My name is Bertie Bigelow, and I am the choir director at Metro Community College. The school where I teach is located in an African-American neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago. I wear designer suits to work, keep my attitude professional, and try not to badmouth people – even when I know they deserve it. I’m determined to show my students that someone who grew up in the ‘hood can actually amount to something.
I am a curious person by nature – one of those dogged types that, when confronted with a problem, can’t rest until they’ve gotten to the heart of the matter. My late husband, Delroy Bigelow, used to joke that I was part Earth Mother, part Diva and part Bloodhound. My husband was a brilliant lawyer. So smart that here on the South Side, folks used to call him the “black Perry Mason.” Since Delroy died in a car crash last year, I’ve cried myself to sleep nearly every night.
My boss, Chancellor Humbert X. Grant, wants to fire me because my best student cussed out a prominent Chicago politician in the middle of last week’s Christmas concert. Why my student did this, I have no idea. But you’d best believe I intend to get to the bottom of it.
I’ve been pretty upset lately. My friend Ellen Simpson tells me I need to forget my troubles. As it happens, I’ve been invited to a fancy dress ball given by one of black Chicago’s fanciest social clubs. The man who’s invited me to go is nearly twice my age, an inveterate snob and a pompous bore. Still, Ellen thinks I should go.
“Get out and kick up your heels,” she tells me. “So what if he wears the ugliest toupee in the city? A date is a date.”
I suppose she’s right. I’ve got to start going out sooner or later. Anyway, what could possibly go wrong?
Melody For Murder is the first book in the Bertie Bigelow mystery series, published by Pen-L Publishing, June 2015.
When recently widowed college choir director Bertie Bigelow accepts a date with Judge Theophilous Green, she never imagines the civil rights pioneer and inveterate snob will be found shot to death the next morning. She’s even more surprised when her favorite student is arrested for the crime.
Bertie suspects that someone else in her tight-knit social circle is really the killer.
Is it hot-tempered Patrice Soule, voluptuous diva and recent winner of the Illinois Idol contest? Is it Charley Howard, the Hot Sauce King, a self-made millionaire with Mafia connections? Is it the mysterious Dr. Momolu Taylor? Newly arrived from Africa, he’s invented a new sex drug that’s got some powerful politicians feeling frisky. Could it be Alderman “Steady Freddy” Clark, corrupt South Side ward boss and would-be patron of the arts?
One thing is certain: Bertie Bigelow will need to keep her wits about her to avoid becoming the killer’s next victim.
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Meet the author
Carolyn Wilkins is a Professor of Ensembles at Berklee College of Music. She is the author of Melody For Murder, the first in a series of murder mysteries featuring Bertie Bigelow, an African American choir director on the South Side of Chicago. Mojo For Murder, the next book in this series, will be released by Pen-L Publishing in the fall of 2016.
Carolyn is also the author of They Raised Me Up: A Black Single Mother and the Women Who Inspired Her and Damn Near White: An African American Family’s Rise from Slavery to Bittersweet Success. Both books are available from the University of Missouri Press.
In addition, Carolyn is an accomplished jazz pianist, composer and vocalist whose performance experience includes radio and television appearances with her group SpiritJazz, a concert tour of South America as a Jazz Ambassador for the US State Department, performances with the Pittsburgh Symphony as a percussionist under Andre Previn, and shows featuring Melba Moore, Nancy Wilson and the Fifth Dimension.
All comments are welcomed.
Giveaway: Carolyn is giving away one paperback book (US entries only, please) and one free download (open to everyone) of Melody to Murder to two lucky readers who write in and comment on this post. The giveaway will end August 29, 2016 at 12 AM (midnight) EST. Good luck everyone!