Today it's my pleasure to welcome my good friend, mystery author Beth Groundwater. Since our first novels were published the same year by the same publisher, and we also live in the same state, I had the pleasure of rooming with Beth at a few conferences and joining with her and others on book signing panels up and down the Front Range.
Beth writes the Claire Hanover gift basket designer series (A Real Basket Case, a Best First Novel Agatha Award finalist, and To Hell in a Handbasket) and the Rocky Mountain Outdoor Adventures series starring whitewater river ranger Mandy Tanner (Deadly Currents, March, 2011, and Wicked Eddies, May, 2012). The third books in both series will appear in 2013.
Beth enjoys Colorado's many outdoor activities, including skiing and whitewater rafting, and loves talking to book clubs.
Being a Friend by Beth Groundwater
Hosting each other at our blogs is one thing that author friends do for each other, but I want to talk today about the friendship between my series sleuth character Mandy Tanner and her best buddy, Cynthia Abbott. Cynthia is a (pretend) bartender at the (real) Victoria Tavern in Salida, Colorado, a hangout for river rats of all types, including whitewater rafters, their guides, and the river rangers like Mandy who keep them safe. In Deadly Currents, the first book in the series, Cynthia comes across as a happy-go-lucky spirit who constantly cracks blonde jokes and is a steadfast friend to Mandy when she suffers a devastating loss.
In Wicked Eddies, it’s Mandy’s turn to support Cynthia, and the first indication that Cynthia is in trouble is when the blonde jokes stop coming. Cynthia’s extended family suffers two blows early in the book, the murder of her fisherman uncle Howie and the disappearance of her teenage niece Faith. Mandy was the one who discovered Howie’s body in a riverside campground and has to deliver some devastating news to Cynthia and other family members.
In the early scene below, Cynthia is polishing an imaginary dirty spot on the bar after serving Mandy her favorite beer:
Mandy realized Cynthia was just going through the motions. “I guess your aunt told you about your Uncle Howie.”
Avoiding her gaze, Cynthia scratched at a sticky spot on the bar. “Yeah, I heard.”
“I’m so sorry for your loss and I feel terrible about it. I’m the one who found him.”
Cynthia’s head came up, concern in her eyes. “I didn’t hear that. That must have been awful.”
Cynthia pulled her hand away and shoved the bar rag into her back jeans pocket. “There’s nothing you need to do. Frankly, I won’t be shedding any tears over good ole Uncle Howie.” Her lips pursed as if she’d bitten into an unripe persimmon.
This wasn’t the reaction Mandy had expected at all. “What’s the story?”
“Nothing to tell. It’s just ... he and I weren’t very close. I never saw much of him after I grew up, didn’t have any need to, so I won’t miss him that much.” Cynthia shrugged, but it seemed forced. “I’m more worried about my cousin, Faith. She’s been missing for almost three days now, and fifteen’s awful young to be on your own.”
“The cops are looking for her. Detective Quintana even gave me a flier to pass around at the ranger station. If she’s anywhere in the county, I’m sure we’ll find her.”
“Thanks. I put some fliers up in the bar, too.” She pointed to one near the front door. “I’m glad so many people are looking for her. I hope she’s just playing hooky with a friend, and they’re both having too much fun to realize how worried their families are.” Cynthia chewed on her lower lip.
“About your uncle, though—”
“I don’t want to talk about him anymore.”
Cynthia’s reactions in this scene confuse and worry Mandy, and she uncovers some dark secrets in Cynthia’s past while investigating Howie’s death. Those secrets, and a damning piece of physical evidence, lead police to suspect Cynthia of the murder of her uncle. Mandy desperately defends her best friend to the police detective, but without much luck. And, she tries to comfort Cynthia, also without much luck. Mandy never stops supporting her friend, though, even when she begins to have doubts herself about Cynthia’s innocence.
Have you ever had to come to the aid of a friend in trouble, even when you doubted their innocence? How did you react?
Beth, thanks so much for joining us here today. I hope to catch up with you at one of your book signings or at a conference in the near future.
To find out more about Beth and her two mystery series, please visit her website and her blog.
And here's a little more about Wicked Eddies:
Fly fishing is dangerous? River ranger Mandy Tanner had no idea until days before a huge tournament in Salida, Colorado. True, the Arkansas River can be a man-eater, but the rapids weren’t responsible for driving a hatchet into the neck of would-be competitor Howie Abbott―a secretive man who may have been cheating. While casting about for suspects, Mandy seeks clues from Abbott’s family members, including her best friend, bartender Cynthia Abbott. But when Cynthia becomes the prime suspect, Mandy realizes she’s wading into deeper, more hazardous waters than ever.