Mar 27 2013 12:00pm

Fresh Meat: Murder at the P & Z by Dorothy H. Hayes

Murder at the P & Z by Dorothy H. Hayes is a traditional mystery featuring a schoolteacher-turned-reporter-turned-amateur sleuth (available April 1, 2013).

It’s 1983 and hardworking reporter, Carol Rossi, is one of the busiest people in the small town of Wilton, Connecticut. One of her regular haunts is the local planning and zoning department, where there’s always a chance for disagreement and controversy.

Rossi’s paper, The Wilton Weekly, keeps the whole town in the loop as plans are made for new buildings, malls, and other projects that require permits. She’s been visiting the offices of Planning & Zoning twice a week since she got her job. Her journalism award was the result of an in-depth article about the need to protect local well water, which endeared her to the environmentally friendly staff.

In the midst of Rossi’s routine days comes a surprise that pulls her from her home after her workday is completed. Wilton has its first murder in 86 years and Rossi’s editor gives her the assignment. Her initial excitement turns into full-blown grief when she discovers the victim is her good friend from the P&Z offices. She vows to find the murderer.

Surprisingly, Rossi doesn’t get much support in her quest. The police are happy to accept the obvious ruling of a robbery/mugging gone bad. But Rossi believes it was more of an execution-style murder with props added to change the perception.

Her job as reporter and deeper access to the case through her boyfriend/police officer mean Rossi keeps finding conflicting stories along the way to the truth. When a second murder occurs involving staff at the P&Z, Rossi knows the situation is no longer just about local politics and permits.

 This book has a complicated and satisfying plot line. I was constantly making guesses and coming up wrong. It seems an easy story on the surface but as Rossi discovers, there are never easy answers to the difficult questions. But like any good heroine, nothing stops Rossi from ferreting out the truth. She insists on knowing who murdered her friend and won’t stop until she finds out, even if it means her own life is in danger.

Dorothy H. Hayes did a good job of creating strong, compelling characters. Not only is Rossi’s boyfriend a good detective who doesn’t flinch at digging for the truth, he’s an animal rescuer who has a lovely menagerie in his barn and unlike people they all manage to get along.

As a former reporter, Dorothy had no trouble taking us through the step-by-step process a good news seeker uses to present all the facts in a story. Since the novel takes place before the development of all the technology we have at our fingertips today, Rossi had to use old-fashioned methods—the phone and face-to-face questioning. I worked for a variety of newspapers through the years, and it’s not as easy to provide accurate articles to fill all those empty spaces as you might think.

When a good friend of the victim asked to talk to Rossi off the record, the intrepid reporter knows she’s making some real progress.

She combed her fingers through her cropped hair, taking a minute to think.

“My impression at first was that he wanted to get a clean start someplace else. Harrison just wanted to have fun, enjoy his retirement. But then Maddy told me she was frightened, that she thought she was being followed.” She shook her head as she relived that conversation with her departed friend.

“Is there something else?” I asked, noticing how nervous Ann was becoming.

“Then Maddy told me she told Harrison about the maps as soon as she discovered the discrepancy. That’s when she started to be scared.” Her nervousness increased as she spoke. She folded her hands to keep them from twitching.

“What are you not telling me, Ann? It’s okay,” I encouraged her.

“Maddy told me she thought somebody was following her those last two weeks,” she said. “Then Maddy heard from Harrison that he’d be back here on Monday. He was supposed to meet her at Cider Mill on Tuesday. I guess Harrison didn’t have a car. She told me she wanted to take him to Friendly’s and talk to him about the maps over a cup of coffee. Rossi, that was the night she was murdered.”

Ann had just confirmed my theory that Maddy had planned to meet Harrison at Cider Mill. I heard myself groan.

“Ann, I know Maddy told you this in confidence, but this is a fact that you must tell the police, that she was meeting Harrison at Cider Mill.”

“I did,” she said with bulging, indignant eyes. “I told the Chief, but he said it only proves that Harrison wasn’t the last person to see Maddy alive. She never got to the school, he said. He promised to check it out, to find out if Harrison was supposed to meet her. But how?  Maddy didn’t tell anybody else. Harrison will deny it."

Rossi struggles with her story and her search for justice as the leads become harder and harder to find. The lies, misconceptions, and secrets of small-town leadership force Rossi to look outside her usual sources to find an anchor for her story. Unfortunately, those shadowy figures lurking on the edges of Wilton don’t want her meddling.

Thank goodness when I was a reporter I only did feature stories and profiles. I wouldn’t want to have to deal with the people Rossi does in this wonderful mystery.


This Sweepstakes has ended. Check out current opportunites at our Sweepstakes feature page.

To enter for a chance to win one of two copies of Dorothy H. Hayes’s Murder at the P&Z, make sure you’re a registered member of the site, and then simply leave a comment below.

TIP: Since only comments from registered users will be tabulated, if your user name appears in red above your comment—STOP—go log in, then try commenting again. If your user name appears in black above your comment, You’re In!

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. A purchase does not improve your chances of winning. Sweepstakes open to legal residents of fifty (50) United States and the District of Columbia, who are 18 or older. To enter, fill out entry at  beginning at 12:00 p.m. Eastern Time (ET) March 27, 2013. Sweepstakes ends at 11:59 a.m. ET on April 3, 2013 (the “Promotion Period”). Void outside of the 50 US and DC and where prohibited by law. Please see full details and official rules at Sponsor: Macmillan, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010


Find more coverage of new releases in our Fresh Meat series.


Leigh Neely is a former journalist and editor who now writes fiction fulltime. She and her writing partner, Jan Powell, are anticipating the release of their novel, Second Nature by Neely Powell, in late spring. She also writes for the popular blogs, and for Her short story, “A Vampire in Brooklyn” is in the anthology Murder New York Style: Fresh Slices.

Read all posts by Leigh Neely for Criminal Element.

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Karen Cherubino
3. kcherubtx
Excellent revirew. Murder at the P&Z sounds like a really good read. A former in-law used to work on a P&Z in a small town and there is lots of controversy.
Leigh Neely
4. LeighNeely
Thanks for the kind words. It's a good book with a nice twist!
Amie Ward
5. Amie
Looks like a great book I would like to read
Karen Barnett
6. kpbarnett
Books with reporters make for great reading!
7. Leigh
It is a good book, and reporters write good stories because they're so accustomed to gathering the facts and putting them down in the right order. They're usually very creative with words too!
Anne Joyce
8. ajoyim
I enjoyed the review and want to enjoy the read as well!
Dorothy Hayes
10. DorothyHayes
Leigh, humbly, thanks for the kind words! You speak just like a reporter. Thank you to all who left kind comments. Can't wait to send the two copies out!
Laura McDonald
11. bonnieclyde
Animal Instinct was a great read and this one sounds even better!
13. Sha-Li
I like to read suspense novels. This one with a local flair is even more appealing!
14. Lisa L
Great review and great book!
15. shannon Baas
I would like this.
Elaine Conte
18. borogirl
Great review, sounds like my kind of story :)
Dorothy Hayes
20. DorothyHayes
Bonnieclyde, thanks for mentioning Animal Instinct being a great read. It was a whole seven years ago! I hardly run into people who have read it so thanks. It was well received but the distribution was poor because it was self pubished. A traditional publisher, like Mainly Murder Press, opens doors. Times they are a chaning, thank goodness!
kathy pease
21. klp1965
Thank you for the great giveaway please count me in :)
Shaunterria Owens
25. shaunterria
Real-style investigating, woo hoo! I hope I win a copy :)
William Hamilton
28. billham68
Debut novels are always a treat for me. I enjoy reading new talent. Look forward to this one.
Deborah Dumm
29. deb730
Thank you for the chance to win!!! Can't wait to read the book!!! Sounds exciting!!!
31. missmeigs
sounds great
Sue Farrell
32. Suekey12
Currently our little city is having all sorts of fights about the planning and zoning department---so I think this book would be topical for me. At least no one has been killed here---yet.
33. mosaix
School teacher-reporter-sleuth! Yes!
Bob Alexander
34. rx_alex
I like the premise and the character-rich story.
Cheryl English
36. RoyalCheryl
This book sounds amazing. Thanks for the chance.
Clydia DeFreese
39. clydia
I'm always eager to read new women mystery writers. Thanks for letting us know about this author.
41. cmgren
Would love to win a copy of this new to me mystery book.
Mary Ann Woods
42. puttputt1198eve
This book sounds good especially since I'm a retired school teacher, wanna-be private eye! Thanks for the chance to win it.
45. aliceactor
Female sleuths rock! Would love to read this...thanks!
47. Leigh
So happy to see so many of you participating! Good luck on the giveaway!
Pat Murphy
50. murphyp2011
Good review. Sounds like something I would like to read.
51. Rose Milligan
I love mysteries! This sounds like a great book. Thanks for having the giveaway.
Kristen Heyl
54. H0CkEyGrrL
This sounds like a great book. Going on my TBR list
Amie Ward
55. Amie
Great characters and plot line. Would like to win and read it.
Danny Rubio
59. Danster818
I really liked Dorothy Hayes other book Animal Instinct. I would really like to win Murder at the P&Z, because I'm sure its as good as her first. Thank you...Single Dad Danny
Jane Schwarz
60. Janeschwarz
It sounds like a good read. Thank you for the opportunity to wun a copy.
Ginny Horton
61. oregongin
What a great description of the book. It sounds like a great mystery and I would love an opportunity to win this book. If I don't win, I will reserve it at my library and enjoy it when it comes in.
susan beamon
62. susanbeamon
It's nice to be in at the start of a series. I like the idea of it being before the constant cell phone reach out and bother someone age. So few people want to remember how we lived then, without the instant information that attacks us these days.
Merle Carrus
63. merle
sounds like a great new series. I look forward to reading it.
Rosemary Simm
64. Ocalarose
Oh those government offices that give us such conflict in our lives.
The zoning department can make the strongest person think evil thoughts and that gives Dorothy Hayes lots of room for a good read. I hope that I'm one of the lucky few to be chosen for this book.
Brenda Elsner
66. brat52101
Sounds like a great book!! Thanks for the chance to win it.
Joanne Mielczarski
67. jtmswim
Sounds like a good read - sign me up.
69. maryc
Thanks for the chance to win MURDER AT THE P &Z.
Phyllis Sinclair
70. psinclair
Murder at the P & Z sounds like a fun read that will keep me guessing.
jeanne sheats
71. catslady
Sounds like the beginning of a page turning series that I would enjoy - thanks!
Jeffrey Malis
73. bravejam
Sounds interesting! I'm curious about the teacher-turned reporter-turned sleuth angle; looking forward to reading how the nuances of the various vocations manifest themselves. Thank you for the great review and the opportunity!
Judie McDonald
74. Judiemcd
Sounds like a fun book. Would love to read. Thanks for the opportunity.
Karen Cherubino
75. kcherubtx
I've seen this book on a couple of blogs. It sounds so interesting. Thanks for the chance!!
Beth Talmage
77. wordygirl
It's great to jump in at the beginning of a series, and this sounds like one I'll want to follow. I've made note of it so that if I don't happen to win, it will go on my wish list.
Joan Boose
79. joan.boose
Here's to strong intellegent women everywhere! I would enjoy reading this book. Please and thank you!
Jill Miller
80. zekebamm
This sounds like a really good book -- hope I get the opportunity to read it! Thanks for the contest.
82. boycelll
Please consider my entry for a chance to win.
Heather Cowley
83. choochoo
Thoughth for sure the P & Z was a grocery store. ha! Nope.
Liz Veronis
87. Liz V.
Thanks for the review and giveaway of this series debut.
Anita Yancey
89. yellowrose29
Rossi sounds like a great character. I just love books that keep you guessing. I would enjoy reading this one. Thanks for the chance.
Thomas Walker
91. twalker
Looks like fun. Pleae enter me in the contest.
Amie Ward
92. Amie
Looks like a great book I would like to read
Chris Noe
93. ezmerelda
Sounds like a good read. I covered p&z for a newspaper and often contemplated death. :)
Earle Isibue
99. mrflingo
This sounds like a good read. I would love to win it.
Brenda Tucker
100. rango3
The review sounds super - please let me win!
Jackie Wisherd
101. JackieW
As a retired school teacher I would enjoy reading this book. I'm always looking for new mystery writers to report on at my book club.
Sally Winkleblech
102. sallyw
It's always fun to find a new writer to follow. This sounds like a good mystery with interesting twists and turns. Look forward to reading it.
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