trial by fury



Perhaps it was fitting justice: a dentist who was overly fond of administering pain found murdered in his own chair. The question for Seattle Homicide Detective J. P. Beaumont is not so much who wanted Dr. Frederick Nielson dead, but rather who of the many finally reached the breaking point. There’s something particularly sordid about this investigation and its subsequent revelations of violence, cruelty, infidelity and sexual abuse. But the most damning piece of evidence is one that will shake Beau to the core of his beliefs . . . and reveal to him the true meaning of evil.

Growing up with a dentist who didn’t believe in using Novocaine left me as a white-knuckled dental patient as an adult–until I wrote this book, that is. Somehow having a dead dentist on the first page fixed me. At a class reunion years later, I found out that some of my fellow classmates and patients aren’t over it yet, but then they don’t write murder mysteries.

This is the fifth Beaumont book. Each time I start a series book, writing the first few chapters is like walking a tightrope. I have to introduce all the on-going characters in a way that will give new readers enough background so they’ll feel as though they’ve read a complete book. This has to be done in a way that doesn’t bore my long-term readers. As I was struggling to write this book, my husband (my second husband, the nice one) stopped by my desk to ask how I was doing.

“Terrible,” I muttered. “This is so boring, I can’t imagine why anyone would read this book.”

“Isn’t this your little old lady book?” he asked.

I nodded.

“And aren’t they a little dotty?”


“Why don’t you give one of them a parrot?”

He walked away then, and I turned back to the computer. For the next forty five minutes, I typed madly as the parrot scene came into focus. As soon as it did, I was inside the book and it came together.

Writing this book also owes something to the mother of one of the girls in my Girl Scout troop. The mother was a docent at the Woodland Park Zoo and suggested I put something about the zoo in one of my books. As a result of her interest, we had a wonderful tour of the Woodland Park Zoo with special emphasis on the Elephant Compound where we learned that being an elephant handler is the most dangerous job in this country.


AVON (1987) ISBN 0-380-75412-6