Cold Case Heat
by Mary P. Burns
Released: Sep 12, 2023
Why this book and why now?
The story is based on the murder of a friend of mine forty years ago. I’ve probably started five different versions of this novel over the last four decades, none of which took. Then, during the pandemic, when Bold Strokes Books was sponsoring quarterly Bookathon weekends, one of the questions to the authors on my panel one weekend was “what career choice would you never make for your main character?” Across the board, the answer was “accountant, because they’re boring.” I thought, “I bet I could write a really interesting accountant.” In that moment, it also hit me that since embezzlement was involved in the murder of my friend, it would make perfect sense that my main character is an accountant and has been her whole adult life. It proved to be a good move that, I believe, gives the story weight, and Sydney Hansen a very layered and complicated persona.
What is a significant way your book has changed since either the first draft or the way you thought it would turn out when you first had the inspiration?
I was several chapters in when I realized that Jesse, my main character, wasn’t right despite all the background work I’d done on her — the bio I’d created, the scenes I’d written that were to take place well into the book, and even the ending I’d envisioned. I needed to fire her, so to speak. What happened in the moment I made that decision to let Jesse go was that a character who had been sitting quietly in a chair in the back corner of my head for three weeks (I know this sounds weird, but characters frequently take up residence in my mind, and might be there months or even years before I know what story they’re waiting for) stood up and stepped forward. I knew she was my new main character, and I set about discovering everything I could about Sydney Hansen.
What TV show would your main character(s) most likely binge watch and why?
HBO’s “The Gilded Age.” The characters are sharply drawn and intelligent (the dialogue snaps) and what they want is easily identified (which isn’t to say they’re transparent — not all of them are). But how they go about getting it is what makes them and the relationships they forge so interesting. Syd Hansen is as good at gamesmanship as the next contender and loves to ferret out those who are like that and study them.
One of your main characters is planning a romantic night. Tell us about it.
Detective Gale Sterling would take Sydney Hansen to One If By Land Two If By Sea, a small romantic restaurant (former carriage house) in the West Village. From there, she’d have a town car waiting to take them to a show at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Allen Room, the venue with the view of Central Park South and the busy West 59th St. Afterwards, they’d walk up West 59th where Gale would hire a horse and carriage for a late-night ride through Central Park, and she’d quietly tip the driver beforehand to take his time and loop around part of the park again. I’m pretty sure that the night would end at Gale’s Village town house.
Publishing a book is a huge accomplishment and it’s time to party! Choose a celebratory beverage for one of your main characters to toast the release of your new book.
Syd would choose Dom Perignon champagne because I have expensive taste.
What song does your character put on to start your book launch party?
Benny Goodman’s “Sing Sing Sing.” Syd loves a good party and nothing launches one better than that jazz number with its drums, brass and vibrant swing tempo.