Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Jean Harrington - Designing Woman

She leads a life of crime but has never been jailed.  Meet Jean Harrington, author of the Murders by Design Mysteries, a series of novels with the unlikely combination of mystery, murder, and – interior design.

Harrington, a native of Rhode Island, has always been interested in writing. She spent 17 years as a professor of writing and literature at Becker College in Massachusetts. Although she enjoyed teaching, she always longed to be a full-time writer. So when her three children were grown, Harrington moved to Naples, Florida (a place she calls “Paradise”) and decided to pursue her dream. She penned three novels she describes as “learning experiences” before publishing The Barefoot Queen, a historical romance set in 17th century Ireland. This was followed by a sequel, In the Lion’s Mouth, which follows protagonist Grace O”Malley to the shores of North America. “In these two books, I use the voice of my mother-in-law,” Harrington explains. “She was from County Cork, and of all aspects of the books, I’m proudest of that Irish voice.”

Looking for a change of pace, Harrington decided to try something more modern. “I wanted to create a heroine who was as sassy and witty as Grace O'Malley, but with a 21st century take on life,” she says. Enter Deva Dunne, a witty interior designer and amateur sleuth. While Harrington admits she has never been an interior designer (or a criminal, for that matter), she is inspired by her daughter’s interior design business, a connection that infuses her stories with a sense of realism.  “Many of the phrases that come out of Deva’s mouth come directly from marathon phone calls with my daughter,” she says.  “I get the interior scenes from her as well.  If my stories have authenticity, that’s where it comes from.”

Designed for Death, the first of Harrington’s Murder by Design mysteries, has Deva in an upscale beach condo, following a trail of blood on a white carpet. When the trail leads to the strangled body of her client, Deva looks for the culprit and soon realizes that the murderer has designs on her. Designed for Death was followed by The Monet Murders, where Deva stumbles upon a missing Monet and a murdered cook and becomes one of the suspects in the crime.

In the third book of the series, Killer Kitchens, all the murders take place in kitchens.  “The story starts with a bang,” Harrington says. “It was inspired by a restaurant explosion in Naples.” The fourth Deva Dunn mystery, Rooms to Die For, has Deva investigating the apparent suicide of the owner of her favorite antique shop.

In Harrington’s latest entry, The Design Is Murder (scheduled for release as an e-book on November 17), Deva is thrilled to snag two high-end clients until she learns that both men are vying for the affection of the same woman.  When the woman ends up in the bottom of a swimming pool, Deva becomes suspicious. Did her ex or her current lover kill her? Or neither one?  Then there’s the possibility that her death was an accident, though Deva doesn’t think so. The answer is revealed in the exciting final chapters of The Design Is Murder, where with the help of Charlotte, a five-pound Maltese puppy, Deva brings the villain to justice kicking and screaming all the way.

Harrington hopes her readers will enjoy following Deva as she romps through town creating beautiful homes and solving one crime after another. “My books are for fun, for the reader to take to the beach or an easy chair and enjoy figuring out who dunnit,” she says. She believes what Woody Allen famously said is true:  "A writer’s job is to entertain.  If at the same time, a writer says something meaningful about life and death, those are, in many ways, happy accidents."

1 comment:

  1. Jean's an amazing writer! And a lovely lady to boot. Check out her wonderful series!