Matty Dalrymple is my first three-peat guest!
Author Matty Dalrymple and her protagonist, Ann Kinnear, share a love of aviation. Matty herself learned how to fly, though she had to give it up for reasons she explains in the interview portion of the show.
In The Falcon and the Owl, Ann Kinner is taking flying lessons and trying to protect her privacy from the attention of a documentary filmmaker when she gets tangled up in a mystery at her local airstrip.
As Matty and I discuss in the interview, there are three full-length Ann Kinnear novels, and also six short stories. Learn more about all the books and stories in this series here.
Today’s show is supported by my patrons at Patreon. Thank you! When you become a patron for as little as $1 a month you receive a short mystery story each and every month. And the rewards for those who love mystery stories go up from there! Learn more and become a part of my community of readers at www.Patreon.com/alexandraamor
This week’s mystery author
Matty Dalrymple is the author of the Lizzy Ballard Thrillers Rock Paper Scissors, Snakes and Ladders, and The Iron Ring; the Ann Kinnear Suspense Novels The Sense of Death, The Sense of Reckoning, and The Falcon and the Owl; and the Ann Kinnear Suspense Shorts, including Close These Eyes and Write in Water.
Matty lives with her husband and three dogs in Chester County, Pennsylvania, and enjoys vacationing on Mount Desert Island, Maine, and Sedona, Arizona, and these locations provide the settings for her work.
Learn more about Matty and all her books at mattydalrymple.com
Press play (above) to listen to the show, or read the transcript below. Remember you can also subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts. And listen on Stitcher, Android, Google Podcasts, TuneIn, and Spotify.
Excerpt from The Falcon and the Owl
Bryan Calvert straightened from his work, then leaned backwards to ease the kink in his back. The tundra tires on his Cessna 180 had been overdue for replacement and blowing a tire during a landing at the Clinton County field he used as a landing strip would be a rotten way to start his weekend at the cabin.
He glanced at his watch: nine forty-five.
“Eight hours bottle to throttle,” he said, and tipped back the last two inches of his second bottle of beer. That put him right for a six o’clock departure the next morning.
He had worked the last of the wing jack legs out of its base when he heard the sound of a vehicle approaching fast, then a spray of gravel hitting the side of the hangar as the vehicle came to a halt. He hefted the heavy metal jack leg in his hand and walked quickly to the hangar’s window. There wasn’t much violent crime in Avondale Township, Pennsylvania, but there was a first time for everything.
He looked out the window and saw Hal Burridge climbing unsteadily out of his Honda Ridgeline pickup.
“Shit,” he muttered under his breath and laid the jack leg on the workbench next to the collection of other tools and equipment he had been using: tire talc, air chuck, pry bar, ratchet wrench.
The hangar door banged open and Hal staggered in. Bryan was struck by the change the last year had wrought in Hal. He had always been thin, but now he was gaunt, his skin stretched too tight over his cheekbones but beginning to hang loose at his neck. When Bryan had first met Hal, he would have guessed his age a decade too low. Now he looked far older than his fifty years.
“What the hell?” Bryan said, exasperated. “If you’re going to drive drunk, at least drive slow.”
“What do you care?” Hal’s words were slurred. He put a hand out and steadied himself on the doorframe.
Bryan tried to swallow down his frustration. “Come on, Hal, we’ve been friends for a long time. Of course I care what happens to you.” He took a step forward and, as he drew closer, he could see tears streaking the older man’s cheeks.
Hal choked back a sob. “You weren’t so worried about our friendship when you—”
Bryan halted. “When I what?”
“When you … you and Gwen …” Hal swiped his hand across his eyes. “Don’t make me say it.”
Bryan raised his hands in a conciliatory gesture. “Hal, I don’t know what you heard, but if you think Gwen or I were doing anything behind your back, you’re wrong.”
Now it was Hal’s turn to advance across the hangar. “Not you or Gwen. You and Gwen. I treated you like a son! Let you set up shop at my airport, let you work on Gwen’s Extra, on her Lancair. I trusted you with her life!”
He had almost reached Bryan, backing him up against the workbench.
“Hal, I never did anything but take good care of Gwen—” He stopped and, he couldn’t help himself, felt his lips curling up in a smile.
“You what?” Hal’s voice was almost a shriek. “You son of a bitch!” His bleary eyes scanned the workbench and landed on the jack leg. “You ungrateful bastard!” He grabbed the heavy length of metal.
Hal turned back toward Bryan but lost his balance and almost fell. He caught himself but didn’t straighten. He stood hunched over, one hand on a knee, the other holding the jack leg, his eyes on the floor.
“For God’s sake, Hal,” said Bryan with disgust. “If you have no other reason to sober up, do it so you don’t make a fool of yourself in a bar fight.”
With a roar, Hal reared back and, as he did, swung the jack leg up blindly.
The movement took Bryan by surprise, and he barely managed to jerk his head back in time to avoid having the metal connect with his jaw. “Goddammit, Hal!”
Hal regained his balance and, in cumbersome slow motion, swung the jack leg back in the other direction.
Bryan grabbed Hal’s wrist and twisted, and the weapon fell to the concrete floor with a deafening clang.
Hal slumped back against the workbench.
“Jesus Christ, Hal,” said Bryan, breathless from adrenaline, “if you want to hold on to Gwen, get your freakin’ act together.”
As Bryan bent to pick up the jack leg, he saw Hal’s feet turn toward the workbench, his hand move toward its top. He heard the scrape of something moving across its surface.
The pry bar.
Bryan jerked away from Hal and swung the jack leg up to block the attack he anticipated. He barely saw the metal rod connect with the side of Hal’s head. He did see the beer bottle that Hal had knocked over roll off the edge of the workbench, the shards scattering in a pretty play of light as it shattered on the concrete floor.
Hal tottered, stiffened, then hit the floor, face down, with a thud.
Bryan staggered back against the workbench, looking wide-eyed at the prone body. His breath was coming fast and his heart was thumping with a jackhammer beat. “Hal?”
There was no movement.
Moving automatically, he picked up the unbroken neck of the beer bottle, then took a step toward the unconscious man. “Hal!”
He was about to bend to check for breath or a pulse when the door of the hangar slammed open and Gwen Burridge stood in the doorway, her auburn hair a tangle, her cheeks flushed.
“What the hell?” She rushed to Hal’s side and began to lower herself onto her knees next to him.
“Careful—broken glass,” said Bryan.
She glanced at the bottle neck gripped in his hand.
“He attacked me,” said Bryan.
She gestured at the bottle neck. “With that?”
“No, with this,” he said, lifting the jack leg in his other hand. “I got it away from him. Then I thought he had the pry bar.”
“You hit him with the jack leg?”
“In the head.”
She bent and tugged at the sleeve of Hal’s shirt, trying to roll him over.
“The glass—” began Bryan.
“If you hit him in the head with a wing jack leg,” she retorted, “a couple of splinters in his back aren’t going to be his biggest worry.”
Bryan set the bottle neck and the jack leg on the workbench and helped her roll Hal onto his back.
His eyes were closed, his skin ashen. There was no blood, just a faint red mark at his temple.
Gwen knelt next to him—Bryan could tell from her wince that she had knelt on a sliver of glass—and pressed her fingers to Hal’s neck.
“Is he okay?” Bryan asked, his voice tight.
Gwen looked up at Bryan. Her chalk-white face and wide eyes were her only answer.
First Ann Kinnear Chapter
“High or low, fast or slow?” asked Russo from the right seat.
Ann glanced at the altimeter and airspeed indicator. “Crap. High and slow.”
“That should be easy to fix,” said Russo.
Ann edged the yoke forward and the plane sank and sped up.
“Keep the numbers steady in the windscreen,” he said.
Ann made a slight adjustment to the approach angle.
“Crab for the wind.”
Ann pointed the Piper Warrior’s nose slightly off-center to keep the plane on the centerline of the runway.
“Once you’re in ground effect, relax!” said Russo. “Enjoy yourself! This baby’s a land-o-matic. Just look down the runway and let her settle on her own.”
The planes tires touched the runway with a satisfying squeak.
“Run that centerline right up the outside of your right leg.”
Ann tapped the rudder pedals to keep the plane on the centerline as the plane slowed.
Russo glanced at his watch. “That’s the last one of the day.”
Ann puffed out a breath. “Thank God.” She looked over at him. “That was pretty good, right?”
“Not bad,” he said. “But now you have to make it look easy.”
With a sigh, she turned off at the taxiway and headed toward the flight school’s ramp space.
She maneuvered the Warrior into its tie-down and ran through the shutdown procedure under Russo’s watchful eye. Then he popped open the right-side door and climbed out of the plane, Ann clambering out after him into the sunny July day. Although the temperature was not as hot as it was forecast to get later in the day, her shirt was soaked with sweat and her reddish blonde hair, despite being corralled in its usual ponytail, was a frizzy mess. Russo looked as calm, cool, and collected as he had at the beginning of the flight—in fact, as he always did.
She handed him her logbook and he filled in the details of the flight.
“So, same time in two days?” asked Ann.
“No can do,” said Russo. “I have to go to a funeral.”
“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that.”
He shrugged. “Some great-aunt who I haven’t seen since I was a kid, but all the cousins are going to be there. Should be interesting—they’re all arguing about her will, and who’s responsible for dealing with her priceless Hummel collection.” He perked up. “Hey, I should bring you along.”
“Open casket funeral. I could sneak you up to the front of the line and you could get her take on the situation.” Russo was obviously working hard to hold back his laughter.
Ann rolled her eyes. “Very funny.”
Russo wiggled his fingers at her and made ghostly noises.
After Russo headed off to locate his next victim, Ann stopped at the FBO—the fixed base operator—to pay for the lesson and schedule another for the following day. She was wiped out, as she always was after a lesson, and looking forward to a nap when she got back to Mike and Scott’s townhouse.
She had just reached the parking lot and was unlocking her Forester when her phone buzzed. She saw a name on the Caller ID that she hadn’t seen in some time: Corey Duff. She hit Accept.
“Hi, Ann—long time no see.”
Corey Duff had produced a documentary Ann had appeared in several years earlier called The Sense of Death. In it, Corey had put to the test the skills of Ann and two other sensers—Ann’s sometimes-competitor, sometimes-mentor Garrick Masser and a woman from New Mexico. It had been Ann’s first exposure beyond southeastern Pennsylvania, where she and Mike had grown up and where Mike still lived. That exposure had enabled her to make spirit sensing her full-time profession.
She crossed to a bench where visitors sat to watch the planes come and go. “How are you doing?”
“Doing great,” he said with his characteristic enthusiasm. “Life is good.”
“I hear you moved to Los Angeles,” she said. “The big time.”
He laughed. “Yeah. I still get home to Pittsburgh pretty often but I’m spending most of my time out here on the Left Coast. How are you doing?”
“I’m temporarily renting out my place in the Adirondacks. I’m staying with Mike and Scott in West Chester.”
“It’s beautiful in Pennsylvania in July, but I’ll bet by August you’ll be wanting to get back to the mountains.”
She forced a laugh. “Yeah, maybe by August I’ll be ready to go back, although it’s already pretty hot here. I’m taking flying lessons,” she added, mainly to move the topic along.
“No kidding, that’s great! I’d love to learn to fly but I never seem to find the time. Going to be flying yourself to engagements now?”
Her laugh was easier this time. “I have a lot of work to do before I can do that—I haven’t even soloed yet. But I’m trying to fast track things since I don’t know how long I’ll be in West Chester. I don’t want to have to start over with a new instructor if I head back to the Adirondacks.”
“I see you’re still finding time for Ann Kinnear Sensing.”
“Yeah. It’s booming.”
“You don’t sound so excited about it.”
There was a pause, Corey likely waiting to see if Ann would elaborate, then he said, “I’ll bet Garrick’s business is booming, too.”
“Yeah, he’s doing well.”
“You keep in touch with him?”
“He’s a piece of work,” he said with a laugh.
She smiled. “Yeah, he’s one of a kind, all right.”
“There are some folks here in L. A. who think you’re both one of a kind. Well, two of a kind.”
“Three of a kind, if you count the woman from New Mexico.”
“Right, right. But there are people who are specifically interested in you and Masser.”
“What do you mean, folks are interested?”
“You guys have a unique story—and the video that girl took of you two in Maine has over a hundred thousand views. The other videos on your YouTube channel aren’t far behind.”
“I don’t have a YouTube channel.”
“Au contraire, Ms. Kinnear. Stand by …”
A moment later her phone pinged with a text containing a URL. She clicked on it and found herself on the Unofficial Ann Kinnear channel, curated by a person identified only as AnnFan.
“Oh, man,” she groaned.
“You really didn’t know about it?”
“I thought your brother might be behind it.”
“No. He asked about setting up a channel a while ago, but I vetoed it.”
“Ann, you can’t let other people take control of the message you’re putting out there, especially in video. This person appears to be a supporter, but he or she could just as easily have it out for you. You need to own your social media presence, own your online brand. You should send this AnnFan person a takedown notice and put up your own channel. Have a nastygram ready from a lawyer in case they ignore you.”
“Jesus, you make it sound like I need a PR firm and a lawyer.”
“That’s not a bad idea, but I have a cheaper alternative.”
“They want a follow-up to The Sense of Death.” She could imagine him sitting forward, the phone pressed to his ear, or maybe pacing the floor, earbuds in place. “Just you and Masser.”
“What’s the idea?”
“The two of you solving a mystery that only a dead person holds the key to—an unsolved murder, a missing treasure, a missing person.”
“Have you talked with Garrick about it?”
“He’s excited about it.”
“Excited?” she asked, her skepticism clear.
Corey laughed. “Okay, maybe not excited, but willing to do it. But of course it’s a package deal—it needs to be both of you or nothing for the premise to work.”
She sighed. “I don’t know, Corey. We’re getting plenty of business as it is, we don’t really need promotion opportunities.”
“It’s not just a way of drumming up business. It’s a way to show people you can do what you can do—to convince the disbelievers.”
“Why do I want to convince the disbelievers?”
“So they won’t think you’re a fraud.”
“I’m not a fraud,” she shot back.
“You and I know that. Let’s prove it.”
From across the ramp, she could see that Russo’s next student had climbed into the plane without having unfastened the tie-down ropes. This should be interesting.
“Let me think about it,” she said.
“I can tell I haven’t convinced you. Let me come out there, take you and Mike and Scott out to dinner, lay it all out for you.”
“Corey, I’m tired from my flying lesson. Now’s not the best time for me to be hearing a pitch about a project I’m inclined to say no to. Just let me think about it and I’ll get back to you.”
“Okay. But don’t say no without giving me a chance to convince you in person.”
“Fine. I’ll have my people call your people.”
As she put away her phone, the flight school plane fired up—it was like Russo to let the poor slob go blithely ahead—and then jerked to a halt when the tie-down ropes snapped taut. The engine spun down and Russo climbed out of the plane, followed by the mortified student.
Ann glanced around and saw that she wasn’t the only person who had witnessed the student’s humiliation. Two pilots stood in an open hangar door, enjoying the show, and she could see Dottie, who ran the office, looking out the window of the FBO.
There it was: a perfect metaphor for what awaited her if she managed to make a fool of herself in Corey’s documentary.