Trouble is in Carrie McFarland’s future.

Bookleggers, Mentalists, and Murder with Carolyn Marie Wilkins

Carrie McFarland, the protagonist of Carolyn Marie Wilkins’ book, Death at a Séance, isn’t looking for trouble, but she finds it at her new job in 1920 Indiana.

Carolyn is a woman with a wide range of interests, passions, and professions. She has been a Jazz Ambassador for the United States (I had to ask her what that is and she answers in the interview portion of the show), a music professor, a Reiki healer, a writer, and a medium, among other things.

The dialogue and character voices that Carolyn performs while she reads her excerpt are amazing and she pointed out that this is due to her musical background. She has an ear for voices.

This week’s mystery author

Carolyn Marie Wilkins

Carolyn Marie Wilkins is an author, a musician and a psychic medium.  She is the author of three mystery novels:  Death at a SéanceMelody for Murder and Mojo for Murder.

She has performed with the Pittsburgh Symphony and represented her country as a Jazz Ambassador for the U.S. State Department.  In addition, Carolyn maintains an active private practice as a psychic medium and Reiki healer. 

To learn more about Carolyn and all her books visit CarolynWilkins.com

Press play (above) to listen to the show, or read the excerpt below. Remember you can also listen on Apple Podcasts,StitcherAndroidGoogle PodcastsTuneIn, and Spotify.

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Excerpt from Death at a Séance

Death at a Seance by Carolyn Marie Wilkins

The offices of Gaylord Wilson Entertainment were located on the third floor of a seedy walkup in the heart of Claxton’s red-light district. It was just before noon, and the streets were still quiet. No doubt the ladies of the evening were still recuperating from the previous night’s endeavors. This was my first time away from Aronsville since leaving Blockport. Claxton wasn’t much bigger, but it did feel more alive. The few people out on the streets at this early hour bustled with a sense of greater self-importance. The buildings were taller; the traffic more intense, the sense of danger somehow heightened. Maybe this impression was colored by the fact that I was about to meet the partner of the man who may have murdered Miss Parker.

Whatever the reason, my heart was pounding a mile a minute as I knocked on the Gaylord Wilson’s office door.

“Don’t just stand there,” a gruff voice of indeterminate sex barked in response. “Come in. It’s unlocked.”

The small reception area had a large black desk facing the door. Once inside, I could see that the voice I’d heard belonged to a colossus of a woman wearing what appeared to be full stage makeup – enormous circles had been painted around her eyes, and her lips were smeared with a shade of crimson that reminded me of an animal having just ripped apart a bloody carcass.

Completing the ensemble was a foot-high pile of platinum blonde hair that could only have come from a bottle.

“Good morning,” I said.

Slowly, the gigantic woman raised her head and studied me, her beady kohl-enhanced eyes inspecting me from top to bottom.

“If you’re looking for work on the cleaning crew, we’re not hiring,” she said, and returned to the work on her desk. So much for my plan to find work with Wilson’s company as a maid. My only choice was to bluff my way into being hired as a performer.

“How dare you,” I said in my most regal voice. “I am no mere cleaning woman. My name is Bright Feather. I am a psychic and I have come to perform in your show.”

The woman’s face brightened. “An Injun? Why didn’t you say so in the first place.

What did you say your name was?”

“Bright Feather,” I said. “I can talk to the dead, tell the fortunes of the living and cross between the two worlds at will.”

The look on the receptionist’s face told me she had heard this kind of show-business puffery many times before. “We’ve already got a mental act on this revue, honey. Name’s Miss Cora. Reads minds, sees the future – all that stuff. We don’t need another one.”

I pulled myself up to my full height, planted my hand on my hip and threw back my head.

“You may have a mentalist. But do you have the medium who predicted the most sensational murder of the year? Do you have a medium who can tell the story of what actually went on in that darkened séance room the night Miss Ellen Parker was killed? Do you have a medium who can give a blow by blow description of the people and events that fateful night? Someone who saw with her own two eyes the poor woman’s piteous appearance as she took her last breath? Do you?”

The fat woman’s jowls worked silently as if she were literally chewing over my statement. Without another word, she heaved her massive body out of her chair and knocked on the door leading into the next office.

“Jack,” she called out in her gravelly sexless voice. “There’s someone out here you need to take a look at.”

A minute later, a thin, balding man in shirtsleeves appeared in the doorway of the office behind the receptionist’s desk.

“What’s your story, girlie.” As the man spoke, he did not remove the cigar he was smoking from the left side of his mouth. Neither did he invite me into his office to sit down.

I pulled myself up a little taller and looked him in the eye. “My name is Carrie

McFarland, but my Spirit name is Bright Feather. My Indian Guides warned me Miss Parker was in danger. Not half an hour later, she died before my very eyes. I think your audiences would be interested in hearing my first-hand account of that dreadful day. What do you think?”

The man grunted and rolled the unlit cigar from one side of his mouth to the other.

“Perhaps,” he allowed. “If you really are who you say you are.”

“Why would I bother to pretend,” I replied haughtily. “If I were a phony, you would findme out straight away.”

“I don’t handle mediums. That’s Wilson’s department,” the fat man said. “I’ll give

Gaylord a call and see what he wants to do. Wait here.”

Heaving a monumental sigh, he walked back into his office and closed the door.

For the next ten minutes I contemplated my options as the receptionist shuffled papers at her desk. If Wilson and Gillette really were partners, would Wilson take the risk of calling attention to Miss Parker’s murder by putting my act in his show? I was counting on it. Surely, the chance to get the exclusive rights to my gruesome story would be impossible for any theatrical promoter to resist.

If he thinks I might be about to cause him any trouble, he could always kill me, I thought grimly. There would not be much public outcry over the disappearance of a colored girl like me, particularly one whose reputation was already so badly tarnished. Despite the summer heat, a sudden chill swept over me. Lord have mercy – what on earth had I gotten myself into?

Just as I was about to lose my nerve and run away, Jack’s office door swung open.

“Wilson wants to take a look at you,” Jack said. “If he likes what he sees, he’ll put your act into the revue tomorrow night.” Grabbing a battered straw hat from the coat rack in his office, he stepped into the reception area, slamming his office door shut behind him. “Hold my calls, Penny. I’ll be back by five.”