Edith Tarbescu’s absorbing mystery novel One Will: Three Wives (Adelaide Books) is here to kill it in the murder-book scene. The action takes place in an expertly portrayed New York City in wintertime, full of cozy coffee shops and snowy landmarks. But don’t the postcard-worthy imagery fool you into thinking that you’re putting on rose-colored glasses. Quite the contrary, and quite far from quaint, there’s a whole big apple of bad apples over here. 

When the Russian Mafia steps in, a poor shelter dog is stolen and betrayal haunts the streets after the death of a husband and the tussle over his will, well, nothing is safe and nothing is sacred. Those streets are getting colder and darker by the minute as winter sets in and criminals reign supreme.

Full of fun and fascinating twists as well as complex main characters, this book is a gem. Additionally, it’s fast-paced and brimming with potential suspects, shady activity and sinister dealings, meaning that the author has woven together a mystery that keeps her readers guessing. And what better time of year to pick up a novel with some lighthanded suspense and spooks? Also, when the New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards were announced, this mystery tied as winner in the category of Fiction eBooks, so be sure to take that accolade into consideration. 

The reviews are in, calling it, “a roller coaster ride of plot twists” and “hard to put down,” so put down whatever else you’re doing and pick it up! If you have to wait for it to arrive, however, begin to get acquainted with the author as we talk to her in the interview below.

Q: Where did the idea for One Will: Three Wives come from?

A: I had written a novel before One Will: Three Wives about a Wall Street stockbroker, but he turned out to be an antihero. I learned that’s hard to sell, so I devised this plot with a likable protagonist, a female detective and no antihero. 

Q: You are a playwright and author of four children’s books. Did your experience with those efforts play a role in developing this book?

A: Theater was my first love. I went from studying acting to studying playwriting so my strength is in dialogue. I have lots of dialogue in One Will: Three Wives. For example, there’s great dialogue between the two detectives, Cheri and James, and during interrogations with suspects.

Q: The plot is full of twists and turns. Did you have the story mapped from the outset or did you change things up as you went along?

A: No, it was not mapped out from the beginning. I rely a lot on intuition. I tried to give each of the suspects a motive and the opportunity to push the murdered man over the balcony. Most of all, I was hoping the reader would not be able to guess “whodunnit.”

Q: The book goes in many directions: Russian Mafia, a wintry New York City, shelter dogs, betrayal and romance. Did you have to conduct a lot of research to provide realistic and accurate depictions of these elements?

A: I did a fair amount of research. I visited the precinct I wrote about in my book and lucked out. A police officer brought me into an interrogation room, answered questions, etc., and I visited the animal shelter that’s in my book. I had read about Russians living in Brooklyn so I took the subway from Manhattan to Brighton Beach and saw the area called “Moscow on the Hudson.”. 

Q: Who is the favorite character in the book and why? Who was the inspiration for this character?

A: My favorite character is the protagonist, Cheri, a female detective, who moved to New York City from Billings, MT. She’s part Native American and proud of that. She’s feisty, brave and has a good sense of humor. Most of all, she’s very likable. A family I met years ago in Billings, Montana who were part Native American and inspired me to create the character of Cheri.

Q: Which scene was the most fun to write?

A: The scene where the third wife is acting in a play off-Broadway. I use part of my one-woman play titled Suffer Queen, which was produced in New York City. The two detectives travel downtown to the theater, then take her out for coffee to try to question her.

Q: What do you hope readers will take away from your book?

A: I hope they realize that not all mysteries are violent, dark, scary or gruesome with images that make you want to cover your eyes. I hope they found Cheri a likable protagonist; hope they weren’t able to guess who the murderer was and that the book had a fair amount of humor.

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The author of four books for young people (published by Houghton Mifflin, Barefoot Books and Scholastic) Edith Tarbescu is also a produced playwright. She studied playwriting at the Yale School of Drama where, in addition to writing for the stage, she also acted on the stage. Her various essays were published in newspapers and magazines including The Hartford Courant, Newsday, The Berkshire Eagle, Adelaide Literary Magazine, The Christian Science Monitor and The New York Times. She grew up in Brooklyn, New York then lived in Connecticut for many years before moving to Albuquerque, New Mexico twenty years ago. She is currently at work on a memoir titled Beyond Brooklyn.