Welcome! I write light-hearted but heartfelt historical murder mysteries. My Cassie Gwynne Mystery series, set in Victorian-era Florida on picturesque Amelia Island, features amateur sleuth Cassie Gwynne, who puts the smarts she inherited from her lawyer father to use when murder washes ashore.
**A portion of every dollar I earn from these books will go to a charitable organization addressing the needs of abandoned, mistreated, or homeless animals - like those Cassie's Aunt Flora champions. I will select and feature a different organization for this donation every few months, so if you'd like to nominate someone, please send me a note and tell me about their wonderful work! **
JANUARY 14, 2022
from Bookouture / Storyfire Limited, a member of Hachette UK Group
A Deception Most Deadly
A Cassie Gwynne Mystery Book 1
A bereaved young woman returns to the southern island town where she was born to meet her mysterious newfound aunt and uncover the truth about her family's past—but finds herself tangled in a murder inquest instead.
They say you don’t choose your family…
In the fall of 1883, when Cassie Gwynne, heartbroken over the sudden loss of her father, discovers a box of letters from an aunt she never knew she had, she takes a chance and returns to the southern island town where she was born to meet her. Cassie hasn’t been back to Fernandina since her family evacuated during the War when she was a baby, but from what she’s heard about this palm-tree-lined “Newport of the South,” it’s sure to impress, as is her Aunt Flora, whose reputation as a perfumer reaches beyond the island’s balmy shores.
From the moment Cassie arrives, however, things don’t go to plan. Particularly when, after witnessing a purse snatching, clashing with an irritating but good-looking policeman, and receiving an unwelcome surprise at the county jail, she stumbles upon Flora’s least-favorite neighbor lying dead at the foot of harbor pilots’ lookout tower.
The surly county coroner is quick to declare the death an accident. But Cassie, feeling the pull of instincts instilled in her by her attorney father, suspects something more sinister is involved and uncovers evidence that forces the coroner to launch a murder inquest. Unfortunately, the coroner’s jury proves to be neither competent nor objective and, influenced by old grudges and other personal agendas, quickly descends on Flora as its prime suspect. So, despite the distraction of an unexpected encounter with her dashing childhood crush and the questions still swirling in her head about her family’s past, Cassie must work together with Flora’s quirky group of friends—who include a foul-mouthed curiosities shop owner, a blind Civil War veteran, a half-Chinese newspaper boy, and an assortment of rescue animals—to find out what really happened to the murdered man, or else risk losing the only family she has left.
The Secret Ingredient: The Mystery Writers' Cookbook
Ed. Dawn Dowdle
from Level Best Books
If you're in the mood for some murderously good recipes this holiday season, check out The Secret Ingredient: The Mystery Writers' Cookbook, brought to you by ME and several of the other lovely authors at Blue Ridge Literary Agency!
It includes an aromatic and irresistibly delicious recipe for orange blossom scones (with candied orange peels!) direct from Aunt Flora's kitchen...A perfect treat for your book club. Or ALL FOR YOU as you while away a cozy afternoon with your favorite book and your snuggly best fur-friend!
If you think about it, it makes perfect sense I’d eventually try to be a writer. One need only examine my childhood, as any therapist will tell you, and look for the signs: On family vacations my poor mother, already on her last nerve as my father, the Botany Professor, drove us around winding mountain roads with one eye on the ground vegetation, constantly screamed at me to “stop reading and look at the scenery.” I assigned my books call numbers and insisted my friends “check them out” from my “library” (the fines for late returns were steep but, as it turned out, largely unenforceable). I wrote plays about forest fairies and figures from classical mythology and petitioned for special dispensation so I could stage them on the playground during lunch. My favorite school task was diagramming sentences.
So, when, many years later, I scaled back my other work to spend more time writing, no one really should have been surprised. Concerned for my sanity and financial well-being, maybe, but not surprised. And am I ever glad I did. I am truly blessed, and I make an effort every day to remember that.
What else... I'm half-Chinese and Florida-raised, Yale- and UVA- educated, and Chicago...buffed and polished? In any case, I now proudly call New Orleans home, and when I'm not writing or getting lost down research rabbit holes, I spend my time practicing law, shooting pool, performing operas and musicals, ogling old buildings, acting for film and television, futzing with inventions that address highly specific and possibly only-annoying-to-me problems, traveling, ranting at bartenders about the evils of straws, riding horses, and petting strange cats (though, since we've recently welcomed home a new kitten friend, Musette (pictured below), I might need to cut back on that last).
Yeah, I know.
If you have suggestions for additional hobbies or want to talk about my books, please message me using the chat function below, email me, or connect with me on social media (@essigauthor). You can also sign up for my email newsletter HERE.
One other thing about me: If you try to tell me the Oxford comma is wrong, I will fight you—before hugging you because I’m just so thrilled you care.