Today we travel to Chattertowne, Washington, a town known for it’s…wait for it…gossip. What a great place to set a cozy mystery, so let’s dive deeper into Secrets Don’t Sink.
About the Book
Loose lips may sink ships, but bodies and secrets inevitably float to the surface. Audrey O’Connell has returned from Portland to her hometown of Chattertowne, Washington, a place where gossip is currency but knowing when to stay tight-lipped is priceless. Procuring a part-time job at the local newspaper to keep an eye on her impetuous sister following Vivienne’s latest romantic scandal, Audrey is assigned a feature series for the upcoming festival which has her digging through the town archives. When her former boyfriend is found floating dead in the marina not long after reaching out to her in hopes of utilizing her research skills, her investigation reveals his conspiracy theories about Chattertowne and corruption within its leadership might not have been so crazy after all. As she plumbs the depths of the town’s 150-year history, she discovers that beneath the façade of this idyllic hamlet lie secrets long-submerged–including within her own family–and finds herself in the crosshairs of those who guard them. Now with three dead bodies, a severe case of aquaphobia, and a narrow window before her deadline, Audrey looks to the handsome City Manager, the town’s octogenarian historian, and her enigmatic almost-boyfriend to help her discover the truth that will forever change her and Chattertowne.
Although my tiny apartment in Portland had been no Taj Mahal, Viv’s spare room was a drab and dreary testament to how my life had stalled. I suspected the butter-colored walls were once white but had yellowed over time, imbued with nicotine from past residents. The aged synthetic Berber-style carpet was firm and unyielding. Its foam pad had been flattened under decades of foot traffic and carried a permanent whiff of the previous tenants’ pets. The faulty thermostat vacillated between scorching desert and frozen tundra, but the building super Herbert hadn’t seemed much in a hurry to do anything about it. By the time Darren arrived, it was in sweltering mode. I’d donned cutoff sweats and a tank top, removed my makeup, and pulled my hair into a messy bun. I’d have been mortified to be seen in that state, but the day’s events had sapped me of any pretense and the crying jag in my car had left me emotionally numb. I held a flute of Moscato, my second pour. Darren gave an appraising look but didn’t comment on my haggard appearance or the glass. “I don’t feel like going out after all. I thought maybe we could order in. I’ve started on the wine.” I walked into the living room and slumped onto the sofa. “I see that.” Darren shut the door. “Geez, it’s hot in here.” He shrugged off his jacket and walked over to the thermostat. He tapped the plastic cover. “It’s set to seventy-one but feels like a hundred and ten.” “It’s broken. Or possessed. There’s Moscato on the counter if you want it.” His grimace was my answer. He made no mention of my unsophisticated wine palate or that my apartment looked like that of a starving college student with mismatched thrift shop furniture. I was too buzzed to be embarrassed that I was a thirty-something woman living out a Macklemore song. The sole exception was the sofa, a treasure among trash that cost her former boss a whopping four thousand dollars. An impractical silver velvet with tufted cushions, dramatic claw feet, and antique brass nail head trim, Viv said it was the best thing that came from their ill-fated tryst. Darren sat next to me, our legs close enough to touch but not quite. “Are you okay?” “Not really.” He watched me, as if waiting for me to say more. “Don’t you want to talk about it?” “Not really.” I sipped the sweet wine and stared at the wall behind his head. Its blankness was an appropriate metaphor for my emotional condition. “This isn’t only about seeing a dead body today, is it?” “Nope.” I took a larger swig. “How well did you know him? Marcus, I mean.” “We used to date.” I was too depleted to play coy, too spent to be irritated at his thinly veiled fishing expedition. “Was it serious?” He continued casting and reeling, oblivious to the fact he didn’t have to try that hard to get the information. I was like trout in a catch-and-release pond. I shrugged. “It was serious-ish. I was nineteen. He was eighteen.” I took a sip. “Marcus was a nice guy, but he had a lot of issues. Unmet childhood needs, fear of abandonment, an inability to deal with emotions–his or anyone else’s– it was more than the relationship could bear.” “So, you haven’t seen him…lately?” Darren shifted, his jaw clenching. “Was something still going on between you two? Romantically?” “No. He’s married. Shoot. Was married. I guess you could call us friends, sort of. You know.” I waved my glass, wine sloshing. “The way you’re friends with people you used to know back in the day but now only interact with on social media. You see their posts, maybe click a like on occasion.” “When was the last time you heard from him?” Clench. “He sent me a message a few days ago but I didn’t read it until this morning. He was worked up about something. Said he needed my help.” I stretched my feet before curling them underneath my legs. Darren stiffened. “What do you mean? Help with what?” Both his gaze and his tone darkened. “He said he was in trouble. I got the impression he wanted to say more about it, but…” “But what?” “I don’t know, Darren. Maybe he was being paranoid. Maybe he was in trouble. Like, trouble-trouble.” The smirk he wore wasn’t attractive, and I added it to my growing list of strikes against him. “Trouble-trouble? What does that mean?” “Like with bad guys.” “Darren choked out a harsh laugh and I chalked another strike. “It could be what he meant.” I jutted my chin. “Audrey, come on. The guy was messaging his beautiful ex-girlfriend. His biggest trouble was a jealous wife.” He crossed his arms. “What do you know about his wife?” He paused. “I don’t know specifics, Audrey, I just know women.” “Hmph.” I yawned, annoyance giving way to wine-induced fatigue. “You know, I saw this man leaving the marina in a rage. It could be unrelated to Marcus, but the dude looked mad enough to kill someone.” “He was leaving the scene?” “You sound like Holden.” His nostrils flared, and his jaw clenched. “Tell me about the man.” “He stole my parking spot and then had the nerve to glare at me as if I were in the wrong. The next time I saw him was about thirty minutes or so later, and he was on a rampage. It’s probably just a coincidence. The police want me to give a description of him anyway. If it’s nothing, fine. If it’s something, maybe it can help solve what happened to Marcus.” Darren stayed quiet for a moment before shifting both his position and his temperament. “How’s you research going for your article. Find anything interesting?” He reached his hand to massage my neck. It was a presumptive move that I hadn’t invited but his kneading fingers elicited a groan of pleasure, and my eyelids grew heavy. “Gah. That feels good. I’ve had a headache all afternoon, and I don’t think this sweet wine is helping.” “Audrey.” His fingers tightened as he squeezed the back of my neck. “Did you find anything interesting in your research?” “Um, I might have a lead.” He dropped his hand. “What kind of lead?” “Well…” I yawned again. “I need to talk to Peg at the Chamber of Commerce. People have been strangely resistant and defensive about my questions regarding Chattertowne’s buried history.” “Buried history?” “I can’t shake the feeling this town is hiding something.” I let my lids drift shut. “Either I’m pushing up against bureaucrats who enjoy being difficult for no reason other than the inconvenience of everyone else or it’s a stonewalling technique designed to protect information they don’t want to get out.”
Kate B Jackson (KB Jackson) is an author of mystery novels for grownups and mystery/adventure novels for kids. She lives in the Pacific NW with her husband and has four mostly-grown children. Her debut middle grade release is “The Sasquatch of Hawthorne Elementary” (Reycraft Books) about a twelve-year-old boy hired by the most popular girl at his new school to investigate what she saw in the nearby woods. Book one in the Chattertowne Mysteries series, “Secrets Don’t Sink,” (Level Best Books July 2023) introduces Audrey O’Connell, a small town feature reporter who, when her former boyfriend’s body is found floating in the local marina, uncovers the depths to which some will go to keep secrets submerged.
Her debut novel in the Cruising Sisters mystery series, Until Depths Do Us Part (Tule Publishing) will be released Spring 2024.