in the series of
Claire Gray mysteries
by Michael Craft
Shortly after Claires arrival, she offers to pick up a fellow faculty member at the Palm Springs airport. Driving him home that morning, Claire enters the house with him, and together they discover the lifeless body of his wife. The police are summoned, and we meet the Riverside County sheriffs detective in charge of the investigation, Larry Knoll, brother of Claires gay neighbor, Grant. Detective Knoll quickly determines that Claires lifelong theatrical career has endowed her with a unique perspective on the crime that enables her to make insightful contributions to the case. Classes are scheduled to begin within a week, but Claire is now sidetracked by a sleuthing mission.
At a deeper level, Claire is also grappling with mysteries more personal
than the murder of her colleagues wife. At 54, Claire Gray is starting
overin a new career, in a new locale, hoping to resolve some
vexing problems of the past that she has all too glibly dismissed. This
emotional subplot will carry throughout the series, giving the books their
serial flavor while each of the stories focuses on a distinct
Contrary to what some may expect, Claire Gray is not just Mark Manning in a dress. These two are very different sleuths, very different people. Manning is more conventionally heroicself-assured and at times a bit smugwhile Claire is far more vulnerable. Her name alludes to darkness and light, a lifelong inner conflict, a search for meaning and self-definition. On the surface, she is confident and strong-willed, covering an insecurity and confusion that permits commitment to friendship, but not to romance. Though she has a healthy appetite for men, she has never married. By the end of Desert Autumn, as you will see, her prospects improve considerably.
Permit me to address one last question that is sure to arise. Why would I pluck Claire up from the seedy glamour of Broadway and move her three thousand miles southwest, to the Sonoran Desert, to Palm Springs, of all places?
Simple. In recent years, my partner and I have come to know and love the desert communities of the Coachella Valley, and we now have a small vacation home there, visiting as frequently as possible. The area struck me as the perfect locale for a mystery series, with its astoundingand somewhat mysticalnatural beauty. Ive attempted to convey this through the wondering eyes of a newcomer to the desert, Claire Gray, who discovers that this seemingly barren terrain is not forbidding, but enchanting. I hope you will too. Enjoy your visit.Critical acclaim
Intuitive and imaginative, Claire Gray is a refreshing and complex sleuth . . . Interesting secondary characters enhance the story and offer glimpses into the world of artists and of the very rich . . . Vivid details of autumn in the desert, from the sunrises to the sunsets, will create a longing for more.
“Claire Gray is an intelligent and surprisingly complex character, and best of all, Craft makes the desert landscape an integral part of the story.”
— Booklist Mystery Showcase
Sure to land squarely on the best-seller charts.
Stewart Weiner, Editor-in-Chief, Palm Springs Life
Claire Gray delights with her intelligence, wit, and unabashed lust for a studly hunk half her age. Go, Claire!
Whitney Scott, Booklist
The first book in Craft's new mystery series dazzles, delights, and delivers a mesmerizing puzzle . . . Desert Autumn heralds a welcome new series full of wit, beautiful backdrops, and engaging characters. Michael Craft's mysteries continue to outshine his competition.
Erik Swallow, Out & About, Norfolk
Michael Craft provides an intense tale with appealing characters that the audience will want back in future novels. Desert Autumn is the first novel in what has the potential of being a great series.
Harriet Klausner, BookBrowser Reviews
Craft offers a whimsical, challenging mystery with Desert Autumn. The characters, especially Claire, are vibrant, quirky and a joy to know . . . Kept my attention riveted to every page . . . Kudos to Mr. Craft on this superb start towards an unforgettable series.
Tracy Farnsworth, Romance Reader's Connection
Fans of the Mark Manning series as well as new readers will enjoy this one.
Toby Bromberg, Romantic Times
A substantial mystery with likable, mature characters.
Brenda Weaks, Mystery News
A highly readable book. I look forward to the next Claire Gray mystery.
Ginny Welding, Dorothy L Digest
Desert Autmn has deft plotting (I would have sent the wrong person to jail) and wonderful descriptions of the Sonoran Desert, worth reading in their own right.
Ken Furtado, Echo Magazine, Phoenix
Click here to read an excerpt from Desert Autumn.
Click here to read a related interview by Tina Swiech.
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