Sunday, June 9, 2013

My Novel: Extreme Unction

Extreme Unction is the first published volume in the Lupa Schwartz  mystery series. Each story is a stand-alone example of a different sub-category in the genre: hardboiled, cozy, thriller, procedural — and each story is pastiche in the Nero Wolfe tradition of self-inclusion into the Sherlock Holmes canon. Lupa Schwartz, Balkan-born former Jew turned atheist, has built a name as a private detective since coming to Pittsburgh following the fall of the Soviet Bloc. Cattleya Hoskin, reporter for Gamut Magazine, is the daughter of the man who once worked as legman for Schwartz’s private detective grandfather. Cattleya has come to Pittsburgh to write a fluff profile on Schwartz when the police coerce Lupa into investigating a high-profile murder involving a Catholic priest and the sensitive issue of euthanasia. For the first time, Schwartz agrees to allow a reporter to chronicle his process, and together they explore this case of Extreme Unction.
All of the elements which are to become the unique hallmarks of the Lupa Schwartz series are birthed in this story: Schwartz’s compulsion to flatten the tires of parking rule scofflaws, Cattleya’s frustration with Schwartz’s refusal to carry a credit card or cell phone, their unspoken agreement to never discuss their shared history, and Schwartz’s fondness for comedy movies. We also meet the supporting cast who populate each of the stories: Mia, the feisty mechanic who lives in Schwartz’s large Victorian during the week to work on his car collection, but who visits her grandmother on weekends; Beverly, the cook and housekeeper who may or may not be in love with Schwartz; and Trevor Johns, the Pittsburgh police homicide detective by day, and Jazz/Blues clarinet player by night.  We also meet most of the revolving cast of bit-players who appear in stories as needed: Jana, Cat’s friend at Gamut Magazine HQ; the Five Seekers, members of a discussion group Schwartz belongs to; and Victor Jenkins, a newspaper reporter.
The Catholic Church officially opposes euthanasia, although there have always been those within the Church who disagree with this position. Father Coneely is one such outspoken advocate who makes the mistake of telling the family of one of his parishioners that, hypothetically, if he coats his finger in candle wax, he can safely apply poison-laden oil to their suffering father during last rites, and nobody need be the wiser. When an autopsy finds traces of the banned insecticide Chlordane in the anointing oil on the corpse of the Hanson family patriarch, suspicion falls on Coneely, but was a lapsing insurance policy the real motive for one of Hanson’s five children to taint the oil?
Extreme Unction is available in trade paperback, and ebook or mobi versions are available. Four more completed novels in the series are going through the editing process, and a sixth novel is in the works. Order your copy today by visiting and don't forget to like the Facebook page.

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