For thirty-two years, I had a stock answer when asked what a typical day was like for me, soap opera actress Veronica Walsh. I’d wake up at 5 a.m., drive to Manhattan, rehearse my scenes for the day’s filming of Days and Nights, have my hair and makeup done, get in costume, film the scenes, and then go home and learn the next day’s script. It adds up to 2,682 days. I spent every one of those days playing my alter ego, Rachel Wesley. I adored Rachel. She was married six times and never had to pick up a dirty sock or put the toilet seat down. Rachel had children who miraculously aged fifteen years during one of my summer vacations. She also had a number of catfights with her archrival, Diana. Those were the best days.
Then some network honcho decided a medical show would get higher ratings than our forty-seven year old soap, so he assumed the role of Grim Reaper and swung his scythe through the heart of Days. Despite a terrific protest from our fans, the soap was not given a reprieve. Days would not come back from the dead, like so many of its characters had done. I was out of work for the first time in my life. Thanks to my age (hello fifty-three!), I was not in high demand for other roles.
I returned to my hometown of Barton, New York. Nestled in the Adirondacks a few miles northwest of Lake George, Barton is a charming village that nurtured me in my youth and provided me respite in my adulthood. I figured I would spend a month or so in Barton, helping my mother in the bookstore she and my father opened in the 1960’s, hanging out with my best friend Carol, and planning my life’s second act. Barton is a great place for recharging your inner battery. It’s a quiet, peaceful place. Nothing ever happens in Barton.
I certainly did not expect to walk into the eye of a storm. First, I overheard my next-door neighbor Anna Langdon heartlessly ending her romance with my friend Tim. An hour later Anna struck again, this time threatening to evict Pauline Weber from the space she rents for her family’s longtime stationery store. Anna, who owns Barton’s most profitable business, the All Things boutique, also owns most of the retail buildings on the village’s Orchard Street. That’s enough power for Anna to think that Barton is her town.
That wasn’t the end of the drama. Two minutes after giving me a welcome-home hug, my mother informed me that a local farmer had just agreed to sell his land to a mall developer. Mom was in a cold-sweat panic; a shopping center posed an existential threat to the bookstore and the other shops in Barton.
Anna redeemed herself that night at an emergency meeting of members of the business community and the mall developer. She expertly turned the tables on the developer by making a competing offer for the farmland. Gary Pierce, the farmer, quickly accepted the bid, making Anna an instant hero to just about everyone in the village. Except for Mayor Jason Quisenberry. He wasn’t too happy about losing the tax revenue a mall would bring to Barton.
How do I know that? I heard Jason express his displeasure later that night, in Anna’s driveway. In between very noisy kisses. He’s twenty years her junior!
That was my first day home. I went to bed that night certain the peace and quiet would begin the next day. Because come on, life is not a soap opera. Right?
I thought so, until I went over to Anna’s the next morning and found her dead on the kitchen floor. One of her red stilettos and the cast-iron skillet used to kill her were lying at her cold feet. I raced outside and called 911. As I waited for help, I thought of Tim, Pauline, and the mayor. Did one of my friends murder Anna?
So much for hanging out with Mom and Carol. I suddenly had a new role to occupy my time.
You can read more about Veronica in All Things Murder, the first book in the new “Veronica Walsh” mystery series, published Five Star. Books are available at retail and online booksellers.
Comment on this post by 6 p.m. EST on May 26, and you will be entered for a chance to win an Advanced Reader Copy of ALL THINGS MURDER. One winner will be chosen at random. Unless specified, U.S. entries only.
Meet the author
Jeanne Quigley grew up reading mysteries, watching soap operas, and vacationing in the Adirondacks, never imagining these pleasures would be the foundation of her debut novel. Her love of characters—real and fictional—led Jeanne to study Sociology and English at the University of Notre Dame. Jeanne has never been a soap star, but she has worked in the music industry and for an education publisher. She lives in Rockland County, New York.
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