Traverse City Record-Eagle

May 5, 2013

Mystery author delves deep in 'Dead Little Dolly'

BY MARTA HEPLER DRAHOS mdrahos@record-eagle.com
Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Fans of Elizabeth Kane Buzzelli’s Emily Kincaid mysteries finally get to learn more about their favorite crusty deputy.

Deputy Dolly Wakowski, protagonist Emily’s cranky friend, is at the center of the series’ fifth book, “Dead Little Dolly.”

The book (Beyond the Page Publishing, $14.99 paperback, $2.99 eBook), may be the deepest and darkest yet — and not just because it has the friends scrambling to stay ahead of an assailant that threatens the only real family Dolly has ever had. Buzzelli also delves further into the background of Dolly, who grew up without advantages in orphanages and foster homes, and her unlikely friendship with Emily, an educated journalist getting over a divorce from her university-professor husband.

“They’ve grown in my own mind, in the book, in experience,” said Buzzelli, whose last mystery, “Dead Dogs and Englishmen” was a Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2011. “And they’ve grown in their relationship. I love the fact that I can develop women’s relationships without the societal impact of having to be in your financial group or your educational group or your professional group. They can just be women who find other reasons to be friends.”

Like her creator, Emily lives on a small lake between Kalkaska and Mancelona and is building a new career as a mystery writer. Her first book, which she has yet to sell, is “Dead Dancing Women,” not coincidentally the title of Buzzelli’s first Emily Kincaid mystery.

As she struggles to make ends meet and to balance independence against loneliness, Emily gets caught up — often against her will — in Dolly’s cases. This time around, the friends have two clues to go on: the attacker’s trademark black jellybeans and a note to Dolly reading, “Thou Shalt Not Steal.”

Readers may recognize many of Buzzelli’s northern Michigan settings, from the Leetsville Cemetery, where the book begins, to the Lake Michigan waters off Norwood near Charlevoix, where it ends. Emily’s cabin and her roadkill-eating neighbor, Harry, are patterned after Buzzelli’s own.

“When I moved here eight or nine years ago, I knew I was in a totally different world than the one I came from,” said Buzzelli, who has been writing since she was 8. “It wasn’t until I got here that I gave myself permission to wander in the woods, find dark places and plant bodies wherever I wanted to plant them.”

“Dead Little Dolly” was recently recommended by Barnes & Noble in its “new and emerging authors” section. Buzzelli will give a short reading from the book at a launch party May 11 at 7 p.m. at Brilliant Books in Traverse City. She’ll also sign copies of the book May 18 from 4 to 6 p.m. at Horizon Books.

“I think it’s fair to say that if we were to take a best-seller list of local authors, Elizabeth Kane Buzzelli is on it with one book or another, or maybe all of them, during the year,” said Brilliant Books co-owner Peter Makin, who makes a cameo appearance in the latest. “She has the potential to be bigger on a national scale. Kirkus is our bible for reviews and if they think that much of her, she really does have that potential.”

Buzzelli already is at work on two new mystery series, one set on a Texas pecan farm, the other revolving around a polygamous Utah cult. Two other books, including a thriller, are in the hands of her agent.

“Sue Grafton once told me she wrote seven books before she made a dime,” said Buzzelli, who also teaches creative writing for Northwestern Michigan College’s Extended Education Division and writes book reviews for Northern Express. “You keep working at it until you build an audience.

“I’m one of the happiest people on earth. I get to do what I love and do it whenever I want.”