My daily life used to be pretty normal before I moved to Dorset. Or at least my idea of normal. I was Mitch Berger, chief film critic for the most prestigious daily newspaper in New York City. I had a lovely wife, Maisie, who was a talented landscape architect. We shared a beautiful apartment in Greenwich Village. Life was pretty much the way I’d hoped it would turn out back when I was a fat kid watching old movies on TV in my parents’ two-bedroom apartment in Stuyvesant Town. Until, that is, Maisie died of ovarian cancer at the age of 30 and it all turned sour. I couldn’t talk to anyone. Or leave our apartment. And I totally lost interest in movies, which for me is akin to Donald Trump becoming bored with the art of self-promotion. My editor showed up one morning with an ultimatum – either I write a weekend getaway piece for the Travel Section about this historic New England village called Dorset or she planned to put me on this thing called extended medical leave.
I wrote the piece about Dorset, which is the gem of Connecticut’s Gold Coast, a slice of Yankee paradise halfway between New York City and Boston right where the Connecticut River empties into Long Island Sound. I also ended up renting an antique post-and-beam caretaker’s cottage on a private island there called Big Sister. You’d love my place. It has a big stone fireplace and windows that look out at the water in three different directions. Shortly after I moved in I found my landlady’s estranged husband buried in the vegetable garden. That’s a whole long story.
Actually, it’s a whole book called The Cold Blue Blood. The Connecticut State Police sent an ace homicide investigator named Desiree Mitry to solve the crime. Des is a six-feet-one inch graduate of West Point who, unlike me, is extremely guarded with her emotions. I’m not sure the lady even knew how to smile before she met me. She used to be married to a louse that cheated on her. She’s a gifted artist. She rescues feral cats. Her smile, when she does flash it, does warm, strange things to the lower half of my body. And her figure is positively breathtaking. Honestly? We have nothing in common. And it’s not just because I’m a weight challenged Jew and she’s a gorgeous woman of color. Totally not an issue as far as I’m concerned. Not nearly as big a deal as associating with a woman who couldn’t name all five of the Marx Brothers even if I held a gun to her head. Not that I ever would. Des knows at least twelve different ways to kill me with her bare hands and size 12 ½ AA feet. But, as improbable as it sounds, we’ve fallen madly in love. And thanks to Des rubbing some very important people the wrong way she got herself busted down to Master Sergeant. In fact, she’s become Dorset’s Resident Trooper.
So my life is quite a bit different now. I’ve quit the newspaper. I write essays for an e-zine and live pretty much full-time in Dorset so I can spend as much time as possible with our leggy Resident Trooper. Things haven’t gone perfectly between us. Des even got back together with her ex-husband for a few months. That’s a whole long story. Actually, it’s a whole book called The Sour Cherry Surprise. But it turns out that we’re lost without each other. Plus she needs my help when she encounters a particularly tough case. Not that she would ever admit that.
My typical day starts before dawn here on Big Sister Island. I have two cats, Clemmie and Quirt, and Quirt always wants to be let me out so he can hunt. Usually, he returns with a headless bunny or mouse for me as a token of his affection. A solemn burial ensues, followed by a brisk walk on the island’s beach. If it’s cold outside I’ll build a fire in the fireplace. Then I get to work at my computer. I listen to loud rock ‘n’ roll while I work. Lately, I’ve been into vintage Neil Young. If you live within a mile of me you’re likely to hear me sitting in with Neil on my sky blue Fender Stratocaster. I’m not what you would call a talented musician. In fact, I’m not what you’d call a musician. But I love to make noise.
When you live in a small community like Dorset you become involved in the daily lives of your neighbors and friends. You look out for each other. After work I often pick up groceries and prescription meds for three different elderly friends who can no longer drive. I stick around for coffee, homemade cookies and a big helping of local gossip. It seems as if everyone in Dorset is related to everyone else and knows each other’s most intimate secrets.
Which brings me to our newest adventure, THE SNOW WHITE CHRISTMAS COOKIE. One of the old geezers who I run errands for is Rut Peck, Dorset’s retired postmaster. Rut comes to me with a problem shortly before Christmas. It’s the whitest Christmas anyone can remember, by the way. Forty inches of the white stuff has already fallen and another blizzard is en route. Anyway, it seems that Dorset’s current postmaster has herself a full-blown crisis. Someone is stealing the mail from the curbside mailboxes in the Historic District. I’m not going to tell you much more than that because I don’t want to spoil it for you. But I will say that there’s a whole lot more going on than meets the eye. And several people are going to lose their lives before this mess gets cleared up — possibly including a certain prominent film critic. Oh, right, I should explain something else to you. Unlike Des, whose methods are clearly spelled out by guidelines and procedures, I often go my own way. That means I’ve been known to blunder into things and get myself into so much trouble that Des has to come to my rescue.
Like I said before, she needs my help. Not that she would ever admit that.
You can read more about Mitch in The Snow White Christmas Cookie, the ninth in the “Berger & Mitry” mystery series. The first book in the series is The Cold Blue Blood.
Meet the author
David Handler is the Edgar Award-winning master of the witty whodunit. He has written eight novels about the dapper celebrity ghostwriter Stewart Hoag and his faithful, neurotic basset hand, Lulu. The Snow White Christmas Cookie is the ninth book in his bestselling series featuring the mismatched crime fighting duo of pudgy New York film critic Mitch Berger and lovely Connecticut State Trooper Desiree. His newest hero, Benji Golden, a feisty and streetwise 137-pound New York private eye, will make his debut next summer in Runaway Man. David began his career as a journalist and has also written extensively for television and films on both coasts. He presently lives in a 200-year-old carriage house in Old Lyme, Connecticut.
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