In Murder In The Multiples by Kait Carson, main-character Catherine Swoop and a partner bid on and win a multi-million dollar house at a Federal auction. It’s a first for her. She’s thrilled, but selling the house to a rival bidder sweetens her elation—until closing day when she finds the woman dead in the bathtub. Due to the cocaine evident at the scene of the crime, Catherine wonders if the former owners, caught peddling cocaine by the DEA, have something to do with the woman’s death, but the former owners are in jail. She knows it’s murder but doesn’t anticipate being the primary suspect. As the case progresses, Catherine knows someone is framing her. The culprit has to be someone near, but unfortunately, now she knows that person is not so dear.
I last interviewed Kait Carson in March of 2012. Welcome back to WWK, Kait. E. B. Davis
Thanks E.B. I had so much fun the last time. I was thrilled to be invited back.
When you released the first book in this series, Zoned for Murder, Kait, you were already working on Murder In The Multiples. What happened to delay the release of this book?
Just about everything. I stalled on the third chapter. Went completely dry. Couldn’t write a word that made sense in terms of the story. So I put the book aside. Polished up another work – Death by Blue Water with an eye to starting a second series and I went back to writing short stories. In the midst of all this, we bought a house, an airplane, and moved. Once we were settled, I went back to Murder in the Multiples. I was still stuck on the third chapter, but other chapters flowed. I write in Scrivener so writing out of sequence is easy. I had the middle completely done before I knew what chapter 4 should be. After that, the book flowed.
I bought a book around this time by Rachel Aaron titled 2k to 10k Writing Faster, Writing Better. It made a huge difference for me. I highly recommend it.
Your main character, Catherine, has led an interesting professional life. Starting out as a real estate agent, Catherine switched to law enforcement, but then quit and became a dog walker. Now she’s back to real estate. Why does she change careers so much?
She actually was in law enforcement first, and then went to real estate. She’d done quite well, but when the bottom fell out of the market, she saw it as a sign she should change careers. Returning to law enforcement was her first choice, but she wanted her next career choice to be her last – so she let her love of animals lead her to become a dog walker.
She had a lot of unresolved issues in her police career. She had shot and killed a teen. The shooting was in self-defense, but it haunted Catherine, and she left the force. In the back of her mind, she wanted to go back to police work. That was a subplot in Zoned for Murder. Essentially she involved herself in the murder investigation in that book for two reasons, she needed to clear her name, and she hoped if she did, she would be confident enough to resume her law enforcement career. At the end of Zoned she is handed a badge and invited to join the Summer Hill force. She declines. She is now comfortable with her decision to leave law enforcement and wants to go back to real estate.
Catherine has two pets, Paddy Whack, her cat and Bullet, her dog—a German Shepard. My favorite, Bullet, isn’t just a pet, is he?
Bullet is my favorite too. That’s kind of funny because Paddy Whack is based on my much loved nineteen year old cat Starlight. Catherine brought Bullet to the book. You are right. He is more than a pet. He is the one constant in her life, her conscience and her sounding board.
No one else can smell cocaine but Catherine. How can she do that?
Cocaine does have a smell. It’s a little hard to describe. It smells fresh, like new snow. Most people cannot differentiate it from other scents, some can. Like arsenic. They say it smells like apricots, but not everyone can smell it.
When Catherine wants to learn how the DEA “clears” a house, she observes a DEA team. What is “clearing” a house. What is the “scent cone?”
Clearing a house means different things depending on when and how it is used. Police clear a house when they enter to look for criminals. They go room by room and check everyplace someone could hide. When the DEA clears a confiscated house, they go room by room looking for contraband. It often involves the use of dogs as well as humans and technology. Architectural plans are obtained so voids can be discovered and checked, it’s a painstaking process. The goal, of course, is to leave nothing in the residence. Catherine had a lot of fix it work to do in her house because the men and women who clear the houses are not neat, and they do not clean up after themselves. A friend of mine who bought a confiscated house at auction had to replace much of the drywall and a good bit of the flooring.
I learned a lot researching this book. Scent cones are the way dogs perceive the scent they are looking for. Visualize a triangle going out from the dog’s nose. The scent is strongest at nose level, the further above and below the dog’s nose the more diminished the scent. Hiding something at ceiling level, as was done in Multiples would make it harder for the dogs to smell it unless someone lifted the dogs. Which is actually done in real life. Dogs’ noses are amazing. They not only smell things we cannot, they actually distinguish the scents in much the same way we distinguish color. The scents are that distinct to them.
Catherine puts her significant other, Mike Reardon, in a difficult position by asking him questions that he shouldn’t answer. How does Mike deal with Catherine’s need for information and his need to protect her and help her at the same time?
Mike is constantly filtering the information he passes on to Catherine when she is involved. It’s a true two-edged sword because when she is not involved, he often uses her for a sounding board. It is hard for both of them to give up the give and take when the crime involves Catherine. He also knows that she needs to be informed to protect herself. Oftentimes he is only telling her what she already knows. It is an art he has perfected in the course of two investigations.
Catherine has surrounded herself with two people she trusts with her life. Nancy and Mike are the most important humans in her world. They know her, warts and all. She knows them. All three have a mutual respect and trust that is unquestioning. These relationships are going to be tested in the next Swope book.
Hurricane Pedro complicates the case, but in the end it helps her find the evidence to close the case. Did you make up Hurricane Pedro?
No. Although no Hurricane Pedro exists, it was a mix of Hurricanes Andrew and Wilma. I was in both of those hurricanes (and many more, but they were the most devastating) and I know that hurricanes change not only the natural landscape, but also the internal landscape.
I know about hurricanes from living part-time on Hatteras Island. Catherine’s knowledge of hurricanes is extensive. Can I assume you have such knowledge?
Yes. I lived through Andrew and Wilma and was involved with the recovery efforts for Andrew working as a volunteer with the Metro-Dade Police, the Army who operated the Naranja Lakes food distribution center, and eventually the Red Cross. I have also been involved with the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) and am a First Responder.
One of the items Catherine has that helps her turning the hurricane is a full-house generator, which I know costs at least twelve thousand dollars. Catherine also had the cash to buy (with a partner) an auctioned house seized by the DEA. How does Catherine have so much capital?
She earned much of it during the boom in Florida housing. Homes were selling for insane prices at the time and commissions were flush. She invested wisely and well and she does not have a lavish lifestyle. That was why she was able to take a break as a dog walker in Zoned. I admit, I am jealous of her ownership of a whole house generator. As a Florida resident – I want one!
All of the knots in Catherine’s life aren’t neatly tied in the end. What’s next for Catherine?
Catherine’s boss was arrested in Multiples. That effectively ends her employment. She decides to strike out on her own in the real estate business and sets up shop. Her first love is high-end residences, but as a new business owner, she has to work her way up. South Florida’s real estate market is not flourishing. For the first time, Catherine will find liquidity a problem. Her relationships with Nancy and Mike will also be tested.
The Catherine Swope series is self-published, but another of your series has been picked up by a traditional publisher. Would you tell us about the deal and the series?
Thanks for letting me talk about that. I am both proud and petrified. Henery Press has offered me a three-book contract. The first book, Death by Blue Water is the one I worked on when I couldn’t get Murder in the Multiples to flow. It is set in the Florida Keys and features Hayden Kent, a paralegal and a scuba diver. Hayden finds the body of her ex-boyfriend’s brother while diving a wreck named the Humboldt. She becomes a suspect when it’s learned that she had an appointment to meet him on the night he died, and she can’t account for her whereabouts. The book is due to Henery on June 30th. No publication date has been set yet. Although that may change by the time this blog appears. I’ll update if necessary.
Who are your favorite authors Kait?
Oh so many! Classics are Poe, O’Henry, Alcott. More modern authors, but not currently writing—Fitzgerald, Capote, Dominick Dunne. Currently writing—always the last author I read—especially if he or she writes a series, then I have to set out to read the entire thing. Michael Connelly—who I am looking forward to seeing at this year’s Writer’s Police Academy, Diane Vallere, Susan Schreyer, Tess Gerritson, Polly Iyer, Maggie Bishop, Allison Brennan….the list goes on!
We’ll check back with Kait when her first traditionally published book is released. In the meantime, keep current by checking Kait’s website.
Thanks E.B. I will look forward to it. Thank you for having me. It is always a pleasure.