Who better to solve mysteries than a research librarian?
Hester Thursby is a research librarian at Harvard with a non-husband and a niece in tow who has a side-hustle as a people-finder. Watch Her is the third book in this acclaimed series.
Author Edwin Hill reads to us from the beginning of the book and in the interview we discuss why he chose to write about a female protagonist, Hester’s interesting approach to her relationship with her parter Morgan, and why Edwin made the choice to have the additional complication in Hester’s life of the responsibility for Morgan’s niece.
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This week’s mystery author
Edwin earned an MFA from Emerson College and served as the vice president and editorial director for Bedford/St. Martin’s, a division of Macmillan Learning for many years before turning to writing full time.
He lives in Roslindale, Massachusetts with his partner Michael and his favorite reviewer, their lab Edith Ann, who likes his first drafts enough to eat them. (You can follow Edith Ann on Instagram here.)
Author photo copyright Thomas Bollinger
Learn more about Edwin and all his books at Edwin-Hill.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 Watch Her
rain splattered the windshield and heat pouredfrom the vents as Hester Thursby’s non-husband, Morgan, tried to parallel park their truck on an industrial street in Jamaica Plain. A week into spring, and winter still had a hold on Boston.
“Success,” he said, after the third attempt, cutting the engine and leaning across the cab to kiss Hester on the cheek.
Tonight, he’d tamed his red hair and changed out of the scrubs he wore at the veterinary hospital and into a navy blue suit that fit perfectly, a suit that made its way out of his closet about once a year.
“Hello, Mrs.,” he said, kissing her again.
“Yuck! Quit kissing.”
Hester’s five-year-old niece, Kate, glared at them from the rear cab. These days, the girl seemed to drink in everything and anything that happened around her and didn’t think twice about voicing her opinions. It was a good quality to have, though sometimes Hester had to remind herself to encourage it. Kate would finish kindergarten in a few months, and Hester knew she’d blink and soon enough the girl would be heading to college. She tried to make every moment with her niece special, even the ones that gave her a glimpse of the teenage years.
“How’s this?” Morgan asked, kissing Hester with exaggerated smacks. He rolled over the seat and into the back, and kissed Kate, too, who shrieked and shoved him away.
“Uncle Morgan, you are disgusting!”
“Guilty as charged,” Morgan said.
“And saying no is your prerogative,” Hester said.
“It is!” Morgan said, having the good sense not to go in for a final smooch.
“What’s prerogative?” Kate asked.
“Your privilege. Your right. You’re in control of your body,” Hester said, quickly adding, “except when it comes to eating vegetables.”
“None of us has a choice when it comes to vegetables,” Morgan said.
“It’s pouring out,” Hester said. “We’ll have to run between the raindrops.”
“You can’t run between raindrops,” Kate said.
“And I can’t fool you with anything these days,” Hester said.
She opened the door to the truck and leapt to the asphalt below while yanking the hood up on her blue raincoat. When she stepped onto the running board, Kate had already undone her seat belt. “I can do it myself,” the girl said, slipping right past Hester’s outstretched arms and leaping to the ground.
Yes, you can.
Morgan dashed to their side, and the three of them hurried through the rain, down Amory Street, toward a long, brick building that took up most of the block. Banners for Prescott University, a local art school, spanned the building’s street face, and lights blared from plate-glass windows.
A prominent placard over the entrance read TUCKER MATSON STUDENT CENTER and beside it, their destination, THE MATSON GALLERY.
“Brand-new campus center,” Hester said. “Big change. I haven’t been to this neighborhood in a few years.”
“I went to high school a few blocks from here,” Morgan said.
Hester tensed at this tidbit of information. For most of their nine-year relationship, Hester and Morgan had had an unspoken rule: they didn’t talk about their pasts, including dating history or family. It was like they’d both appeared on Earth fully formed on the day they’d met. Lately, though, Morgan had begun to dangle factoids like this one, tiny windows into his past. She could have asked follow-up questions—What school? Were you in the marching band? Did you date the head cheerleader?—but she let the statement hang between them.
Kate, however, did not.
“Can we see your school?” she asked.
“I don’t think it’s there anymore,” Morgan said. “They tore it down.”
“Maybe ten years ago.”
Kate considered the answer for a moment. “Before I was born,” she said, her latest obsession being the time before her own existence.
“Long before,” Morgan said.
Hester yanked open the glass doors to the gallery and led the way into an atrium that spanned the length of two buildings. The noise from the crowd thankfully drowned out any more of Kate’s questions.
“I didn’t know this would be such a big deal,” Hester shouted.
Banners fell from the soaring ceilings announcing BOSTON’S THIRTY UNDER 30 IN GRAPHIC DESIGN while servers in black ties circulated among the crowd of women in cocktail dresses and men in expensive glasses. Hester recognized familiar faces from TV, local newscasters and politicians, even a state senator. She pointed to a photo on one of the banners. “There’s Jamie,” she said, grinning at the image of their friend’s beaming face.
Kate took a step toward the banner, into the throngs surrounding them. Hester grabbed her hand. “Stick with me,” she said.
Kate glared at her. “I’m not a baby,” she said.
“I know, but stay where I can see you anyway.”
Morgan checked their coats and offered an arm. “Should we dive in?”
Hester smoothed the fabric on her black cocktail dress and put a hand to her hair, which she’d tied into a bun. She’d even dug out contact lenses and makeup for this event. She occasionally attended cocktail parties at Harvard, where she worked as a research librarian, but most nights she spent at home with Morgan and Kate and their basset hound, Waffles, or, occasionally, out with a tightknit group of friends, one of whom, Angela White, Sergeant Detective Angela White, walked toward her now.
“I’m like a fly in milk at this shindig,” Angela said.
Usually, Angela wore tailored suits and practical shoes that made it easy to move on the job, but tonight she’d opted for a multicolored caftan and had wound a scarf around her thick, natural hair and tied it in an elaborate knot. She even wore heels. “I went for artistic,” she said, when she caught Hester eyeing her getup. “Don’t get used to it. These shoes are killing me.”
Hester brushed a few dog hairs from Angela’s dress.
“George travels with you, even when you leave him home.”
“Damn dog,” Angela said, shooting Morgan a glare. “I still blame you for foisting that creature on us, Dr. Maguire.”
Angela’s wife, Cary, appeared and handed her a plastic cup of white wine. “She loves George,” Cary said, in her soft, therapeutic voice. “Even when he slobbers.”
“He’s a pain in my ass.”
Isaiah, Cary’s seven-year-old son, tugged at Hester’s sleeve. Unlike Kate, Isaiah was shy and avoided speaking unless Hester crouched to let him whisper in her ear. “I won the hundred-meter butterfly,” he said.
“Like Michael Phelps,” Hester said. “Show me the ribbon next time I’m over.”
Just as Angela hated most dogs, Hester, as a rule, wasn’t a fan of most kids other than Kate. She made a few rare exceptions, and Isaiah was one of them.
Morgan sidled up to her. “Don’t you want to know more about my high school?” he whispered.
A server swung by with a tray of well-timed hors d’oeuvres. “Lobster and corn empanada?”
Hester shoved one into her mouth to keep from answering, but Morgan waited patiently for her to finish chewing.
“You could tell me something too,” he said. “It could be a game. One question a day. Ask me anything. We both have to answer, no matter what.”
“That sounds like a terrible game,” Hester said.
“Come on. Tell me something little. Did you play the clarinet?”
“Do I look like I played the clarinet?”
“Not even close.”
Morgan tilted his head.
“You look like Waffles waiting for a treat,” Hester said, and when he still wouldn’t let it go, she added, “Tomorrow, at work, I’ll find any answer I want. Maybe I’ll figure out what Jamaica Plain schools were demolished. I’ll find your yearbook, and I’ll do it all in secret. Happy?”
Morgan grinned. “You wouldn’t do that. We trust each other too much.”
She wouldn’t. But it was nice to know she could.
“Mathlete?” he asked.
“Fine,” Hester said. “Chess club.”
“That, I should have guessed,” Morgan said.
“Where did the kids go?” Angela asked.
Hester turned in the crowded room, but Kate had managed to slip away. So had Isaiah, though Hester would bet money that Kate had led the escape. “I’ll find her. Get me a whisky. Neat.”
Morgan saluted and headed toward the bar.
“You go that way,” Angela said. “I’ll go this way.”
“Text if you find them.”
Hester shoved her way into the crowd. She also shoved down the fear that still gripped at her heart whenever Kate was out of sight. They couldn’t have gone far. Not in thirty seconds.[PROPERTY OF KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP. Published on this blog with permission]