Tag Archives: Triss Stein

My Musing ~ Brooklyn Wars by Triss Stein

Brooklyn Wars by Triss Stein is the fourth book in the “Erica Donato” mystery series. Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press, August 2017

From the earliest days of the Republic until the administration of LBJ, the Brooklyn Navy Yard was, proudly, both an arsenal of democracy, in FDR’s words, and the creator of 70,000 local jobs. In time it became best known as the scary place New Yorkers had to locate to rescue their impounded cars. And then it came back to life, but not without a war.

A public meeting becomes a battleground over plans to redevelop the once-proud Brooklyn Navy Yard. Local residents clamor for their own agenda in redeveloping 300 acres overlooking a sparkling downtown Manhattan, while business and real estate experts argue and city officials cower. Erica Donato, still writing her PhD dissertation about changes in city neighborhoods, witnesses the shocking murder of a power-broker that night on the Yard’s condemned Admirals’ Row.

Erica uncovers the dead man’s complicated history with the Yard, with his road to wealth and a high-flyer lifestyle, and with his wives and mistresses. When her daughter, Chris, visits her father’s relatives for a family history project, Erica goes along, and learns that the Donato clan was involved in the Navy Yard’s glory days and its slow, politics-ridden death. The story of Aunt Philomena, tall and blond, one of the proud Brooklyn girls who built ships in the Yard during World War II, captivates her. After the U.S. victory these women were told to give their jobs back to the men coming home. Philomena, so strong, so happy, mysteriously faded away and died young.

Under pressure to drop her chapter on the Naval Yard and finish her PhD dissertation on a final deadline, as well as from the police to step aside for safety, Erica once again discovers “what’s past is prologue” to murder. . .and to her life.

This is one of my favorite series that features my favorite borough. . .Brooklyn. Erica finds herself in the wrong place at the wrong time and this is where this adventure takes us. From the streets of Brooklyn to Buffalo and back again, the fast-paced drama took me on a journey that I did not want to see end. The history the author presented intertwined nicely with the mystery on the page, keeping me enthralled in all the small detail. The author did a great job in ratcheting up the suspense with some key elements that enhanced the telling of this tale. Mixed into all of this is the personal drama that Erica must deal to keep her life on track. With a great cast of characters, enticing dialogue and of course the perfect backdrop, this was the best book in this terrific series. I can’t wait to see where we go next with Erica and her friends.

A day in the life of Erica Donato by Triss Stein

All I really wanted to do was finish my dissertation. I would have a PhD in urban history if I could ever get to the end of my work on how Brooklyn neighborhoods change. It seemed like a good idea when I began. Now, not so much. My questions kept turning up people who had secrets they were determined to keep hidden forever. And my own life kept happening too. I was a single mother of a lovely, exasperating teen-age girl. My old house badly needed work. My occasional romantic life was mostly confusing.

The biggest distraction was that those Brooklyn neighborhoods were changing so fast, I could not keep up. Chapters of my work seemed outdated before I even finished writing them. My advisor was insisting I draw a line on the research and get my conclusion written, but there was always something I could not pass up. Just one more issue. Or incident. Or development. Or mystery.

I should have listened to her. Instead I went to a community meeting about the ongoing fate of the famous Brooklyn Navy Yard. In recent decades, it had been famous only as the scary, hard to find place where New Yorkers retrieved impounded cars, but it had a long and glorious history. Great ships were built there, including the Maine and the Arizona. During World War II it was a powerful engine for victory, operating around the clock., employing 70,000 men and – most interesting- women too, real life Rosie the Riveters. What historian could ignore the efforts to bring it back to productive life? Not this historian.

So I went to the meeting and it was contentious from the start, a battleground of different Brooklyns. Hipsters, gentrifiers, project residents, they were all there. And this is Brooklyn. Everyone in Brooklyn has an opinion. Only when a tough, abusive old man took charge was it calm enough to hear the official speakers.

Before I left, I wanted to sneak a peek at the rest of the yard, a significant underused piece of prime New York real estate. I’ve had better ideas. In no time the noisy meeting was behind me and the six lanes of circling expressway traffic was out of sight and almost out of hearing. I was alone on a dimly –lit road beside ghostly, deserted buildings.

And then I wasn’t alone after all. I saw something I should not have seen, and the next sound I heard was my own voice screaming.

Someone died that night, a prominent man with a lot of enemies. I didn’t know, then, that I had a connection to some of them, that my daughter’s family history project would immerse me ever deeper me in a Navy Yard story, and that I was about to learn far more than I could write about in my dissertation.


You can read more about Erica in Brooklyn Wars, the fourth book in the “Erica Donato” mystery series.

From the earliest days of the Republic until the administration of LBJ, the Brooklyn Navy Yard was, proudly, both an arsenal of democracy, in FDR’s words, and the creator of 70,000 local jobs. In time it became best known as the scary place New Yorkers had to locate to rescue their impounded cars. And then it came back to life, but not without a war.

A public meeting becomes a battleground over plans to redevelop the once-proud Brooklyn Navy Yard. Local residents clamor for their own agenda in redeveloping 300 acres overlooking a sparkling downtown Manhattan, while business and real estate experts argue and city officials cower. Erica Donato, still writing her PhD dissertation about changes in city neighborhoods, witnesses the shocking murder of a power-broker that night on the Yard’s condemned Admirals’ Row.

Erica uncovers the dead man’s complicated history with the Yard, with his road to wealth and a high-flyer lifestyle, and with his wives and mistresses. When her daughter, Chris, visits her father’s relatives for a family history project, Erica goes along, and learns that the Donato clan was involved in the Navy Yard’s glory days and its slow, politics-ridden death. The story of Aunt Philomena, tall and blond, one of the proud Brooklyn girls who built ships in the Yard during World War II, captivates her. After the U.S. victory these women were told to give their jobs back to the men coming home. Philomena, so strong, so happy, mysteriously faded away and died young.

Under pressure to drop her chapter on the Naval Yard and finish her PhD dissertation on a final deadline, as well as from the police to step aside for safety, Erica once again discovers “what’s past is prologue” to murder. . .and to her life.

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About the author
Triss Stein is a small–town girl from New York farm country who has spent most of her adult life in Brooklyn. She writes mysteries about different Brooklyn neighborhoods and their unique histories, in her ever-fascinating, ever-changing, ever-challenging adopted home. In the new book, Brooklyn Wars, murder gets in the way as heroine, Erica Donato researches the proud history and slow death of the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

All comments are welcomed.

Giveaway: Leave a comment below for your chance to win a print copy of one of the first three books (Brooklyn Bones, Brooklyn Graves or Brooklyn Secrets) in the “Erica Donato” series, (U.S. residents only), winner’s choice. The giveaway will end August 9, 2017. Good luck everyone!

Erica Donato’s Brooklyn Secrets by Triss Stein

Brooklyn SecretsIt began most respectably, that day, the day I met gifted young Savanna, some kind library workers, and some menacing young men. I had a most respectable, even boring, goal: start the next chapter of my dissertation in urban history, specifically on how Brooklyn neighborhoods changed over time with changing populations. A good idea, right, for a Brooklyn girl, born and bred?

I needed a chapter on Brownsville, a neighborhood as ungentrified now as it was from its very beginning. Always struggling, always poor, whatever the population. Only the accents and the skin color changed. I had collected some research, some thought-provoking photos, and re-read a classic book, a literary memoir about growing up there that was as vivid now as the day it was published. My plan was to get in the mood by going out there, looking at some of the places that remain, looking at what has changed, taking some photos. I didn’t know it then, but that book would also lead me to the author’s sister and both living stories and buried memories about old Brownsville.

As to modern Brownsville? OK. Maybe I knew it was not exactly the mundane activity I told myself it was. I’ll admit my instinct was not to tell anyone where I was going– not my dad, not my teen-age daughter, not my adviser- because I knew what the reaction would be. True, it has one of the highest crime rates in New York but I was going anyway. I wasn’t interested in hearing any commentary.

To my delight, I found the charming branch library that was built back in the thirties. In fact, it was originally the Brownsville Children’s Library. I met those nasty youngsters on my way in to look around and ask questions. I think they accosted me just for fun. Their idea of fun, not mine. I soon learned they had been harassing the young library assistant who was assigned to show me around. That was Savanna, shy and smart, whose college scholarship was being celebrated that very day. I was invited to have a piece of cake and join the proud moment.

A few days later, she was found beaten and left for dead in a vacant lot. When I saw her mother on TV, insisting someone must know the truth, I realized we had been classmates years ago. We were both struggling single mothers, taking the bus to Brooklyn College just as we had done for high school.

We weren’t friends, didn’t even know each other, but I sure remembered her. She was someone you didn’t forget, in spite of the years, the now grown-up clothes and hairstyle and responsible job.

So I did what any mother of a teen would do in the circumstances, and reached across the decade gone, and the fact that she would not remember me, and wrote: How can I help?

It all started first day, when I began to learn more than I ever expected about how Brownsville is now; and how it is like, and not like, Brownsville then; how young people struggle, now and then, to make hope when there is no hope; how I made new friends out of a long-ago fellow student and two very old ladies with long memories and untold stories.


You can read more about Erica in Brooklyn Secrets, the third book in the “Erica Donato” mystery series, published by Poisoned Pen Press. The first two books in the series are Brooklyn Bones and Brooklyn Graves.

GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment by 12 a.m. eastern on December 24 for your chance to win a print copy of BROOKLYN SECRETS. (US entries only, please.) Good luck everyone!

About the author
Triss Stein is a small–town girl from New York farm country who has spent most of her adult life in New York the city. This gives her the useful double vision of a stranger and a resident for writing mysteries about Brooklyn neighborhoods in her ever-fascinating, ever-changing, ever-challenging adopted home. The third, Brooklyn Secrets, is now available. In it, Erica find herself immersed in the old and new stories of tough Brownsville, and the choices its young people make.

Visit Triss at trissstein.com

Erica Donato’s Bad Day by Triss Stein

Brooklyn GravesSmall problems can really wreck a day, can’t they? That is, until big ones come along to cut them down to size.

Before I found out about my friend Dima, my day was already falling apart. Maybe it was my own fault for driving to work. A cold fall rain was pouring down, and I had lucked out with a parking space on the street, just in front of my house. Walk seven blocks to the subway in the rain? Or stand under a store awning, waiting for a bus? Or do the easy thing, the warm and dry thing, and hop into my car?

Parking is difficult in my old, pre-driveway, Brooklyn home neighborhood. It is impossible in my older, pre-Civil War work neighborhood.

So I was already wet, late and grouchy when I finally walked into the cubicle I share with other low-level employees at the history museum. My boss was waiting for me.

He didn’t care about my tardiness. (Good) He wanted me to drop everything, attend a meeting and drive a visiting big-wig around. (Not good. ) This was going to be my day to get all caught up on my current assignment. I’m a grad student, single mother of a teen, an employee, a homeowner. Sometimes I fall behind in one, or even all, of those roles. Plus, driving again? No way.

When he promised an interesting meeting I was more than a little skeptical, but attend I did.

The visiting big-wig, Dr. Flint, turned out to be one of great experts on Tiffany glass, a well-dressed, cold-eyed older man. On meeting me he said, “What happened to Sarah? She was a student of mine and she is reasonably capable.”

“Down with the flu.”

“Then you’ll have to do, I suppose. And you are also a decorative arts specialist, I hope?’

“No, I am an urban historian. Historian in training, really. But I’ll be happy to assist today.” It seemed like the right thing to say.

His cool blue eyes got much cooler. I added quickly, “I’ll try not to ask foolish questions.”

“See that you don’t.”

Not the best beginning for a working relationship I didn’t even want, and now wanted less.

The meeting was about some boxes of material brought in by a dumpy woman with a timid manner and the startling name of Bright Skye. She shook out the contents of a large envelope. The drab table was suddenly covered in a rainbow, pages of watercolors, brilliantly glowing. They were familiar Tiffany designs: lacy red dragonflies; exuberantly blooming wisteria, in vivid lavender blue; rosy cherry blossoms; daffodils that radiated sunshine; pale opalescent magnolias and shimmering blue–green peacock feathers.

The entire room seemed to take on the glow. I couldn’t stop staring. Dr. Flint’s cold eyes started sparkling. In short order he agreed to consult on this new found material when he returned from a European conference. I was told to assist him today with a quick trip over to historic Green-Wood Cemetery before he left for the airport, to check some details on a memorial window. Then I would spend the week until his return cataloguing the mysterious new material.

What was I, a pawn on a chessboard, to be moved wherever I was needed? Well, yes, that’s exactly what I was. My ID said Research Assistant; it should have said All Around Servant.

The day got steadily more aggravating, and wetter, until the moment Dr. Flint was off to JFK and the sun finally came out. I thought I’d just walk by my daughter Chris’s school. At fifteen, she did not need – and certainly did not want! – a parental escort after school, but sometimes I just felt like seeing her.

Chris and her friends came down the stairs weeping. And that’s how I found out that Dima was dead. He was chief custodian at the school and father of a friend.  Everyone knew him. Everyone liked him.

We didn’t know, then, that he had been murdered.


You can read more about Erica in Brooklyn Graves, the second book in the “Erica Donato” mystery series, published by Poisoned Pen Press. The first book in the series is Brooklyn Bones. Books are available at retail and online booksellers.

GIVEAWAY: Comment on this post by 6pm EST on March 20, and you will be entered for a chance to win a copy of BROOKLYN GRAVES. One winner will be chosen at random. Unless specified, U.S. entries only.

Meet the author
Triss Stein’s Brooklyn Graves (Poisoned Pen Press) is the second book in a new series about Brooklyn neighborhoods, Brooklyn history, families, teens-agers and crime. In other words, real life plus mystery. It includes a famous cemetery and even more famous Tiffany glass. Triss has been a public librarian and a business researcher but prefers writing mysteries. Raised in NY farm country, she especially enjoys writing about Brooklyn, her home for many decades.

Visit Triss on her website: trissstein.com or on Facebook


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Brooklyn Bones by Triss Stein

Brooklyn BonesBrooklyn Bones by Triss Stein is the first book in the new “Erica Donato” mystery series. Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press, February 2013

In Brooklyn Bones, a crime of the past comes much too close to home when Erica Donato’s teen-age daughter Chris finds a skeleton behind a wall in their crumbling Park Slope home. Erica – young widow, over-age history Ph.D candidate, mother of a teen, product of blue-collar Brooklyn – is drawn into the mystery when she learns this was an unknown teen-age girl, hidden there within living memory. She and her daughter are both touched and disturbed by the mysterious tragedy in their own home.

Chris’s dangerous curiosity and Erica’s work at a local history museum lead her right back to her neighborhood in its edgy, pre-gentrification days, the period when the age of Aquarius was turning dark. A cranky retired reporter shares old files with her. The charming widow of a slumlord has some surprises for her. The crazy old lady who hangs around her street keeps trying to tell her something. And there are people, including some she is close to, who know the whole story and will stop at nothing to make sure it stays buried forever.

From the start of this gripping drama, I was swept into the world of Erica Donato. With a riveting story line, mixing the past with the present, this novel quickly became a page turner and I could not put this book down. The author did a good job in keeping me in suspense with a few surprises that blew me away when it was revealed. Erica is a gusty heroine, yet vulnerable and I couldn’t help but root for her as she fought for the truth. Lead by a likable cast, great dialogue and with Brooklyn as the backdrop, this is a fabulous read and I can’t wait for the next book in this exciting new series.

Erica’s Calendar by Triss Stein

Brooklyn BonesIf you could see my calendar, Crime would never be listed on it. My life is not supposed to be exciting. Ordinary life is plenty for me to manage every single day.

Two days a week my calendar says : Work. Those are the days I spend at my part-time job, at the Brooklyn History Museum. I research information for new exhibits and whatever else I am assigned. That is technically called: Museum Stuff.
(When I was younger, living another life, I would have thought it was strange, spending days buried in old newspapers or photos. )

The other days it says: Work on dissertation. About once a week there will be something like Appointment w/Advisor or Dept Meeting or Grade Exams. That is called Grad Student Stuff.
(I became a Ph.D candidate sort of by accident. One day I will finish my degree in urban history. Maybe)

My evenings usually list: Chris home for dinner. Or: Chris not home for dinner. Or Chris basketball game. Or Parent Teacher meetings. Parent Stuff.

(I went to a Brooklyn public high school with 3200 students. I doubt my teachers even knew my name. In my present transitioning neighborhood the schools weren’t very good, so the thanks to the gods of financial aid, Chris goes to a fancy private school for gifted students. Her teachers know a lot about her, far more than I do myself. Is this a good thing? I am not sure.)

Once in awhile, there will be Dinner with Darcy, my best friend. Or Joe/Pizza. That is not a date – I don’t date, though Chris thinks I should. Joe is a friend. Once in a very great while there is Haircut. Personal Stuff.
(I don’t have time for much of that)

So you see how unexciting life is. Of course there are events that do not get written on my calendar. A fight with Chris, for instance. They are never scheduled; they come out of nowhere. Chris is fifteen, so of course they are always my fault.

Fights with my dad don’t get written down either. His attempts to be helpful are almost always at cross purposes with what I actually need, he still thinks I am his little girl, and oh, yes, I suppose I never really forgave him for taking up with That Woman after my mom died.

I don’t write Stumble on a Crime on my calendar either. My field is urban history and my dissertation is about how neighborhoods change in my home town, Brooklyn. Well, hey, real history isn’t pretty, and this is Brooklyn, not always pretty either. (Always interesting, always a story to tell, not always pretty) Sometimes, as I do my job, crimes of the past and brand-new ones collide. The first time, it was a body hidden right here in my house. A crook of a landlord, an unknown teen-ager, a neighborhood and a city in the throes of painful change? It was their past coming right into my present.

I have been told – more than once!- I should mind my own business and not ask so many questions. Sure. Like that is ever going to happen.


Triss is giving away one (1) copy of BROOKLYN BONES. Contest open to US residents only and ends February 9. Leave a comment to be included in the giveaway. Book will be shipped directly from the author.


Come read about Erica’s story in Brooklyn Bones, the first book in the new Erica Donato mystery series.

Meet the author
Triss Stein’s Brooklyn Bones (Poisoned Pen Press) is the first book in a new series about Brooklyn neighborhoods, Brooklyn history, family life, teen-agers and crime. In other words, real life plus mystery. She thinks of it as “urban cozy” or “soft boiled.” In Bones, the decades old body of an unknown teen-age girl is found during a renovation. Triss also had stories in both volumes of the anthology Murder New York Style.

Visit Triss at trissStein.com

Books are available at retail and online booksellers.