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When the House Burns: Author Guest Post

When the House Burns by Priscilla Paton

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When the House Burns

When the House BurnsWhen death comes home, is nowhere safe?

The quest for love and home becomes deadly when Detectives Erik Jansson and Deb Metzger search for the killer of an adulterous real estate agent.

A volatile real estate market, unrest in a homeless encampment, jealousies among would-be lovers, a case of arson—these circumstances thwart G-Met detectives Erik Jansson and Deb Metzger as they investigate the murder of an adulterous woman. The victim’s estranged husband has holes in his alibi. A property developer grieves too much over the death of the woman while his wife shuts him out. The developer’s assistant resents his boss and suspects that the developer was not only involved with the victim but is being scammed by the arsonist. A sexy young widow, friend of the victim, has past traumas triggered by the case and turns to the developer for protection. A homeless man stalked the dead woman and now stalks the young widow. All may hold secrets about the past burning of an apartment complex and the man who died there.

Before the clues come together, Erik Jansson is trapped in an abandoned house as Deb Metzger hunts for a sharpshooter at a remote construction site. The case will burn down around them unless they can scheme their way out of lethal surroundings.

To purchase When the House Burns, click on any of the following links: Amazon, Barnes and Noble & IndieBound

Guest Post When the House Burns by Priscilla Paton

The Serious, The Fun, and Detectives Off Leash 

Detectives Deb Metzger and Erik Jansson work for the fictional public investigative unit, Great Metro or “G-Met” in the greater Twin Cities area. They’re both tall and athletic, both white and middle class, both in their thirties, and both attracted to women. Their author, Priscilla Paton, asked them to speak freely on the serious and the funny in the forthcoming mystery, When The House Burns

Deb: “It’s been tough, Partner, since our last case made it into a book—the one that had Fail and Grace in the title. Double sicknesses—a global pandemic and nasty politicking. I mean, it got me down. Then there was the call volume increase about domestic violence and abuse, my territory. Cramp people who aren’t good for each other in a small space, and it becomes a disaster. And you, you lost weight.” 

Erik: “Muscle mass.” 

Deb: “Yeah, no fat on you, Runner Boy.”

Erik: “I’ve built it back. The pandemic was cruel enough. Then there was the murder of George Floyd, on our home turf, by fellow law enforcement. That was. . .” (He clears his throat).

Deb: “Spit it out—it’ll be good for you.” 

Erik: “Soul killing, racist, a global shame undermining everything we believe in. It’s hard for me to admit, but I was devastated. Months of hate, fear, destruction, sorrow . . .”

Deb: “Whoa whoa, you’re digging yourself a despair pit.” 

Erik: “Our G-Met colleague who’s Black, Jimmy Bond Smalls, couldn’t even talk to me for a while. And with the shutdown I was cut off for a time from Ben, my son, who was with his mother. Juggling being an essential worker with quarantine so we could reunite—” 

“None of that’s in the book, Partner, the new one on sex, death, and real estate, When The House Burns.” 

Erik: “We’re going strictly by the book? A first for us. It is in the new book that Jimmy Bond Smalls and his wife had a baby, a pandemic blessing, and Ben got a scene-stealing puppy.”

Deb: “You’re forgetting the most important thing.” 

Erik: “The murder of the real estate agent, the ‘inciting’ incident?” 

Deb: “You mean it’s not ‘exciting’ or ‘incendiary’?—there certainly are incendiary incidents in the book. I’m talking about my own up-close and personal housing crisis. I was evicted from my sublet, and it’s been bleeping impossible to find a rental. I was outbid on condos, ayeyiyi. I was going bed-hopping crazy—always alone in that bed, mind you. Speaking of crazy, did you know cases of anxiety and depression went up? Not crazy, exactly, but still. Then there’s homelessness. When I can’t find a domicile in the new book, I’m invited to join a homeless encampment where a murderer may be lurking. Don’t laugh—you encouraged that suggestion. Sure, some of the unhomed people had spirit and generosity, but wow, what a tough place to be. Thank my lucky stars, I have you to take it out on, Partner.” 

Erik: “You overdo it.” 

Deb: “Sor-ry, but you go off into a dark space in your head.” 

Erik: “Are you sure it isn’t the dark space in our Author’s head?” 

Deb: “Wait, we have an Author? Oh, the one who had trouble eating like you did. She couldn’t handle the truth. She stopped writing about us. When she did write, it was irritable crap.” 

Erik: “In isolation she confronted the awful the only way she could, by writing into it. As my mom’s favorite poet Robert Frost says, The best way out is always through.”

Deb: “How weird, writers confront reality by escaping into a room. I get that she was researching eviction, displaced families, and crime and addiction in encampments. But compared that to me or my real-life counterparts, I have to talk to kids whose mother has been murdered. She ate chocolate through that and then watched a Netflix bodice-ripper.”

Erik: “Didn’t you?” 

Deb: “Maybe, but that’s not in the book, and my almost girlfriend was stuck in Paris during the shutdown. I can outswim an informant—that’s in the book—but Skype-dating is not in my skill set. This so-called Author never lets us get it on.” 

Erik: “She doesn’t know everything. She’s not omniscient.” 

Deb: “Wait, during the dark time, did you hook up with your ex-wife?” 

Erik: “Nothing like that’s in the book.” 

Deb: “Uh-huh, so we’re by the book again.”

Erik: “Adultery’s an issue in it. There’s a jealous man keen on guns, and I interview these women—another character, not me, calls them sexy—and it’s frustrating. One of them taunted me by obsessing about flings.” 

Deb: “So the Author is raising your hopes. I sure hope she finds me a place to live instead of trying to kill me off. I’m shaking in my socks here and don’t have a drawer to put them in.”

Erik: “She tries to terrify me, too, and succeeds. She puts you into embarrassing situations to keep it light for the rest of us.” 

Deb: “Yeah, I’m homeless just to amuse you. But you fall flat on your face with one of your women. A good thing because I’m desperate for comic relief.” 

Erik: “Even Shakespeare’s Hamlet has snark. It’s in our nature to seek lightness even if, or especially if, we’re daunted.” 

Deb: “I’ve never seen a daunt Are you implying I can’t stay serious?” 

Erik: “No, or yes, hmm. She makes us suffering fools, in the Shakespearean sense, to clear her head.” 

Deb: “I know that look—you’re seeing how long I’ll buy your philosophizing bull. I hear our Author is on committees where she sees statistics about the marginalized. Speaking of committees, she put me on one to improve equity in law-enforcement.” 

Erik: “Necessary work, hopeful.” 

Deb: “Easy for you to say, you’re not on the committee. Meanwhile, I’m emotionally naked and alone with the stupidity and prejudice that people won’t admit they have. Some clown came up with Social Justice Monopoly.” 

Erik: “What would that even look like?” 

Deb: “Everybody wins, and we all end up in a commune?”

Erik: “If that’s the win, I’m not playing. You do realize, the Author’s doing this not just to confront what’s out there and clear her head. She’s doing it for the readers.”

Deb: “Readers watch me squirm into my swimsuit? I’m out.” 

Erik: “Until the next case, with its ups and downs, its joys and sorrows.” 

Deb: (a dramatic sigh) “Until the next case.”

Priscilla Paton

When the House BurnsPriscilla Paton writes mysteries set in the greater Minneapolis/St. Paul area. Priscilla grew up on a dairy farm in Maine.

She received a B.A. from Bowdoin College, a Ph.D. in English Literature from Boston College, was a college professor and taught in Kansas, Texas, Florida, Ohio, and Minnesota.

She has previously published a children’s book, Howard and the Sitter Surprise, and a book on Robert Frost and Andrew Wyeth, Abandoned New England.

She married into the Midwest and lives with her husband in Northfield, Minnesota. When not writing, she participates in community advocacy and literacy programs, takes photos of birds, and contemplates (fictional) murder.

To learn more about Priscilla, click on any of the following links: FacebookTwitterLinkedInInstagram

Elena Taylor/Elena Hartwell

All We Buried, available now in print, e-book, and audio.

Silver Falchion Award Finalist, Best Investigator

Foreword INDIE Award Finalist, Best Mystery



The Foundation of Plot, a Wait, Wait, Don’t Query (Yet!) guidebook. Amazon #1 bestseller

Header image from Pixabay

Elena Hartwell

Author and developmental editor.

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