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Janice Gallen p1

Readersvoice.com aims to collect a few interesting reading tips. This issue features author Janice Gallen who sheds some light on writing her mysteries Dark Visions and Scent of Evil. These novels feature a couple of retiree sleuths in south-west Sydney, one of whom has psychic powers. Ms Gallen also gives some good book suggestions, including a how-to-write book...

Janice Gallen’s cosy mysteries Dark Visions and Scent of Evil feature the irritable but amusing Clyde Pilley and his psychic wife Meg, two retirees who become sleuths, helping solve murders and other problems friends and relatives are having.
In Scent of Evil, Meg Pilley smells cigar smoke when no cigar smoker is around. She knows it is a psychic sign, concerning the identity of the serial killer murdering the elderly in her south-west Sydney suburb.
Author Ms Gallen said she had had psychic experiences of her own. She said she’d smelt cigarette smoke in the car when no smokers were around. A psychic friend later told her she’d had a vision of Ms Gallen’s father sitting in a chair, smoking. The smoke was his way of letting Ms Gallen know he was around.
And Ms Gallen said her Welsh mother had once heard a choir singing, when none was nearby. A half hour later her mother learned that her brother, a chorister, had died.
What I liked about Dark Visions and Scent of Evil was the author’s technical skill in structuring a whodunnit.
A big part of the novels is the author’s take on the world of her fictitious retirees. But the stories are structured well, so that the pace doesn’t bog down in details.
Clyde Pilley has trouble adjusting to retirement, and his wife Meg has trouble adjusting to this. They play lawn bowls, Clyde gardens in his tiny plot of earth and has a beer while he watches the cricket. They have children and grandchildren, some living at the Gold Coast. They have friends, like Ross Delaney, a retired detective, and Clyde’s accountant brother Mick and sister-in-law Enid. They’re not church goers. Meg is more of a New Ager, and uses the suits and symbols of the 78 tarot cards to give readings to friends and acquaintances. In the novels, these powers are benevolent and she uses them to investigate suspicious events in the neighbourhood, including murders.
Ms Gallen said a friend suggested the idea of a grumpy retired man who was anti-retirement, and spent his time solving mysteries. Then Ms Gallen came up with the idea of his psychic wife. The Bible calls psychic prognosticators soothsayers, so you might say Meg Pilley was a sleuth-sayer.
In Dark Visions, Clyde is glad when he meets someone to play pool with. But when he visits a new friend’s house, something is awry. Then there is his accountant brother, Mick, who seems to be mixed up in some kind of fraud; and the druggies who’ve moved in next door to Meg and Clyde. The characters include a manipulative person, bland and even likeable, who has no problem with destroying lives.
In Scent of Evil, Meg and Clyde Pilley are playing lawn bowls when an elderly friend and fellow player Jack dies. A smell of bitter almonds suggests cyanide poisoning. Meg smells cigar smoke and takes it as an image of the murderer. Later another elderly man dies, while having an affair with a Lutheran minister’s wife. There is a bottle of pills beside his bed: Viagra, but they had been taken out of the sealed packet. Then one of Meg’s friends becomes a victim. Meg has to find out whodunit. Who is the man she can see sitting in the huge olive armchair smoking the cigar?

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– copyright Simon Sandall.