Now I was starting to feel bad. Giving my
auntie such a hard time. I probably
could have been more supportive of her
breaking the law and snooping around.
Wait…that didn’t sound right.
L. Vandiver, Secrets, Lies & Crawfish
Pies, Kindle Loc. 1830
Wilder, big-city medical examiner with a small-town past, has been downsized
and evicted. With few other options, she’s forced to return to her hometown of
Roble in East Texas, leaving behind the man she’s dating and the life she’s
worked hard to build.
Suzanne Babet Derbinay, Romaine’s Auntie Zanne and proprietor of the Ball
Funeral Home, has long since traded her French Creole upbringing for Big Texas
attitude. She’s a member in a number of ladies’ auxiliaries and clubs,
including being in charge of the Tri-County Annual Crawfish Boil and Music
Hanging on to the magic of her Louisiana roots, she’s cooked up a love potion
or two—if she could only get Romaine to drink it. But her plans are derailed
when the Ball Funeral Home, bursting at the seams with dead bodies, has a
Dead Guy is a problem.
Auntie Zanne can’t abide by a murderer using her funeral home as the dumping
grounds for their crimes, and Romaine doesn’t want her newly elected cousin,
Sheriff Pogue Folsom, to fail on his first murder case. Together, Romaine and
Auntie Zanne set off to solve it.
With a dash of humor, a dollop of Southern charm, and a peek at current social
issues in the mix, it’s a fun romp around East Texas to solve a murder mystery
of the cozy kind.
Henery Press released Abby L.
Vandiver’s first book in the Romaine Wilder Mystery series, Secrets, Lies, & Crawfish Pies on
June 12. But this release isn’t Abby’s debut. She has self-published three
other series, one of which is written with a friend and is paranormal. (It’s on
Kindle Unlimited—I just downloaded it!)
The characters are what make Secrets, Lies, & Crawfish Pies
special. Raised by her powerhouse of an aunt, Romaine Wilder is caught in her
small hometown until she can find another Medical Examiner job in Chicago,
where she’d rather be. Aunt Zanne keeps Romaine busy delegating tasks that
entail everything from making Crawfish pie to solving the murder. She gets
things done all the while denying reality or adding one plus one and getting
five, driving Romaine crazy.
Please welcome Abby L. Vandiver
to WWK. E. B. Davis
Roble, Texas is a real town, but
you’ve changed it some, haven’t you? My little town in Secrets, Lies
& Crawfish Pies is called “Roble.” It is made up and means “oak” in
Auntie Zanne’s real name is
Suzanne Arelia Sophie Babet St. Romain. Does everyone in that region have long
names? lol. I don’t know. I did that because my characters were
christened in the Holy Roman Church. I hope that won’t get me in trouble, but I
thought it would be apropos.
Although your story is
light-hearted, part of the family’s story is based on racism. Due to the
horrible story of Naomi Drake, the New Orleans City Registrar for the Bureau of
Vital Statistics, who wasn’t alone in her race categorization as the State of
Virginia had its own eugenics-based racists, was there a mass exodus from
Louisiana to Texas in the late 40s? Yes, there was. Mixed-race French
Creoles, as I explain in my book, didn’t like being categorized according to
other people’s mandates. Many moved to the Golden Triangle – Orange, Port
Arthur, and Beaumont Texas, and some even as far as Houston. They were able to
resume their community and way of life there.
Auntie Zanne runs a funeral
home, serves as president of the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA),
is a member of the Tri-County Chamber of Commerce, heading up the 25th
Annual Sabine County Crawfish Boil and Music Festival, and a Red Hat Society
lady, among her other activities. How does an eighty-year-old have the energy? I
think it’s because of her brews! She’s a Voodoo herbalist, don’t forget. I was
inspired to write about it when I read about a 95-year-old park ranger and
discovered many of our older citizens are still vibrant and active members of
our society. I did, however, make the character of Aunt Julep, who is close to
Auntie Zanne’s age, a little slower.
Rhett Remmiere seems a bit
mysterious. Auntie Zanne says she grooming him to take over the funeral home
along with her friend, Josephine Gail Cox. Doesn’t he have to be licensed? Who
is he really, an FBI agent? Rhett Remmiere really is an FBI agent. We’ll
learn his story in Book III, Potions,
Tells and Deadly Spells. Right now, however, Rhett isn’t taking on any
actual mortician duties, he’s just an employee. But that is a good idea. She
does need another mortician in training!
Did Romaine become a Medical
Examiner due to her family’s owning a funeral home? Was she used to dead bodies
already? Romaine admits that her legacy is death. She’d been around the
funeral home most of her life. So, yes, I think that her upbringing, once she
decided to be a doctor, was very instrumental in choosing her specialty.
What’s the difference between a
coroner and a ME? Many people use the terms interchangeably. However, by
definition, a medical examiner is a licensed medical doctor who is trained as a
forensic pathologist. A coroner does not have to be a doctor.
Romaine’s cousin Sheriff Pogue
Folsom is inexperienced. Why does he give up the investigation to Romaine when
she doesn’t have any experience either? He didn’t give up the
investigation. While he did ask Romaine
for any help she could offer due to her experience working as a medical
examiner, he specifically tells her not to interfere in the investigation, and
she promises she won’t. But like any other amateur sleuth, she can’t help but ask
With all the potions Auntie
Zanne makes, her being a voodoo herbalist, can’t she concoct something to help
her friend Josephine Gail Cox’s depression? There are many medical and
holistic means of treating depression; however, there is no cure. Auntie Zanne
does give Josephine Gail some of her brew. But in the end, being accused of
murder, as Josephine Gail had been, can make anyone get into a rut.
Do they still administer electro
shock therapy? Yes, they do. My mother had it in the sixties. I wasn’t
sure because it seems so barbaric, but I spoke to a psychologist and she
assured me that it is still a mode of therapy used for certain mental
Auntie Zanne forms a negative
opinion of Pogue based on his awkward adolescent years. Is her opinion based on
her rivalry with Romaine’s other aunt, Aunt Julep? No, Auntie Zanne
loves Romaine’s Aunt Julep. They’ve been friends for decades. Auntie Zanne’s
impression stems from her desire to protect Josephine Gail.
What do they now use to embalm
bodies? Not formaldehyde? They use embalming fluid, as they always have.
Now however, there is a formaldehyde free option. It is safer for the
Why does Romaine feel that in Roble
she loses her identity? Does she associate it with being young or is Auntie
Zanne too overpowering? Romaine doesn’t want to be a small town girl.
She likes things that small, rural towns, such as Roble, can’t offer. Because
of that, she forged out a life that included culture and a life conducive to a
place like Chicago.
Catfish, who is sweet on
Romaine, brings her three tubs of crawfish (filled ¾ with water) because, much
to Romaine’s surprise, Auntie Zanne has promised that Romaine will make
Crawfish Pies for the festival. Does that mean Romaine will have to cook and
shell all those crawfish? How long will the crawfish stay fresh? Romaine will use mostly the tail meat
for her dishes, so she will have to shell them all. In the book, however, Rhett
and Auntie Zanne give her a hand. Crawfish are freshwater crustaceans and can
live in a tub filed with water for about five days. Romaine didn’t wait more
than two days to use them.
What is the Code of Ethical
Conduct for the Care of the Decedent? It is the code of ethics
(standards) for funeral home owners. It sets out the standard for the care of
the decedent as well as for grieving families.
is Death Romaine’s legacy? She was raised in a funeral home. And as she
states in the book, her name, Romaine
Gabriela Sadie Heloise Wilder, were the names of her dead relatives. She quips
that translated her name is: “Dead Family Name – Dead Aunt – Dead Grandma –
Dead Grandma – Wilder.”
When Romaine fixes her childhood
room to suit her adult tastes—does that mean she’s staying in Roble? No!
Far from it. She only updates her room so she can stay there until she can find
a job back in Chicago. She definitely has no plans to stay. Her Auntie Zanne on
the other hand . . .
What’s next for Romaine and
Auntie Zanne? A wedding and the 100th Boule of the
Distinguished Ladies’ Society of Voodoo Herbalist. And, of course, murder!