For today’s Sunday Dinner, I invited Mary Dodge Allen to join us. Mary writes romantic suspense. Her latest release, Hunt for a Hometown Killer, won the 2022 Christian Indie Award – First Place, Mystery/Suspense. It is set in a fictional small town in Florida, and its main character is a small town mail carrier who takes on the role of amateur sleuth to solve her husband’s murder.
Sunday Dinner is a traditional (noon) meal served after church on Sundays. Whole families, including extended family, would gather over a large meal to celebrate a day of rest. Multiple cultures enjoy this Sunday Dinner tradition. In my experience, I know it from both my Midwestern farm family as well as my Italian-American family. Now, I’d like to bring Sunday Dinner virtually to you. So, pull up a chair as we invite various guests to join us each week!
Without further ado, please tell us interesting readers would enjoy learning about you.
Thank you for inviting me. I’m Mary Dodge Allen, and I write both romantic suspense and historical fiction – “fast-paced adventure with humor and heart.” I enjoy writing about people who are trying to make sense of their lives in this uncertain world, people who are dealing with real life struggles and looking for answers on their faith journeys.
One interesting fact about me is the summer job I had as a USPS substitute mail carrier during a break from college. While delivering mail, I realized that a small town mail carrier could make a great amateur sleuth. Mail trucks rarely attract attention, so a mail carrier can drive around town and observe people and activities while remaining ‘invisible in plain sight.’ Have you ever thought about how much your mail carrier can learn about you from the magazines, cards, letters and packages you receive? And what if your mail carrier has a photographic memory, like my main character, Roxy?
Can you tell us about your latest novel, Hunt for a Hometown Killer?
While Roxy is delivering mail, a sinkhole suddenly opens up, nearly swallowing her mail truck. The sinkhole quickly drains a retention pond, revealing the hiding place of the car used in her husband’s unsolved murder. Roxy is filled with shock, anger and grief when she sees the mangled car that took her husband’s life, years ago. Determined to solve her husband’s murder, she turns amateur sleuth and uses her amazing photographic memory to piece together clues. As Roxy works with Kyle, the town’s handsome detective, their relationship grows close. When she closes in on the truth, the killer takes her captive, and she must use her wits to survive.
How does your main character manage being both a mail carrier and an amateur sleuth?
Roxy can do quite a bit of amateur sleuthing while on the job, delivering mail. She can gain information by chatting with people on her mail route, and she can also detect suspicious activities while driving around town. With her amazing memory, everything Roxy observes… faces, names, addresses, vehicle license plate numbers… are captured in her mind, like a snapshot.
How did you go about making it authentic?
In plotting the twists and turns of the murder investigation, I drew upon my years as a volunteer with our town’s local police department. I interviewed detectives about their methods/procedures, and I also participated in a mock SWAT team exercise, acting as a police dispatcher. I’ve also had first-hand experience as a mail carrier, and I consulted with a friend who was a current mail carrier, to learn about the computerized mail scanning systems.
I live in a small Florida town, and in my book I created a fictional coastal town filled with quirky and humorous characters. The town used to have a laid-back ‘Mayberry’ atmosphere, until developers transformed its old art deco buildings into a ‘South Beach’ tourist magnet. As the town’s mail carrier, Roxy knows the longtime residents well, but the tourists add intriguing complications when it comes to crime solving.
I got the idea for the sinkhole in the book’s opening chapter, from a real-life sinkhole that formed many years ago, less than a mile from where I live. The huge sinkhole opened up near a luxury car dealership and swallowed five Porsches, a swimming pool and a home (the family got out in time). It is now a pond named Lake Rose, in honor of the homeowner. I’ve passed this pond many times on my neighborhood walks.
Do you have another book in the works? What can you tell us about that book?
I am currently working on two books. One is a prequel to Hunt for a Hometown Killer—a WWII historical romance with Leo Patterson (Roxy’s grandfather) as a B-17 bomber pilot, who is shot down over enemy territory. The other is a sequel, tentatively titled: Hunt for a Hometown Kidnapper, where Roxy continues solving crimes in her quirky home town, working closely with her love interest Kyle.
The afternoon is slipping away, so we have to draw the stories to an end. Mary, thank you for joining us today!
If readers would like to purchase a copy of Hunt for a Hometown Killer, where might they be able to do so?
You can purchase it on Amazon in both Print and eBook formats.
If readers would like to learn about you or your other books, how might they find you online?
You can find me online at marydodgeallen.com.
Over Sunday Dinner next week vineyard manager Kendall Hoxsey. See you then!