Wedding coordinator Sydney Riley never thought she’d get caught up in a murder investigation, but she became an amateur sleuth when her boss was killed during Bear Week. Now she’s back, this time as the Race Point Inn hosts Provincetown’s venerable transgender event, Fantasia Fair… and murder is once again an uninvited guest!
It’s all hands on deck at the inn as visitors arrive for the week-long event and Sydney helps coordinator Rachel Parsons organize the occasion. Guest Elizabeth Gonzalez is attending with her spouse, Bob, who–as Angela–is taking a bold first step into a whole new existence. Angela, Elizabeth, and Sydney learn the ropes and politics from other guests, some of whom have attended annually for more than forty years.
But the next day, Sydney’s detective friend summons her to one of the town beaches where Angela’s body has been found–with a knife in her back, a knife stolen from Adrienne, the Race Point Inn’s diva chef.
Fair organizers and attendees try and carry on as Provincetown is overrun with police, press, and rampant speculation. Sydney, her boyfriend Ali, her friend Mirela, her boss Glenn, and a host of Fantasia Fair participants scramble to find out who killed Angela–and why–before the killer strikes again.
I’d been living in Provincetown for about eight years when my friend Michelle said to me, “Seriously, why do you keep writing books that take place in Montréal and Boston? You live in a postcard here!”
She was right, of course; I do live in a postcard. We were having this conversation at the Provincetown Bookshop, and Deborah immediately said, “She’s right. We could absolutely sell Provincetown mysteries!”
I tucked that into the back of my mind—I was very engaged with my Montréal series at the time—but returned to it when a new publisher, interested specifically in Ptown books and Ptown authors, contacted me over a historical novel he was interested in publishing. Several conversations—and several bottles of wine!—later, we’d come up with a new series that takes place during Provincetown’s “theme weeks,” when the town is overrun with all sorts of holidaying folks, from Family Week to the Portuguese Festival to Women’s Week and beyond.
And along with the new series is, of course, a new protagonist, Sydney Riley, wedding consultant for a fictional Provincetown inn. Like me, Sydney’s lived here for a few years, and like me, she has friends in all the different communities that coexist at Land’s End. When the first theme week murder—of her boss, the owner of the inn—plunged her into amateur sleuthing, I took it as an opportunity to explore all the different events and occasions that Provincetown offers its visitors.
Murder at Fantasia Fair is the second in the series, and deals with a subject that’s not for the faint of heart to take on: a transgender woman attending the annual week-long event has been found with a knife in her back, and Sydney—and her author creator!—must learn about this challenging community.
I say challenging, because that’s what it is to the uninitiated. Transgender identity is both a concept and a community that’s in flux, and its complexities are sometimes baffling to an outsider such as myself. It encompasses a wide range of people, from those who see themselves a “gender fluid” to those who have surgery to bring their physical beings into alignment with their psychological and social ones. It challenges language (unlike Mandarin, for example, English doesn’t have a gender-neutral personal pronoun), it challenges politics (transgender women didn’t grow up with the same experiences as those who navigated society as a girl), and it challenges one’s level of comfort with those who are different from oneself.
All that, and a couple of murders, too!
So join Sydney and her cast of characters—her boyfriend Ali, her best friend Mirela, her boss Glenn, her police detective friend Julie, and the inn’s diva chef Adrienne—as they try to figure out who wants the Fair’s attendees dead… before Sydney herself becomes one of the victims!
The inn looked fantastic: I had to give Glenn that. Well, it had always looked fantastic, but there was a certain gaiety about the place today that had me humming the moment I got in. Rachel Parsons, the coordinator for Fantasia Fair, was standing beside the front desk, calmly ticking off items on a clipboard. I tapped her on the shoulder. “Hey, Rachel.”
She glanced at me. “Good morning, Sydney,” she said. “You look awful.”
“Thanks ever so much,” I said sourly. “Couldn’t sleep.”
“They make pills for that sort of thing nowadays,” she observed, her eyes back on her paperwork.
“None that are available at three in the morning.”
She glanced at me, amused. “You should live in New York City,” she said. “There’s nothing that you can’t get at three in the morning there.”
“Thanks, but no thanks.” Provincetown’s just the right size for me. In the winter I can go to the Stop & Shop and recognize everybody I see there. In the summer the town is flooded with visitors; and, in some way or another, most of us who live here year-round make our livings catering to those visitors. Sometimes I think it’s the contrast between the two seasons that’s most appealing. “Anyway, my cat would have kept me awake even with pills. He snores.”
“Cats snore?” She stared at me, momentarily distracted. “Who knew?”
“Stick with me. I’ll fill your head with all sorts of useless facts.” I slid past the counter to the space where I worked, tucked aside from the day-to-day business of the inn: a roll top desk, a very big calendar, and a wastepaper basket. My domain, such as it was. “Anyone arrive yet?”
“Heavens, yes,” Rachel said. “The meet-and-greet isn’t until six o’clock tonight, it always is, but that’s never stopped people from getting here early, and already there are about a million questions.”
I sat down and opened my laptop. “You must be used to it,” I said.
She sighed. “Yes, I suppose I must.”
I looked up at her. Rachel is tall—well, many trans women are, having begun life as males—and seemed even taller from where I was sitting. “You suppose you must? That doesn’t sound so positive. Isn’t that your job?”
“Of course it is. But sometimes I feel like, gosh, maybe they can just look at the schedule I hand them, or even go all-out and Google something for themselves. How far to the Monument?” She rolled her eyes. “How far is it? You can see the frigging Monument from here.”
“Ah, that kind of question,” I said, nodding sagely. “Welcome to my world.” I grinned. “Last week, someone asked me what we do with the Monument in the winter. I wanted to say that we roll it up and put it in storage.”
Rachel laughed. “Tourists. Gotta love them.”
“Well, that, or starve,” I said cheerfully.