FEATURED AUTHOR: CONNIE di MARCO
ABOUT THE BOOKSan Francisco astrologer Julia Bonatti never thought murder would be part of her practice, but when her former boss and current client asks for help she agrees to go undercover at his law firm. Three people have received death threats and the only common denominator between them is a case long settled–the infamous Bank of San Francisco fire. Julia’s astrological expertise provides clues but no one wants to listen. Before she can solve the mystery, two people are dead and her own life is in danger. Julia must unmask the killer before he, or she, takes another life.
Title: Tail of the Dragon
Author: Connie di Marco
Series: Zodiac Mysteries, book 3
Publisher: Midnight Ink (Llewellyn Worldwide) August 8, 2018
Print length: 325 pages
On tour with: Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours
INTERVIEW WITH CONNIE di MARCO
Connie, what’s the story behind the title of your book?
Julia Bonatti, my protagonist, is an astrologer and she discovers her clues and unmasks murderers using astrology. That’s not to say she solves crimes by sitting at her computer, not at all. She also investigates and puts her life at risk in every book.
It’s important to tie the plot and the astrological clues together. Tail of the Dragon is an astrological reference to the South Node of the Moon. The sign of the North Node indicates the talents and skills to be developed in this life, while the South Node shows the past, patterns that one must let go of. When someone resists moving forward, they are locked into behavior that is no longer relevant, patterns that are destructive or even self-destructive.
The South Node of the Moon is called the Cauda Draconis, the Dragon’s Tail. That’s where the title comes from, and it’s the astrological clue that Julia finally discovers.
Tell us about your series. Is this book a standalone, or do readers need to read the series in order?
Oh, not at all. All the books in the Zodiac Mysteries can be read as standalones. The Madness of Mercury and All Signs Point to Murder are the first two in this series.
Each book follows along in chronological order but there’s enough of a reference to earlier stories that the reader would have no trouble figuring out Julia’s past and present.
Julia, besides her private clientele, writes an astrological advice column (anonymously as AskZodia) for the Chronicle. In The Madness of Mercury, Julia responds to a woman who’s concerned because her mother has joined a church that requires her to sign over all her property and savings. Julia’s very suspicious and advises the woman to have the group investigated. Julia believes the woman’s mother is under the influence of unscrupulous people. She then learns she has become the target of an evil preacher who is preying upon the wealthy and the elderly and is out to destroy her.
In All Signs Point to Murder, Julia, in an effort to help a friend, becomes involved in what is at first thought an accidental shooting. Eventually she gets to the truth of the matter and uncovers a complicated conspiracy to commit murder.
Where’s home for you?
Where did you grow up?
I was born and grew up on the east coast, in Boston. I went to school there, was married there, and my older daughter was born there too. There are a lot of interesting things about that city, but I have to say, I don’t miss the months of brutal winters!
Have you been in any natural disasters?
I lived through the Northridge earthquake in 1994, a 7.2 on the Richter scale. Over the years, I’ve experienced many smaller earthquakes in California, but nothing like this one. I was dreaming that my cat was swinging from the chandelier in the bedroom. He wasn’t. It was just a dream, but when I woke up my cat was nowhere to be found and the entire house was going up and down and sideways. We all escaped to the front lawn and spent the night there (in January) as did all our neighbors, afraid to return home. In fact, because of aftershocks, we camped outside for three days. The aftershocks lasted for years, but eventually we all became so tired of them, we didn’t even bother to wake up.
Wow! What’s one thing you wish your younger writer self knew?
I really didn’t set out to be a writer, although I’ve always been an avid mystery reader. I think if I could give my younger self advice, it would be to start writing years before.
If someone gave you $5,000 and said you must solve a problem, what would you do with the money?
I’m very conscientious, so I think I would stash the money in a separate bank account, and not touch it until I had actually solved the problem.
What are your most cherished mementoes?
Anything that my children made in school or day camp. Their art work, their cards, the papier-maché bunny rabbit that holds napkins, the salt and pepper shakers made from baby food jars, the Christmas decorations that embarrass them, but I love. All those things are so precious to me.
I know exactly what you mean. If you could only save one thing from your house, what would it be?
Not counting pets, I guess it would be the family albums.
We're cut from the same cloth! What’s one of your favorite quotes?
It’s a Latin quote from the Aeneid that I read in high school: Forsan et haec olim meminisse iuvabit. It’s the phrase Aeneas says at a time when he has lost all his ships, his prospects look dreadful and he’s not sure he will ever see home again. Translated, it means “Perhaps someday it will be pleasant to remember these things.” That has always stuck in my mind and gives me perspective when things look dark.
What would you like people to say about you after you die?
She did a good job.
Who are your favorite authors?
Oh, I have so many, it’s hard to say, and I’m constantly finding new authors (or new to me) that I love. I find myself reading lots of Scandinavian thrillers lately. I love to read foreign authors, like Jussi Adler-Olsen (Danish), Henning Mankell (Swedish), Lisa Marklund (also Swedish). But I love British writers, like Ann Cleeves too. I loved all the Sue Grafton books as well. I’m always reading a mystery or a thriller. I do read history books as well, but have trouble pulling myself away from the mystery world. I love any books that draw me into a world I know nothing about, whatever the genre.
What book are you currently reading and in what format?
I just finished The Innocents, an edge-of-your-seat crime story about the LA County Sheriff’s Department, written by David Putnam. Dave is known locally as Deputy Dave, a retired San Bernardino Sheriff himself, so it’s very authentic. And then I picked up Art in the Blood by Bonnie Macbird, a Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson adventure that I’m really enjoying. Both are paperbacks.
What’s the best compliment you’ve ever received about your writing?
Readers who’ve written to me have been very generous with their compliments, and I’m so grateful for that. We write to entertain, so it’s wonderful to know that someone enjoyed my stories or that my books have affected them emotionally – made them laugh or cry. But I think the one compliment I’ve received, and I’ve heard this from several people, is this: “I wish I lived in Snowflake.” They were referring to the village in the Soup Lovers’ Mysteries that I wrote as Connie Archer. I never expected to hear that, and since I spent many months (and years) living in Snowflake in my head, it’s nice to know I had company!
What are you working on now?
Right now, I’m working on a novella for Julia that’s set before the series begins. Several people have sent me FB messages or emails asking about Julia’s grandmother, wanting to know more about her. Asking how Julia first became interested in astrology and also how she found her cat Wizard. So I started thinking about all those questions and decided the best way to answer them was to write a novella. It features Gloria, Julia’s grandmother, who has been hired to do costumes for a local theater production of an Agatha Christie play (a tribute to the Golden Age of mysteries) and it answers all those questions that readers have asked.
I’m also working on Book 4 in the Zodiac series, which I’m tentatively calling Serpent’s Doom. It deals with both Julia’s friend Gale’s past and smuggling in California.
I’ve started work on a completely different book, set in Los Angeles with some unusual characters, but I’ve had to set that aside for the time being until I can catch up with all that I want to do with the Zodiac Mysteries. Never enough time . . .
READ AN EXCERPT
“Can I come in?”
“Of course. Yes.” She was quiet as we climbed the stairs. She headed straight for the kitchen and sat down at the table. I joined her. “What’s wrong?”
“Something’s come up.”
“About . . .”
“Yes,” she didn’t have to say it. I knew she meant Michael.
“What’s happened?” Part of me hoped against hope that we might find an answer some day, another part of me just wanted the sadness and unknowingness to go away.
“Let me try to tell you in some kind of order.” She took a deep breath. “Do you remember the elderly man who used to live across the street from Michael’s old apartment?”
I nodded. I did remember. Michael’s apartment at 45th and Taraval was just a few blocks from my old place in the Sunset District. “Michael and I used to see him when he walked his dog. And then . . .” I shrugged, “there was a time when we didn’t see him as much.”
“Well, I think what happened was his son took the dog because it became too much for the old guy. But the dad didn’t want to leave his home so the family arranged some care and a companion for him.” I waited, not sure what Maggie’s story had to do with Michael. “Apparently, the old man was always taking pictures. He wasn’t any kind of a real photographer, but he liked to do that. He was always fooling around with his camera.”
“Yes, I remember now. He’d even take pictures of the flowers in his yard.”
“He died a couple of weeks ago. And his son and his daughter-in-law are putting the house up for sale. They’ve been there every day, moving stuff out and selling a few things to the neighbors. The thing is . . . they found a box of photos. The father didn’t like digital cameras, he had an old camera that he used and then he’d . . .
“Maggie . . .” I couldn’t imagine where she was going with this story.
“They found a photo of Michael. On the street. Just as that car hit him.”
I gasped and covered my mouth. My heart was racing wildly. “He saw. He saw who hit Michael?”
“He must have. He must have tried to take a picture of what happened from his window.”
“Why didn’t he ever say anything?”
Maggie shook her head. “I don’t know. I really don’t. Maybe he didn’t want to get involved. Maybe he was afraid he’d have to testify.”
As much as I dreaded looking at anything Maggie had described, I still needed to see the photo. “Do you have it with you?”
“I don’t. The old man’s son and his wife knew what it was. They didn’t know Michael, but they knew there had been a hit and run in the neighborhood and that someone had died, so they turned it over to the police.”
“Have you seen it?”
“Yes, they showed it to me and my mother. She’s hysterical right now.” Celia, Michael’s mother had refused to speak to me since his death. She wasn’t on firm ground to begin with but after the accident, in her convoluted logic, she blamed me for her loss. If he hadn’t been in such a hurry to meet me, he would have been more careful. He wouldn’t have been killed.
“I can imagine.” I didn’t envy Maggie the emotional turmoil she must be dealing with.
“I told you before, Julia, she’s made a shrine of Michael’s room and I’m so worried about her. She never wants to go out or do anything. Once in a while I manage to drag her to a restaurant for brunch or something, but even her old friends have given up calling her.”
“What can they tell from the photo?”
“Not much, it’s not digital and it’s old. He had an old Nikon, I think, so they can’t see very much. Michael is lying on his side on the street and . . .” Maggie’s voice shook, “and you can just see the edge of the car. It’s dark or black and there’s a bit of a bumper and the corner of the right rear tire. The police think the driver must have panicked and took off. The old guy might have been looking out his window when it happened and snapped it really quick. They’re going to try to get as much information from it as they can, but they don’t really hold out much hope.”
“Who’s in charge of this?”
“Actually, a retired detective has volunteered to work on it. The case has never been closed, but this is the first thing they’ve had to go on at all. I can get you the name of the detective in charge, and maybe he’ll give you more information. I’ll find out and let him know you might want to talk to him.”
“Thanks, Maggie.” My heart sank. In all this time, no witnesses to the accident had come forward. One woman at the end of the block remembered a dark vehicle traveling fast, but couldn’t swear it had anything at all to do with the car that hit Michael. “We shouldn’t get our hopes up.”
“I want some answers, Julia!” Maggie’s voice had risen. “And I’m sure you do too. It’s not right. What this has done to our family, to me, to you. All our lives have been changed because of this. I want to see someone pay for what they did.”
I nodded. “I do too. It won’t change anything. It won’t bring him back. But you’re right. We’ve all gone through so much . . .”
“I have to go.” Maggie stood suddenly and I realized she hadn’t even taken her coat off. “I’m staying at my Mom’s for a little while. I’m so worried about her. I don’t like the thought of her being all alone in that big house.”
“Okay. Stay in touch and let me know what you find out?”
“I will.” Maggie leaned toward me and I put my arms around her, holding her tight. I felt her chest rise, a quiet sob. “I’m sorry to arrive on your doorstep like this, but I had to tell you face to face.”
“I’m glad you did, Maggie. I’m glad you did. And maybe we’ll learn more.”
Maggie pulled away. I could see tears forming in her eyes as she rushed down the stairs.
OTHER BOOKS BY CONNIE:All Signs Point to Murder
The Madness of Mercury
A Clue in the Stew
Ladle to the Grave
A Roux of Revenge
A Broth of Betrayal
A Spoonful of Murder
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Connie di Marco is the author of the Zodiac Mysteries from Midnight Ink, featuring San Francisco astrologer Julia Bonatti: The Madness of Mercury and All Signs Point to Murder. Tail of the Dragon, third in the series, released on August 8, 2018.
Writing as Connie Archer, she is also the author of the national bestselling Soup Lover's Mysteries from Penguin Random House.
Connie is a member of Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers and Sisters in Crime.
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