it before the culprit in the second book in the series is apprehended. But love will find a way, and the sheriff and the professor are once again together as crime solvers on Crooked Lake in the later books of the series. My fans repeatedly urged me to get Carol and Kevin to the altar, and by the end of the fifth Crooked Lake mystery it began to look as if that might actually happen.