The Widow Catcher by Jonette Blake
Author Interview + Author & Book Info + Excerpt + Rafflecopter Giveaway
The Widow Catcher
Delia Frost loves her job at the bank. She loves her customers, most of whom are elderly. She doesn’t love the idea of quitting her job to travel around Australia in a motor home with her husband who is recovering from a heart attack. And she can’t bring herself to tell him that she doesn’t want to go.
Days before she quits her job, she is invited to a book club meeting, run by a local celebrity. This seems like a beacon of hope, one last chance to do something for herself before she leaves it all behind.
But this isn’t a random invitation.
Delia has been carefully selected by a serial killer to play her part in the murders of elderly widows.
Finding herself caught in a web of blackmail and murder, Delia is now keen to leave this town behind. But the killer doesn’t want to let her go.
Published by: Jonette Blake
Publication Date: August 27th 2020
Number of Pages: 260
To purchase the book, click on any of the following links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads
Interview: The Widow Catcher
The Widow Catcher revolves around a serial killer targeting seniors. What gave you the idea for the premise of the novel?
When I first moved to Batemans Bay, I worked in a bank. That’s where I learned that 70% of our population was elderly retirees. Most of our customers were elderly, and one day they would be there getting money from their account, the next day there’d be a funeral notice in the paper.
Nothing callous about it, just a natural occurrence, and this was the idea formed to create a character who killed little old ladies in town and got away with it because it was ‘a natural occurrence’.
This has made it plausible for readers to understand why nobody would get suspicious, not the police, not the media, not even the families and neighbors, not even the main character.
I love that your protagonist Delia Frost is in her early 50s, we don’t see a lot of women over forty as main characters in crime fiction. How did Delia form?
Delia’s character formed after the initial idea of someone killing the little old ladies. When I worked in the bank, I was younger than the other tellers and it took ages for the little old ladies to get comfortable with me. They always wanted to wait until the two older tellers were available. I felt the main character had to be one of these older tellers because she would notice their deaths.
As for her internal conflict, this is due to the affinity many Australia’s have with the ‘grey nomad’ lifestyle. It’s common for couples to retire and travel around the country towing a caravan. I love the idea of driving into the sunset, but I also understand the reality of this lifestyle: you’re essentially taking the domestic life on the road. You can’t escape any problems you’re having at home. And maybe a woman who’s kids have left home and who loves her job might not like the idea of this domestic road trip.
Delia is a middle-aged woman trying to find her identity after being known as ‘mother’ for so long. She’s fighting against the idea of giving up everything when she’s trying to find herself. This is the reason she is not the proactive sleuth determined to get to the bottom of the mysterious deaths, which is typical in murder mysteries.
Did you know a lot about her when you started writing? Or did she evolve as you worked?
By the time I started writing, I knew Delia Frost very well. I knew every little thing that she would do or wouldn’t do. I’d like to say that she is me, but she is not me.
We are of a similar age, we live in the same area, and we worked in the same bank, but we are different in lots of ways. And yet I don’t think I have ever had to question if she would do this or do that. I know what she would do or think or say.
She is the most honest character I’ve ever created.
Tell us about Batemans Bay, Australia, and your relationship with the community.
I moved to Batemans Bay from Sydney thirteen years ago. My husband and I holidayed here for a few years and when we felt the need to leave the city, we chose Batemans Bay.
It is a seaside town that is on the mouth of a river and is also surrounded by mountains. I love that I can go for bushwalks or beach walks. It’s a happy place too. I take the dog for a walk each morning and the trip is filled with “Morning” “Morning” “Morning” to all the people we pass. A far cry from when I worked in the city and nobody would even look you in the eye.
It’s the type of place where you chat to the people in the stores, you know the people in the post office, and you kind of know people without knowing them, like you smile and say hello every time you see them around in town, but you really can’t recall how you came to know them. It’s just a friendly place. Even the people in the gym are friendly.
You write different genres and for different ages, how do you know what “kind” of story you are going to write when you sit down to start something new?
If I have started a series, then I’ll have to make that a priority, but usually I write down all my ideas and let my mood might determine what story I write. For example, in January 2020 Batemans Bay and much of Australia was devastated by bushfires. It was a very scary time watching the fires get closer and closer. And we lost power and phone service and all the stores were out of supplies.
I needed to bring light to the darkness, and when I searched through my computer I discovered that a kids novel that I’d written years ago was practically ready to go, just with some tweaks. I needed a good laugh. I figured others could do with a good laugh too. It came out in April, right at the start of Covid, so it was the right time.
As an outdoor adventurer, snowboarder, hiker, camper, how does the natural world inform your writing?
Wouldn’t it be lovely to live in a tower and write all day? It is often a writers dream, but I can honestly say that my books would not be as well-rounded or authentic if I hadn’t included real-life scenarios and real-life characters.
Hiking and camping and the natural world has its share of disasters. Like pulling muscles after falling down on a ski run, like scratching all night long from mosquito bites on a summer camping trip, like trying to put up a three-man tent in the wind by yourself and feeling so embarrassed because everyone is watching you, like getting my 4WD bogged in the sand dunes on Fraser Island and having a group of young men rushing over to push my 4WD out of the bog without me having to get out of the car.
These kind of experiences can’t be made up. And it’s so true that the devil is in the detail. Authentic experiences can bring writing to life. But my husband is the true adventure who has introduced me to skiing and four-wheel driving which I may not have done on my own. I’m glad he has encouraged my adventurer side. I love skiing so much that we got married on the snow fields in Australia.
In addition to writing, you’re also a musician, how do those interests interact with your writing?
Music is a great way to keep the creative juices flowing. I’ve only ever included music into one of my young adult novels, written under another name. I created a character who sang in an all-girl band, and I wrote two songs and featured the lyrics in the novel. It was a lot of fun.
I haven’t had the chance to include music in any other novel, but just for fun and to improve my song writing skills, I decided to write a song for each novel that I’ve published. I’ve still got a few songs to write when I have the time.
What are you working on now?
I will be working on a sequel to The Widow Catcher. I hadn’t intended on writing a sequel, but the response from readers has been so great, and Delia is such a great character with a lot of scope because she is on the cusp of a new identity. I’d like her to find herself.
I am also working on another series of word search puzzle books that I’ve co-written with my sister and mum, under the pen name Louise Jean Wray, as well as finishing off a sci-fi series under my other author name D L Richardson.
Thank you for hanging out with us! It’s been great to chat with you.
Excerpt from The Widow Catcher
ONE WEEK AGO
The setting sun cast a shadow on the headstone. A cool wind blew down the mountain. Susan Johnson tugged at her long woollen coat thinking she would soon be trading this blustery weather for tropical bliss and poolside cocktails.
She placed a hand on the headstone to steady herself and leaned over to drop a bouquet of lilies on the gravesite. She regretted not being able to bend low to lovingly place the flowers in the slot provided, but if her seventy-six-year-old body tilted even a few degrees she would topple over. It was embarrassing having paramedics lift her off the floor.
“This is goodbye for now, love,” she told the ten-years-dead occupant. “Just for a little while. I won’t be visiting because I’m off on a holiday.” She smiled and nodded. “Yes, I know what you’re thinking. I never go anywhere by myself. But I’m not going alone.”
The snap of twigs pierced the frigid air. Her grip remained on the headstone for support. But she managed to twist her head to catch a glimpse of the noisemaker.
Someone was here.
“I won’t be long,” she told the man. “I was just telling Eric about our trip.”
The man stood with his hands thrust deep into the pockets of his trouser pants. The sunlight framed his body, and she wanted to picture him as an angel, instead the image of angry plovers at the beach protecting their nests popped into mind. The sneaky way they flew towards you with the rising sun blinding you to their attack meant you heard the click of their beaks too late.
She pushed off this sense of trepidation and the chill that followed. It was just nerves. This trip was something new for her; it was bound to give her goose bumps.
She returned her attention to her late husband’s grave. “We’re in for a storm. You’d better batten down the hatches.” She laughed gently, then her features grew serious. “My new friend has promised to take me to North Queensland. Well, to the airport at least. That’s a big help. Once I’m on the plane I’ll be fine. Ah, Eric, I’m finally going to a place where the nights are warm and I wish you could be coming with me. I’ll be gone a few weeks.”
“Susan,” her visitor called out. “I’m ready when you are.”
“We’re off to the airport,” she told the gravestone.
The day had finally arrived when she was going on holiday. Without her friend’s support, she’d never have found the courage to say ‘book it’. He’d helped with booking the flights, hotels, and the tourist destination. He’d even created a week-long itinerary. She fumbled in her pocket for it but couldn’t find it.
Where have I put it?
Never mind. Her friend would have a copy.
She was finally going to see the Great Barrier Reef. It had been a cast-aside dream until her friend had searched on the website and found a tour operator with a glass-bottom boat who specialised in trips for people with mobility issues.
“Susan,” he called out again. “We don’t want to be late.”
“I’m almost done,” she replied, though the wind snatched away her words. Once, she’d had the strength in her lungs to be heard over an earthquake, but years of cigarette smoking had reduced her voice to an almost inaudible wheeze.
She spoke to the headstone again: “I know you think he’s only using me for my money, but he’s never asked for any. He’s not like that.” She patted the headstone. “I’ll bring you back a present.”
She hobbled over with the aid of her cane to join the man.
He lifted a bouquet of flowers from a shopping bag at his feet. “I brought something to show my respects,” he said, thrusting them at her.
Yellow roses were her favourite; they’d be wasted on Eric. Her late husband wouldn’t have known a rose from a weed.
The man smiled at her. “Will you place these on his grave for me?”
“I thought you said we were in a hurry.”
“I said we don’t want to be late. We have time to say our goodbyes.”
She glanced back at the gravesite. There was a lot of uneven lawn between here and there. Her cane had sunk into the dirt already and almost tripped her over a dozen times.
“You should take them yourself,” she told the man.
“Susan, I feel downright scandalous taking his wife to the airport for the first real holiday of her life. I can’t go over there and rub this in his face. Even in death, a person has dignity. My mother used to tell me that all the time. She was a nurse at a hospital in Sydney. Saw people dying every day. A lot of elderly people, too. The stories she told me of comfort she gave them in their final years has made me the compassionate man I am today.”
Susan knew a snow job when she heard one. She was old, arthritic, deaf in one ear, probably riddled with emphysema, but she was not stupid. Still, a sense of gratitude swept over her. She would have been locked inside the aged-care facility forever if her young friend had not convinced her to do something adventurous with the remaining years of her life.
“All right,” she said. “And then we’re off to the airport.”
She gripped her cane in one hand and the yellow roses in the other and set off across the uneven lawn.
“Be sure to inhale the perfume before you place them on the grave,” the man called out. “I asked the florist to select the most delectable bunch.”
Susan stopped and pulled the bouquet closer to her face to take in the scent. This bunch was strong. Probably perfumed. Everything was perfumed these days: soap, washing powder, toilet paper, tissues. As if the big companies could convince the population that life smelled like roses, therefore it must be roses.
She took a deep breath. This was a strange scent. Stronger than most. Not rosy at all. More like yellow jonquils. They had a stink that could cause nostril hairs to fall out.
She coughed on the odour. Her cough turned into a fit, one that fifty years of smoking ensured would bring a crushing pain to her chest.
Then her head began to swim. Her vision blurred. Her chest should have gulped for air. Instead it felt like it was sealing itself shut, jam-jar tight.
She twisted and tried to run toward the man who was still dappled in hues of orange and pink as the sun set behind him. She called out for help but her voice was lost. She couldn’t move.
The cool wind raced along her body like a knife, except this wasn’t the wind. This was an invisible chill attacking her veins.
Her limbs grew weak. She lost her grip on her cane.
A stroke? A heart attack? Years of being warned about the impact of smoking did not lessen the shock that it was actually happening.
Unable to support herself, she fell to the ground.
“Help,” she called out, though her voice was barely above a whisper.
The sun was setting faster now. Her visitor was now a dark, ominous shadow.
A shadow that wasn’t rushing to help her.
He should have grabbed his phone and called for medical help.
He should have raced over to her and administered first aid.
He should have done something.
Instead, he stood at the edge of the cemetery with his hands thrust in his pockets, rocking back and forth on his heels.
“Help,” she spluttered in between chest-breaking coughs.
She couldn’t get enough air into her lungs.
The man still did not make any movement to help her.
At last, he walked towards her and knelt down to stare into her face. His stare was vacant, expressionless, and when he tilted his head and frowned, she realised it wasn’t a vacant stare, but one of curiosity.
As if he’d never seen someone die before.
She reached for his hand.
He reached out for her.
His hand moved to the left toward the flowers. She noticed he wore gloves.
Had he been wearing them earlier?
The bouquet of flowers were pushed closer to her face. The pungent stench had lessened, as if her senses had adapted to the stink. More likely they were numbed by something else. Chemicals.
Now she recognised the scent. It was…
Sharp pain shot throughout her body. Her muscles contorted. Her vision blurred.
She saw his shadow fade away.
And then everything went dark.
Jonette Blake, author of The Widow Catcher
Jonette Blake writes supernatural thrillers and suspense thrillers. She is the author of over ten books and dozens of short stories, writing as D L Richardson.
She was born in Ireland and grew up in Australia. She lived through the 80s and music is still a big part of her life. When she is not writing, she plays her piano and guitar, listens to music, reads, and enjoys the beach.
She has held jobs in administration, sales and marketing, has worked in HR, payroll, and as a bank teller. Her latest novel The Widow Catcher is based on the coastal town she lives in and her own bank teller experience.
Her books are standalone titles.
Learn more about Jonette by clicking on her name, photo, or any of the following links: Goodreads, BookBub, Instagram, Twitter, & Facebook!
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