THE BOOK: “In Sycamore Hall”
PUBLISHED IN: 2017
THE AUTHOR: Alison Daniels writing as Patricia Allison.
THE EDITOR: Dean Robertson.
THE PUBLISHER: Amazon KDF.
SUMMARY: Beautiful, manipulative and controlling, Rosemary has become the terror of Sycamore Hall, the charming and exclusive Manhattan co-op building that she rules with an iron hand. She has made her share of enemies over the years. After escaping an abusive childhood to make a new life for herself in New York City, she suffered a disappointing love affair followed by a marriage of convenience. Ultimately, she married into wealth and power. Never satisfied, she has a need to dominate the lives of all around her – including her insecure daughter Serena.
When Rosemary is found murdered in her pristine apartment, it immediately becomes clear to Deke O’Hara and Naomi Loomis, the two NYPD detectives assigned to the case, that anyone in the building might have had a reason to kill her. Everyone has a motive, and no one is talking – except for one observant neighbor who has been keeping a careful eye on all the residents of 110 Sycamore Hall. Who is innocent? Who is guilty? Was the killer an enemy from Rosemary’s present, or someone from her past? How will the lives of those living in 110 Sycamore Hall be changed as the mystery unravels? Follow the clues in this intricate story of psychological suspense as secrets and lies are revealed.
“In Sycamore Hall” is a mystery.
THE BACK STORY: The inspiration for this mystery was a conversation with a friend who lives in a co-op and who has for years been dealing with an eccentric and controversial neighbor. This neighbor has created conflict with most of the tenants. I said: “That would be a great murder mystery, everyone in the building would be a suspect.” My friend said, “Do it” and encouraged the development of this novel along the way. I think I decided to write a mystery to see if I could. It’s one of my favorite genres to read, and I respect the ability of those who are truly masters of it. I respect them even more now that I have tried to plot a mystery myself. My only research was to re-read a few novels by the great P. D. James and Elizabeth George, neither of whom I could possibly emulate, but whose dedicated detectives I admired. I also watched a lot of “Law and Order” on television – fortunately you can find episodes of it running on cable practically every day of the week. It took me about six weeks from start to finish. Since I am a more “character driven” than “plot driven” writer, the novel focuses on the lives of the victim and the suspects and gives them all what I hope is a compelling backstory. In the end, the murder of one difficult woman changes the lives of everyone living in 110 Sycamore Hall. After I finished writing it, my friend and editor Dean Robertson suggested I might develop a series of mystery books featuring the two NYPD detectives who try to unravel the murder in Sycamore Hall. I have since completed my second mystery with my two detectives, Deke O’Hara and Naomi Loomis. The second book is set in the New York theater world and is called “Behind the Curtain”.
WHY THIS TITLE?: I wanted a more exotic title but in the end, the book was about what happens to the residents living in Sycamore Hall and so it became “In Sycamore Hall”. I like to set the stage for my books with a quote from a poem and in this one I used two: one from Shakespeare and one from T.S Eliot.
WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? It’s character driven, with an intriguing underlying mystery and it’s told from several different points of view. I think readers will want to turn the pages to find out what happens. It’s also set in an almost fictional New York City and conveys lifestyles of quiet enjoyment that probably don’t exist in real life. And portions of it are quite funny – the book does not take itself too seriously.
REVIEW COMMENTS: 5 out of 5 stars: this book was great – By Barbara H.on September 5, 2017
Format: Kindle Edition
“except for a little cheat at the end, this book was great” –
AUTHOR PROFILE: I’ve wanted to be a novelist since I was about five years old and have boxes full of stories, plays and unfinished manuscripts to prove it. Somewhere along the line real life got in the way and I stopped writing fiction. But I never stopped writing. I’ve been making my living writing for a variety of companies, specializing in financial services. One day my friend Dean and I almost accidentally fell into a writing collaboration and produced our first novel together which we published on Amazon. After that, the fiction writing bug bit me with a vengeance, and I resolved to complete at least one of my old manuscripts from thirty years ago. I also published that one, a romantic saga, on Amazon and then began writing the mystery. These days I can’t go for very long without writing something. Fortunately I am able to do my “real job” from home which provides the flexibility to take fiction writing breaks during the day. My real life isn’t nearly as interesting as that of my characters. I live in a 60 year old house with a yard and way too many precocious animals, including a dog and a cat who thinks she’s a dog. One of my several cats usually insists on sitting on my keyboard and making edits.
AUTHOR COMMENTS: Perhaps the only thing I love more than writing is reading. And I love to escape with a good page turner that keeps me engrossed from beginning to end. With this novel I hoped to accomplish that at least to some degree. I didn’t start writing it with a specific theme in mind. But by the time I reached its final pages I realized I had written a novel that is a mystery but is also about love. Love between romantic partners, love between parents and children, and the recognition that love is expressed in many different ways. Sometimes it takes a crisis to bring people together on common ground. The residents of Sycamore Hall get to know one another better as they deal with their reactions to the death of a neighbor none of them really liked. However, even those people we find most alienating have their own stories and their own reasons for why they behave as they do. No one should die without getting at least a tiny bit of compassion – well, maybe some people are beyond compassion but not in my book.
Anyone in the building might have had a reason to murder Rosemary Watson. She had been making trouble for most of the tenants for years; the only sure escape was to move out, and most of her neighbors had been trying for years to decide whether moving or living with Rosemary was more trouble. So far, only a few had left, which meant there was a building full of people who had problems with Rosemary. In fact, there was a building full of suspects.
Rosemary was not entirely a vicious woman, but she had clearly appointed herself the guardian of the building’s community. Because it was a co-operative, the residents were shareholders, and Rosemary started her days shouldering the weight of seeing to it that everyone who owned shares in this building was aware of both the rights and the responsibilities of that ownership. In full self-righteous dudgeon, she marched out to protect the entire enterprise against any perceived misbehavior or violation of the proprietary lease’s stringent codes of behavior, many of which she had crafted herself. Responsible tenants made for a better quality of life and could only enhance the value of their shares. Rosemary wanted to be sure that she was protecting her investment.
Her efforts to save the co-op from itself unfortunately were too often personal. She would slip notes of admonishment under people’s doors, and insist that the Board meet to discuss and assign punishment for anyone careless enough to break one of the rules. She had most recently mounted a campaign against those who left wet umbrellas in the common area. She had kept records and one week she had counted five umbrellas dripping water. She saw this as a first step toward the death by neglect of the Umbrella Rule. She had little patience with the slack enforcement of rules. Rules were the foundation of the civilized life she preferred, and she believed that the whole structure of her world would crumble were the rules not honored. She had actually been willing to take her neighbors to court over the years for the most innocuous infractions. To her, these matters were never trivial; ignoring the flagrant disregard for what was clearly written down in black and white presented a slippery slope that she was unwilling to embark upon.
And these were just examples of her everyday onslaughts, democratically applied across the residents of the co-op as a whole. Some of her neighbors had been the target of her more personal campaigns of vengeance. Some of them considered her a more significant enemy. Some of them were not sorry she was dead.
So as the investigation into Rosemary’s murder progressed, it became clear that virtually any one of the tenants of 110 Sycamore Hall, past or present, might have wanted
her dead. But it was Serena who had the longest history and the longest list of grievances with her, and therefore had the strongest motive. Because Rosemary Watson was her mother.
Chapter One Serena
Even though we hadn’t seen each other in months, my mother still listed me as her emergency contact. So I was the one who was notified when her body was discovered in the apartment where she had spent the last twenty years.
There is nothing quite like being awakened in the middle of the night by a knock at the door from two people identifying themselves as police officers. That kind of thing happens on Law and Order. It isn’t meant to happen in one’s real life. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Reluctantly, I opened the door just the crack that the chain allowed, peered at them with what I hoped was a look that said, “I’m no fool,” and asked to see their badges. The two of them, one male and one female, who certainly did look like police officers, produced the identification and asked permission to come inside. I recalled that on Law and Order bad things usually happened to people who refused, so I nodded.
“You are Miss Serena Watson?” The older officer, the man, spoke first, while the other, the woman, began glancing around my apartment.
“Serena Glass,” I corrected automatically. I still used my married name, even though I had divorced Brian years ago. It helped in my continuing struggle to maintain some distance from my mother.
“Mrs. Glass. I’m Detective O’Hara, and this is my partner, Officer Loomis. You are the daughter of Rosemary Watson?”
“That’s right.” Already my tone was impatient. It was late and I’d been awakened from a sound sleep. “What is this about?” I didn’t recall anything from my favorite show about being pleasant once you had let the police in.
“When was the last time you saw your mother, Mrs. Glass?” This was the other officer, Loomis. She was younger, around my age, and spoke more brusquely than her partner.
I had to think. It had been a long time–several months, in fact–though we had spoken briefly by phone the other day. I saw that Officer Loomis was taking notes. Meanwhile, Detective O’Hara appeared to be waiting to see how long it took me to respond.
“What is all this about?” I repeated. By now my sense of unease was rising. Something had happened, I thought. Perhaps another altercation with one of her neighbors. She’d been fighting with one or another of them for years. “Has my mother…. done something?”
Detective O’Hara, who had the touch of an accent I couldn’t quite place, was the one who answered. “Mrs. Glass. I’m sorry to inform you that your mother was found earlier this evening in her apartment.”
Automatically I moved toward the hall closet to get my coat. They had come to take me to the hospital. I didn’t know why this merited a police escort, but now I was grateful they would be going with me. “What hospital is she in?”
“I am sorry; your mother suffered a fatal blow to the head and was pronounced dead at the scene. Please accept our condolences for your loss.”
She hit her head? Older people were always at risk of falling. There had been an accident, and my mother was dead. That was the impression that registered with me, but it still didn’t make sense. My mother was a strong woman, who could be stubborn and belligerent when crossed. She had always managed to get the upper hand. Her health was good; she continued to take her constitution walks in Washington Square Park. It was inconceivable that she was no longer living.
But why were the police here?
“Can I see her?” I asked in a quiet voice.
“Yes, ma’am. If you’re up to it. We need you to identify the body and then we’d like to ask you a few questions.”
“Questions,” I said.
“Yes, ma’am. About your mother’s recent activities. Her acquaintances. Have there been any incidents that you know of– any disagreements with anyone?”
I had to laugh and the two officers exchanged a look. Obviously laughter was inappropriate given the circumstances. I recovered myself. “I’m sorry. It’s clear you didn’t know my mother. She had disagreements with people all the time.”
“Serious disagreements? Would you say, Mrs. Glass, that your mother may have had enemies? People who would want to do her harm?” This from Officer Loomis.
These days many people who had come into contact with my mother, past and present, may have wanted to do her harm. But a realization was finally dawning. “I’m sorry… are you trying to tell me that this wasn’t just an accident? That my mother was –” I could not finish the horrifying thought. Mother, what did you do?
I knew one thing for certain: Rosemary McRae Davis Watson was a woman to be reckoned with. Throughout her life, she put her own needs first, used her beauty and charm to get what she wanted, and discarded people when they had served their purpose. I suppose it wasn’t such a surprise that one of her those she had crossed might have actually killed her. Perhaps the surprise was that it had taken so long.
I knew that these were horrid, disloyal thoughts. When I was a little girl, I idolized my mother, tried desperately to win her favor, and despaired when she consistently dismissed me. I was not the kind of daughter she had wanted. I wasn’t pretty, I wasn’t accomplished, and I was gawky and awkward and could barely speak to people without stammering. She had overcome a difficult childhood and, at least when married to my stepfather, had risen to the higher echelons of New York society, and she had wanted a daughter who could be a credit to her. After a while, I learned to avoid her, and to be noticed as little as possible.
“We do suspect foul play, Mrs. Glass. This was no accident; your mother was bludgeoned to death with a sharp heavy object that we haven’t yet been able to identify. The medical examiner has tentatively placed the time of death at least 24 hours ago, possibly more. Do you mind telling us where you were yesterday and the day before? And by the way, do you have a key to your mother’s apartment?”
I had the sinking feeling that a bad situation was about to get worse. And then another thought came, unbidden: How had my mother ended up like this?
WHERE TO BUY IT: Amazon.com ebook and paperback
PRICE: $2.99 ebook and $8.00 paperback
CONTACT THE AUTHOR: Please feel free to contact me at alilechat1