How did I come up with the main character in the series?
The heart of the Dodie O’Dell mystery series is, of course, Dodie herself, restaurant manager and amateur sleuth. I began the first book in the series, Show Time, around 2014, only a couple of years after Hurricane Sandy devastated much of the New Jersey shore area. I’d been toying with the idea of a female amateur detective and I knew I wanted her to reside in northern Jersey, in the general area where I lived. And I wanted her to be new to the location…not born and raised there. So my goal was to find a way to get this character to my fictional small town of Etonville. In the first book, after Hurricane Sandy destroyed the restaurant she managed, as well as her home, Dodie was ready for a new life. When a job opened up in a restaurant owned by a relative of her former boss, she jumped at the chance for a second chapter. As luck would have it, the Windjammer restaurant was located next door to the Etonville Little Theatre, providing an abundance of opportunities to showcase interesting menus and the foibles of small town community theatre in my books!
Dodie became friends with many of the theatre’s members and before long she was helping out on her days off—sewing costumes, hanging lights, assisting at auditions. And then she got a brainstorm, a way to boost the Windjammer’s business while supporting the Etonville Little Theatre: create theme food for every production. For example, seafood for Dames At Sea, Italian fare for Romeo and Juliet, a 1940s Brooklyn food festival for Arsenic and Old Lace. It was a smash success except for one problem…dead bodies started to turn up. Although no one blamed Dodie for the mysterious murders, she had to admit they did begin to appear once she moved to town. She assumed the role of unofficial detective, helping, or sometimes hindering, Etonville’s police chief with her quick-witted, outside-the-box detection skills. Not to mention her ability to navigate the town rumor mill at the local hair salon.
The latest Dodie O’Dell mystery, Killing Time, is set on the eve of Halloween and the theatre is rehearsing Dracula. When a stranger appears in the town cemetery with a stake in his heart, Dodie shifts her attention from the production-themed food—a garlic infused menu from appetizers to entrees—to solving the murder in order to rescue the production.
Every book in the series is focused on a different play paired with theme food served at the Windjammer restaurant…and with a murder related to the theatre’s current production, with victims such as the box office manager, a guest director, a musical accompanist, even a stranger found on the set on an opening night. Dodie has her hands full solving mysteries, managing the restaurant, and supporting her theatre friends. She’s up to the challenge!
With Halloween just around the corner, Dodie O’Dell is making preparations for the town costume party while the Etonville Little Theatre is staging Dracula. But casting the titular Transylvanian is proving challenging. The amateur actors in the company are not shy about chewing the scenery, but who among them can convincingly sink their fangs into a victim’s neck? When a mysterious newcomer with a transfixing Eastern European accent lands the part, rumors that he might be an actual vampire start to take flight—not unlike the bat who’s recently been spotted in the town park. But everyone’s blood really runs cold when a stranger is found in the cemetery with a real stake in his heart. Dodie decides to stick her neck out to bring the killer into the light of day. She’d better keep her wits about her, though—or Dodie may be the next one to go down for the Count . . .
Suzanne Trauth is the author of the Dodie O’Dell mystery series—Show Time, Time Out, Running out of Time, Just in Time, No More Time, and Killing Time—and What Remains of Love, an historical romance, as well as plays and non-fiction books. In her previous career, she spent many years as a university professor of theatre. When she is not writing, she coaches actors and serves as a celebrant performing weddings. She lives in Woodland Park, New Jersey.