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murder at spoters point
978-1-59414
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MURDER AT SPOUTERS POINT

In MURDER AT SPOUTERS POINT, the grisly murder of a visiting yachtsman, allegedly by a local Indian, shakes a New England seacoast town and severely tests the loyalties of a white woman and her Native lover.

When Miranda Lewis, a workaholic writer of books about American history, and her boyfriend, Nate Barnes, a hot-tempered former American Indian Movement activist, visit friends—hers at the Spouters Point Maritime Museum, and his at a nearby Native-owned gambling casino—they know it’s not going to be smooth sailing. But neither anticipates the storm that’s about to break when Miranda’s friend’s yachtsman fiancé is brutally murdered, and Nate’s casino friend is the leading suspect. Miranda’s quest for the truth not only puts her at odds with Nate, but with her own friends when her friend’s brother emerges as a suspect. It also leads her to a life-and-death struggle with a crazed killer.

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MURDER AT SPOUTERS POINT — REVIEWS

“ . . . an entertaining Rhode Island amateur sleuth mystery that focuses on the modern day divide between whites and Native Americans while enhancing the story line with historical references. The cast is solid as the two cultures converge at Clambanks. . . . readers will enjoy this interesting whodunit.”
Harriet Klausner, Genre Go Round Reviews

“Leslie Wheeler offers us a look at an unusual subject: Indian-run casinos and a view of prejudice, whether in a relationship, or in general. She has writtten an intriguing plot with insight into her characters who are skillfully portrayed. Murder at Spouters Point has much to offer in history, setting and relationships as well as a mystery brimming with surprises. Leslie Wheeler has written a very enjoyable book.”
Connie Gregory, Connie’s Reviews

Murder at Spouters Point is the third of Leslie Wheeler’s “living history” mysteries featuring her good-natured, but stubborn heroine Miranda Lewis. In it, she blends suspense, romance, and Native American folklore with a dynamic storyline and vivid characterizations; the end result, a truly winning combination. The story advances through the eyes of Miranda as she grapples with feelings of love and frustration for Nate, and their ever-present cultural obstacles. . . . Wheeler’s realistic portrayal of her characters really drives the plot to its climactic end! Historian by day, amateur sleuth by night, Miranda Lewis proves to be everything you’d want in a strong, independent heroine as she winds her way through the myriad of suspects to get to the truth.”
Brenda Scott, reviewer for Examiner.com, Associated Content

“. . . a very good story, well told. I would recommend it to mystery lovers as well as those who like a bit a history with their entertainment.”
Sara Berger, Mysterious Women

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gettysburg
ISBN: 1594142882
(hardcover)

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gettysburg
9-780373-26590-9 (#590)
paperback

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MURDER AT GETTYSBURG

For the devoted, some might say obsessive, Civil War reenactors, authenticity is key—right down to the specifics of dying on the battlefield. Except for real bullets. So when hard-core Confederate reenactor Wiley Cross dies during the annual Fourth of July reenactment of Pickett's Charge, foul play is suspected.

For historian Miranda Lewis, the bizarre incident is personal. The dead man is the estranged husband of her good friend, and soon Miranda is drawn into the curious, often misunderstood, world of reenactors as she attempts to find out who shot—and poisoned— Wiley. The clues span the passions of a bygone era, and the enduring human foibles of hatred and revenge, leading Miranda on a perilous reenactment of a murder… where her own historical accuracy could prove fatal.

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MURDER AT GETTYSBURG — REVIEWS

Four Stars from Amazon's #1 reviewer!

"... readers will enjoy how MURDER AT GETTYSBURG provides insight as to what happens behind the scenes at a reenactment... the entertaining amateur sleuth story line grips the audience until the heroine risks her life confronting the killer."
Reviewer Harriet Klausner

". . .a great summer read for history/mystery buffs. . . Read and enjoy this patriotic mystery." Mystery Loves Company newsletter

". . .a very readable book. Miranda Lewis is a likable heroine and the use of first-person narrative is engaging . . . This is a book mystery fans and history buffs alike should enjoy, not to mention anyone who has ever tried to get through Gettysburg on a summer day when the re-enactors are in town -- and wanted to kill someone." Ann Diviney, The Evening Sun

"History and homicide combine to create an explosive-and thoroughly entertaining-tale of murder and mayhem on the modern-day Gettysburg battlefield." Joanne Dobson, author of THE MALTESE MANUSCRIPT

"Leslie Wheeler sucks you right into the fascinating world of Civil War buffs and battle recreations-in MURDER AT GETTYSBURG, she puts her own spin on 'reenacting the crime.' " Toni L.P. Kelner, author of WED AND BURIED

"The twists and turns in the book keep us guessing until the end . . . a good read that kept my interest all the way through." Sara Berger, Mysterious Women.

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plimoth plantation
ISBN: 0967819970
(hardcover)

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plimoth plantation
ISBN: 0373265239
(paperback)

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MURDER AT PLIMOTH PLANTATION

It's the week before Thanksgiving, and history textbook writer Miranda Lewis has deadlines to meet. But when a routine check-in call to her young niece ends in tears and a hang-up, Miranda hurries to Plimoth Plantation, where her niece works as an interpreter.

At the recreated seventeenth-century village in Plymouth, Massachusetts, Miranda encounters protesting Indians, quarrelling Pilgrims, and tension aplenty. The day after her arrival, the explosive atmosphere turns violent when someone beheads the interpreter who portrays Miles Standish. With suspicion falling on her niece, over-heard arguing with the victim the night before, Miranda sets out to uncover the truth. Along the way she discovers more than she expected.

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MURDER AT PLIMOTH PLANTATION — REVIEWS

"Touches of romance interwoven with the mystery make MURDER AT PLIMOTH PLANTATION a light, appealing read." Romantic Times Magazine

"Mayflower descendant Wheeler is in her element in this fictional brew of history and mystery." The Boston Herald (Editor's Choice)

". . . the sense of place and the portrayal of the interpreters are as engaging as the mystery itself." The Boston Globe

"The plot moves along smartly with some good twists and turns and a satisfying ending. . . . The bits of information and quotes from the writings of original settlers added a nice historical flavor throughout." The Berkshire Eagle

". . .a quick and enjoyable read and the format screams 'sequel.'" Cambridge TAB

"The perfect holiday dinner gift! Cambridge resident Leslie Wheeler introduces an interesting new heroine in MURDER AT PLIMOTH PLANTATION." Kate's Mystery Books

". . .a traditional British mystery in form [with] some intriguing looks back to 1627." Poisoned Pen Bookstore

". . . a great job! I found the book to be most interesting." Eugene A. Fortine, Governor General, General Society of Mayflower Descendants

When this book was first published in 2001, I embarked on an ambitious, if grueling, schedule of events. Read the essay below ("Notes from the Road") for a humorous account of my experiences as a first-time mystery author promoting her book.

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red dawn
ISBN: 978-0983878063
Published November 2015
Buy the Book: $15.95
 
BEST NEW ENGLAND CRIME STORIES 2016: RED DAWN
 
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rogue wave
ISBN: 9780983878049
Published November 2014
Buy the Book: $15.95
 
BEST NEW ENGLAND CRIME STORIES 2015: ROGUE WAVE
 
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stone cold
ISBN: 9780983878056
Published November 2013
Buy the Book: $15.95
 
BEST NEW ENGLAND CRIME STORIES 2014: STONE COLD
 
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blood moon
ISBN: 9780983878025
Published November 2012
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BEST NEW ENGLAND CRIME STORIES 2013: BLOOD MOON
 
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dead calm
ISBN: 9780983878001
Published November 2011
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BEST NEW ENGLAND CRIME STORIES 2012: DEAD CALM
 
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thin ice
ISBN: 978-0-9700983-8-1
Published November 2010
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THIN ICE: CRIME STORIES BY NEW ENGLAND WRITERS

Featuring Leslie’s short story,
“Dead Man’s Shoes.”

In writing and now editing a collection of short stories, I’ve been inspired by the many fine stories I’ve read in previous Level Best Books’ collections, and those I’ve read as chair of the Al Blanchard Short Crime Fiction contest. For more information about this contest, visit the Crime Bake website: www.crimebake.org.

 
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deadfall
ISBN: 978-0-9700984-5-0
Published November 2008
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DEADFALL: CRIME STORIES BY NEW ENGLAND WRITERS

Featuring Leslie's short story, "Twenty-One Days."

 
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stil waters
ISBN: 0-978-0-9700984-4-3
Published November 2007
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STILL WATERS: CRIME STORIES BY NEW ENGLAND WRITERS

Featuring Leslie's short story, "Visual Field."

 
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seasmoke
ISBN: 0-9700984-3-X
Published October 2006
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SEASMOKE: CRIME STORIES BY NEW ENGLAND WRITERS

Featuring Leslie's short story, "Skystalker."

 
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windchill
ISBN: 0-9700984-2-1
Published October 2005
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WINDCHILL: CRIME STORIES BY NEW ENGLAND WRITERS

Featuring Leslie's short story, "Neighbors."

 
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notes from the road

flowerWith my mystery coming out in mid-October (or so I thought), I knew I was getting into the game late when I started calling bookstores and libraries about my book in late August. But I also knew that "events" were important, so by making countless cold calls, doing mailings, and following up, I managed to create an ambitious, if grueling schedule for myself, which included an event every day from Tuesday through Sunday the week before Thanksgiving. (Since the action of my book takes place around the holiday, I figured this was an important time for me to be doing publicity.) In the talks I have and brief exchanges I had with people who came to signings, it was nice to be able to say, "In real time, the action of this book is taking place right now," or "The climax is happening tonight." I could tell from people's reactions that this approach piqued their interest. So if your book is time-specific, use this in your presentation.

Because of my book's location, I scheduled lots of events on the South Shore and the Cape, but after a number of trips in that directions, I started feeling as if I never wanted to drive the Southeast Expressway again-especially at rush hour. I also began to view my eleven-year-old, non-automatic Saab in a different light. Maybe, after all, it would be nice to have an automatic with some of the amenities that my car lacks-like a proper drink holder for those containers of coffee I needed to keep me going, and automatic windows. Which brings me to another word of advice: buy, lease, or borrow a comfortable car if you're going to be doing a lot of driving. Or get someone to play chauffeur at least a few times. I felt very pampered when my husband drove me to events in his new Lexus.

On the subject of family, sometimes it's good to bring members along. I did a weekend afternoon mall signing and an event at a small independent with my husband and ten-year-old son in tow, and enjoyed having them grin, wave, and make funny faces at me when things got slow. At the independent, my son stood next to me for awhile, and when I introduced myself as "Leslie Wheeler, the author of . . .," he piped up with, "And I'm her son."

flowerSome events were downright discouraging; few people showed up and/or few bought books. I felt I'd driven a long way and made an effort for nothing. But I reminded myself ofr something a literary author, Kate Wheeler, said at a workshop on publicity: "Be there for the people who come." And I console myself that sometimes even a well-known author like Dennis Lehane only draws a few people. So why should I feel bad if only three show up for me, a complete unknown?

It helped, too, that I had some great events with large turnouts and good sales, at which I met some really nice people. Even if they didn't buy a book, people were friendly and wished me luck. One thing is discovered is that many people are thrilled by meeting a real-live author. At a mall signing, two teenage boys came up to me and asked if I was J.K. Rowling. "Do I look like her?" I retorted. Then I told them who I was, and offered to sign postcards for them. They actually seemed pleased. Later that same day, two dads brought their daughters to meet "the author" and again I signed postcards for them.

Even though I've had my ups and downs on the publicity road, I'd still do it again. Why? There's this rush that comes when you're able to schedule an event, another rush when you meet someone who's enthusiastic about your book and buys copies for friends and family. So I keep going. But one of these days I've have to slow down enough to write that sequel that some people I meet say they're dying to read.

flowerflowerflower

This essay first appeared in "She Dunnit!", The Newsletter of Sisters in Crime/New England, Volume 8, No. 1-Winter 2002

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proposal

flowerElizabeth poked at the dwindling fire in her Franklin stove. Would spring ever come? It was early April and just a week ago, they'd had a lovely burst of warm weather. The few remaining patches of snow had melted, the ground had turned soft and spongy, and one could smell the earth and its hidden growth again. Then the cold had returned, sudden and fierce - almost as if he had brought the bad weather with him.

"Starkweather - isn't that the perfect name for such a forbidding man?" Florence, the most irreverent and rebellious of Elizabeth's students at Mount Holyoke Female Seminary, had said. "And the way he talks -" Florence mimicked the Reverend Starkweather's sonorous tones. "I pity those poor natives having to listen to him tell them what wicked heathens they are. And those jowls - he reminds me of a bulldog. Can't you just see him down on all fours in front of the seminary, ready to growl at any unlucky young man who happens to call?"

Elizabeth had laughed with Florence. Then, it had been easy to make fun of the Reverend Starkweather. Now, it wasn't - not when the reason for his visit was so obvious, nor his interest in her so evident.

Everyone at the seminary knew the Reverend Starkweather was looking for another wife. He needed assistance with his missionary labors in India, and having found a suitable helpmate among the Mount Holyoke faculty before, it was natural that he return to the same hunting ground after his first wife's death.

Ever since his arrival several days ago, he had singled out Elizabeth for particular notice. At meals and at missionary meetings when he spoke about his work, his eyes often sought hers. Just this afternoon, he had surprised her by coming into the room while she was conducting her section meeting. He seated himself in the back, nodding approvingly every time she rebuked an offending student. After the bell rang and the girls left, he congratulated her on how she maintained discipline. "Girls at that age can be most trying, not unlike some of the natives my late wife had to deal with. But like you, she knew how to keep them in their place."

Elizabeth had sensed then that he meant to propose - perhaps this very night. If he did, how would she respond? Once, her acceptance would have been a foregone conclusion. Teach, then marry: that was what was expected of her. When her father was alive, she hadn't thought much about marriage. It would happen sometime in the distant future, and she'd trusted Providence to place in her way a husband of great intelligence and personal charm - in short, a man much like her father. But here at Mount Holyoke, she met only ministers and missionaries, and failing an offer from one of them, she faced spinsterhood, empty and ignominious.

But then Florence had helped her see another possibility. The girl's talk about making a name for herself as an actress or public lecturer made Elizabeth wonder if there wasn't something she burned to accomplish herself. At first, she couldn't think of anything, but as she recalled her helplessness and anger when her father died, she discovered a hidden yearning. If only she had possessed the medical knowledge that could have saved him.

"By all means, become a doctor!" Florence cried when Elizabeth confided her ambition. "Other women have done it." Florence showed her an advertisement in The Liberator, placed by a woman who described herself as a female physician "attending to all diseases incident to the human frame except those arising from immorality."

flowerElizabeth protested that it was all very well for William Lloyd Garrison and his motley crew of reformers to support a female physician, but she feared that a long, lonely struggle lay ahead of her. And even if she did manage to obtain a medical degree, she worried that no respectable person would seek her services.

"Professor Hitchcock doesn't think it wrong for girls to learn about human physiology," Florence countered. "Why not speak to him about becoming a doctor?"

But so far Elizabeth had refrained from approaching the professor. She was afraid it was folly to even consider pursuing studies that few other women had attempted, and that were likely to bring her censure and ridicule. On the other hand, if she married the Reverend Starkweather and went with him to India - that hot, dark, inhospitable continent - she would earn the approbation of many, including Miss Mary Lyon, the seminary's founder and head. Elizabeth knew that Miss Lyon held the Reverend Starkweather in high regard. He was a graduate of Yale College, spoke several languages, and was well known for his missionary labors. To receive an offer of marriage from such a man was a great honor. Did she dare refuse it to follow the will-o'-the-wisp of a career in medicine?

The knock that Elizabeth had been expecting came. Hugging herself against the chill, she went to the door.

The Reverend Starkweather stood with his back to Elizabeth in the large double parlor, apparently lost in contemplation of the pot-bellied stove. He turned and she saw his face as a collection of shiny surfaces dominated by the wide, gleaming convexity of his forehead, from which his hair receded in dark, oil-slicked waves. How sleek and polished he looked. Even his eyebrows were stiff and glistening. Perhaps he waxed them. But how to explain the perfect sheen of that dome-like forehead? She imagined native servants buffing away until they could see reflections of their own dusky features.

"Ah, Miss Flynt." The shiny surfaces rearranged themselves slightly as he spoke. "I hope I am not interfering with your preparations for tomorrow's exercises."

"Not at all."

He cleared his throat before continuing. "In some it might seem the wildest presumption to speak to you as I am about to. But the Lord has granted me the power to look deeply into the human heart. And what I have seen in your case has served to confirm certain impressions formed on first becoming acquainted with you. Shall I tell you what I have seen?" Without giving her a chance to reply, he said, "I have seen a noble soul aquiver to accomplish some high purpose, yet uncertain of its true vocation. For some years now, you have discharged your responsibilities to the girls of this seminary worthily and well. But this chapter in your book of life will soon close. You will begin a new chapter more exalted than the last. As my wife, you are about to enter a great and glorious service in the vineyards of the Lord."

The Reverend Starkweather's face glowed with the same rapt look Miss Lyon's face wore when she spoke to the students and teachers about salvation. But the words that followed offered no vision of paradise.

"You will die in India!" he exclaimed. "I know it and see it as clearly as I see you here before me."

Elizabeth recoiled with shock. The Reverend Starkweather's face gave way to a vision of a headstone shimmering in the heat of that far-off place, keeping company with an older slab belonging to the first Mrs. Starkweather. She remembered the other woman's letters, read faithfully at their weekly missionary meetings. Those letters described the new bride's struggles with seasickness, homesickness, and the mastery of a foreign tongue. They spoke cheerfully of her efforts to find a bit of Boston in Bombay, but also of her despair at the harshness of the climate and the people themselves. At the same time, the letters revealed that the former seminary teacher had done her duty. She had taught in the mission school, visited high-caste Indian women in the seclusion of the zenanas, and given birth to a child under conditions her readers shuddered to imagine.

"What happened to her- your first wife, I mean?" Elizabeth asked.

flowerThe Reverend Starkweather looked surprised. "You do not know? Very well then, I am happy to tell you because my wife's last illness and death may serve as an inspiration to all Christian women. The infection must have come as a result of childbirth, because less than two weeks after we buried little Mary, the awful symptoms manifested themselves. First, a stiffness in the jaw, then, a strange restlessness and nervous irritability, which increased to the point where my wife could not bear noise of any sort and often complained of being cold, though the hot weather was upon us. When she began to experience difficulty in swallowing, I became truly alarmed and insisted she take to her bed and a doctor be called.

"But to no avail. Poor Eudocia now suffered from painful convulsions brought on by the slightest disturbance - noise, a draft, a jarring of the bed. During one such convulsion, her face assumed a singular expression. Creases appeared in her forehead, her brows arched, and her mouth locked in an unnatural smile."

Elizabeth felt her own facial muscles tensing.

"Yet her mind remained clear," he said. "When, fearing the end was near, I asked, 'Is Jesus still precious?' she nodded in reply, as she was no longer able to speak. An hour or so later, one last terrible seizure shook her frame and she departed this life - happy, I am convinced, that God should have used her, however briefly, as an instrument of His glory."

Elizabeth felt as if she were choking. She opened her mouth to gasp for air and an odd, throaty sound came out. A few seconds later, the noise repeated itself. To her great embarrassment, she realized she had the hiccups. She covered her mouth, hoping to stifle the sound, but it was no use.

The Reverend Starkweather stared at her in amazement. Hiccups, she knew, were hardly the response he expected, and his annoyance was evident in his voice. "If you hold your breath long enough, the spasms should cease."

Elizabeth held her breath until she felt her lungs would burst. But her only reward was another hiccup, louder than the ones before.

"Try again," the Reverend Starkweather commanded in a tone he might have used to direct a wayward native, or possibly his late wife.

Elizabeth made a final effort, sucking in the air and holding it within puffed cheeks until the bubble burst and she let go. She wasn't just hiccupping now, but shaking all over with wild, unfamiliar laughter.

Through the blur of her tears, she saw the horror in the Reverend Starkweather's face, heard the panic in his voice. "You must control yourself, Miss Flynt!"

flowerShe tried to steady herself by wrapping her arms around her waist, but she couldn't stop the spasms or the laughter - not even when he seized her by the shoulders and shook her. His head bobbed so close that she could smell the brilliantine on his hair. He released her with a look of anger and disgust. She had one last glimpse of his face, now pale and dull like old wax. Then he turned his black, clerical back on her and the eclipse was total.

Everyone at the seminary wondered at the Reverend Starkweather's abrupt departure the next day, wondered why this soldier of the Lord who had swept into their midst like a conquering lion should now flee like a frightened sheep. But Elizabeth was able to quell the gossip so that all her students ever knew was that Miss Flynt had become overwrought and been calmed by Miss Lyon and a cup of chamomile tea.

flowerflowerflower

This short story was published in New England Writers Network Magazine, Autumn 2004.

 
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