Albert Camus

Don't walk behind me; I may not lead. Don't walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

old homes have old secrets... The Greenleaf Murders (Historic Homes Mysteries, #1) by R.J. Koreto

"The Greenleaf Murders mixes a modern suspense mystery with the love of old-world mansions and iconic High Society. Buried secrets threaten a family clinging to their former glory as two murders surface, a century apart. Koreto weaves a story that creates the perfect tension between the beauty of the golden era and the fear of a killer in plain sight." - L.A. Chandlar, national best selling author of the Art Deco Mystery Series


Published: November 2022

Young architect Wren Fontaine lands her dream job: restoring Greenleaf House, New York's finest Gilded-Age mansion, to its glory days. But old homes have old secrets: Stephen Greenleaf—heir to what’s left of his family’s legacy—refuses to reveal what his plans are once the renovation is completed. And still living in a corner of the home is Stephen's 90-year-old Aunt Agnes who's lost in the past, brooding over a long-forgotten scandal while watching Wren with mistrust.

Wren's job becomes more complex when a shady developer who was trying to acquire Greenleaf House is found murdered. And after breaking into a sealed attic, Wren finds a skeleton stuffed in a trunk. She soon realizes the two deaths, a century apart, are strangely related. Meanwhile, a distraction of a different kind appears in the form of her client's niece, the beautiful and seductive Hadley Vanderwerf. As Wren gingerly approaches a romance, she finds that Hadley has her own secrets.

Then a third murder occurs, and the introverted architect is forced to think about people, and about how ill-fated love affairs and obsessions continue to haunt the Greenleafs. In the end, Wren risks her own life to uncover a pair of murderers, separated by a century but connected by motive. She reveals an odd twist in the family tree that forever changes the lives of the Greenleafs, the people who served them, the mansion they all called home—and even Wren herself.
Praise for The Greenleaf Murders:

"A delightful who-done-it in which the house is as engaging as the wonderful heroine. Readers will want to get lost in these rooms and these pages." - Cate Holahan, USA Today bestselling author of Her Three Lives

"If you love houses and puzzles - which I do - you will be captivated by THE GREENLEAF MURDERS, the first in Richard Koreto's new series. Equally sure-footed in the gilded age of the mansion's heyday and the contemporary world of its decline, Koreto has woven a pretzel of a plot, introduced a charming new heroine, and whetted appetites for more grave deeds and grandeur." - Catriona McPherson, multi-award-winning author of the Dandy Gilver series

"One would think that a murder mystery featuring old homes, architecture, and rich blue bloods would be a dull read, but that’s not the case with R.J. Koreto’s finely-written “The Greenleaf Murders.” Filled with twists and turns and sharply-drawn characters, this well-done novel is very much recommended." - Brendan DuBois, award-wining and New York Times bestselling author

The Past Lives of Houses

There's something in a mystery that loves a house. We often don't think about them, but houses are lurking as an essential character in so many mysteries. We can't think about Miss Marple without her cottage in St. Mary Mead. Nero Wolfe's Manhattan brownstone is essential for the detective who never leaves home. Rex Stout gives us the details of furniture, such as Wolfe's custom chair, and we're treated to scenes in his gourmet kitchen.

Perhaps the most famous mystery house is Manderley, from du Maurier's Rebecca. Indeed, my most recent novel, about old homes, starts with a reference to that house. Manderley, with its dark caretaker, Mrs. Danvers, dominates the story. Did Manderley drive Mrs. Danvers insane? Rebecca?

As I plotted the first book in my Historic Homes mysteries, I thought of the long-gone mansion built at the turn of the century on Manhattan's West Side by steel magnate Charles Schwab (no relation to the brokerage Schwab). Taking up a city block, it contained 75 rooms. As my protagonist--architect Wren Fontaine--realizes, a home like that is more than just a home. It is a palace from which a great family can rule.

In coping with the home's last resident, Wren knows the old woman can't leave because it would be like leaving her family. Indeed, Schwab had his own psychological issues. The house cost him the 2022 equivalent of over $240 million dollars. What was it all for? What emptiness in his life was filled by owning such an architectural monstrosity? Wren must face the possibility that the overwhelming house has, over 90 years, driven members of the family insane.

But it's not always a grim story. Houses can inspire. My next book will be set in a Federal-style home, popular in our nation's early years. One of the best examples in New York is Gracie Mansion on Manhattan's East Side. Archibald Gracie was a patriot and friend of Alexander Hamilton. In the early 19th century, they mapped out their political ideas and raised money for a newspaper that's still around—the N.Y. Post.

The unadorned simplicity of the Federalist style was a refreshing break from the baroque European ideals—the beauty came from the elegance of the proportions, not elaborate decorations. It was a house suitable for a republic, not a monarchy with an aristocracy. In Gracie Mansion, you will find a mirror crowned by an eagle, and in his beak is a ball-and-chain—Great Britain's shackles ripped away. In the next Historic Homes mystery, several women—separated by 200 years—find inspiration in a classic American home and the ideals that inspired it.

Of course, you don’t need a magnificent mansion to find history and inspiration. There's a simple, unremarkable Victorian house in Massachusetts. In 1892, one of its occupants, Lizzie Borden, apparently axed her father and stepmother to death. She was acquitted, however, and the case was never solved. Did the crime put a curse on the house? I like to think that houses have their own personalities, so perhaps it was the other way around.

But don't take my word for it. The Lizzie Borden House is today a bed-a-breakfast. Book a room, and make up your own mind.

About the author:
R.J. Koreto is the author of the Historic Home mystery series, set in modern New York City; the Lady Frances Ffolkes mystery series, set in Edwardian England; and the Alice Roosevelt mystery series, set in turn-of-the-century New York. His short stories have been published in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine and Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, as well as various anthologies.

In his day job, he works as a business and financial journalist. Over the years, he’s been a magazine writer and editor, website manager, PR consultant, book author, and seaman in the U.S. Merchant Marine. Like his heroine, Lady Frances Ffolkes, he’s a graduate of Vassar College.

With his wife and daughters, he divides his time between Rockland County, N.Y., and Martha’s Vineyard, Mass.


Wall-to-wall books said...

Loved this guest post!
My husband was a builder for years. I grew to love houses, new and old and to appreciate each style and character. I always thought that those old houses have a lot to say! when we lived in upstate NY we owned a Queen Anne Victorian house built in 1870! Can you imagine what that house would have to say.

CCAM said...

I definitely love old houses. The new ones do not have a soul or personality...all are the "same". I didn't find a modern building that I liked or that impressed me (I am not talking about the engineering achievements as such)