As some of you may know, my stepmother, Mary Jane, died unexpectedly of an aneurysm in February. She and her family lived next door to mine in New Jersey when I was a kid. Her reconnection with my dad thirteen years ago brought that history full circle. She took good care of my father, yes indeed. And she was kind and welcoming to my family, right down to the dogs. But she was also one of my great supporters. She couldn¹t wait to buy a stack of each new release and get them signed so she could distribute them to family and friends. One morning a year or so ago, she called me and announced she hadn¹t been able to sleep. Instead of tossing and turning, she got up and brainstormed titles for my next release. She rattled thirty of them off.
But it wasn’t just my writing she enjoyed: She was a huge mystery fan. So I gave her books for her birthday, Mother’s Day, and Christmas. And in between I collected my freebies from conferences and sent them her way. A couple of weeks ago, I went back to New Jersey to pack up my dad’s belongings. What fun to come across my fellow sisters’ books on Mary Jane’s bookshelves! I uncovered Rochelle Krich’s FERTILE GROUND (well before I’d ever met Rochelle through SinC and before I’d had a book published), a signed copy of THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING ERNESTINE by Dorothy Cannell from the last Crime Bake conference, books by Denise Swanson, Elaine Viets, SW Hubbard, Deborah Donnelly, Sujata Massey, Mignon Ballard, and more. (Can you tell she loved cozies?)
So if you noticed a flicker of darkness on February 11--maybe that was Mary Jane passing. I’ll miss her terribly--but we’ve all lost a fan!
Roberta Isleib is president of Sisters in Crime and the author of DEADLY ADVICE and PREACHING TO THE CORPSE.