Serial killers and murder are what make Laura Drake’s novels bestsellers. Twelve years ago, she came to Castlebay to write Murder, the first book of her Black Shadow series. But a terrifying experience with Regina Tate made her too frightened to return to write the sequel.
Now, Laura is finally back in Castlebay.
Mayhem begins where Murder ended in fictional Shadylake with serial killer Alice Crain. Alice has just murdered Eve Collins and stolen her manuscript. Willing to do anything to become a famous mystery writer, she decides to write what she knows best—murder. Alice’s plan—one murder equals a new chapter.
When Laura Drake completes Mayhem, a last-minute decision leads her to visit an old woman in Bear Ridge. With each strange signpost, she’s pulled into her own mystery of black shadows.
Serial killer Alice Crain is a character in Laura’s books.
But who is Laura Drake, the writer who created Alice?
What makes Laura so adept at writing about murder and mayhem?
“Alice!” the woman shouted. “I know you killed that woman, and then stole her book.”
“So what if I did. I’m going to be a famous mystery writer like you. Besides, how do you know I stole it?”
“The whole damn town knows the killer stole the woman’s book!” Grandma wasn’t happy. “I bet you thought you were getting smarter at killing.”
Alice thought about that and smiled. “Yeah.”
“Alice, stealing the manuscript of the woman you killed and now trying to make that book your own is going to get you caught faster than killing her.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Eve Collins made it known she was writing a book,” Grandma said. “Everyone knew about it and that it was based on the ninety-six murders where you killed Craig, Janine, and your mom. Now she’s been murdered and her book is missing. Obviously, the killer took it. When you suddenly shout to the world that you wrote a book, and it’s similar to the dead woman’s, the cops will be at your door to drag you off to jail.”
“So what am I supposed to do, Grandma? I want to be a famous writer.”
“Well, you’ll be famous if you write that woman’s book,” Grandma said. “You’ll be famous for being her killer who’s behind bars for the rest of your life. You’ll be famous for being the Shadylake Slasher.”
“Tell me what to do.”
“Burn it. Burn everything to do with the book and that woman. Do it now. Delete any trace of it on your computer, too.”
“But, Grandma,” Alice began, “I can’t really write a book.”
“Of course you can! You know how to write. I’ve read the stories you used to write when you were a little girl.”
“But those were just a few pages. How am I supposed to write a whole book?”
“Think of it as writing a whole lot of those little stories, all in one. Think about what it would be like to go to jail.”
Alice sighed heavily. “Okay. I don’t want to go to jail.”
“I don’t want you to go there, either,” the old woman said. “And I’ll help you write your book.”
“Of course I will,” Beatrice Bayler reassured her granddaughter. “Besides, whatever you write is just a draft. You’ll go through many drafts before you submit the final one, your best one. Then the editor will fix all your errors and make you look good.”
“Editor?” Alice asked. “How many drafts?”
“All authors have editors,” Grandma explained. “It’s part of the publishing process, the most important part. As for how many drafts, you keep revising until you get your manuscript the very best you can. It might be six drafts or it might be dozens. Probably the latter since this is your first book.”
She thought about that, instantly feeling discouraged. “But first I have to get a publisher. I’ve heard that isn’t easy.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Beatrice told her. “You just write a great book. I’m sure I can talk my publisher into signing you on.”
“Remember that what you submit is a final draft. Your editor will work their magic and change it to make it the best it can be for your published book. It’s the editor that makes books perfect. My editor, Jessie, is amazing! I’ll see if I can get her assigned to you, too.”
“Think of all those future book signings. And if you’re lucky, you’ll sell lots of books and get lots of nice royalty checks.”
“Really?” Alice asked excitedly. “I’d love all of that!”
“I know you can do this. All you need to remember is to write what you know. Tell you what, I’ll give you a present to get you started.”
“Write what I know?” she asked, confused. “What does that mean? What kind of present?”
“Think about it. What do you know the most about?”
Alice grinned. “Murder.”
“That’s your answer, then,” Grandma said. “So take what you know, twist the facts into a fictional story, add some imagination and description of your characters and your surroundings, and you’ve written a book.”
“I see what you mean,” Alice said as she sauntered over to her mural, running a finger over the Paris scenes, longing to be there herself.
“It helps if you close your eyes and visualize every detail of every scene,” the woman told her granddaughter. “Think about what you would actually do and say and see, then write it. Do the same for your other characters. If you don’t know, then go on a fact-finding expedition. Watch and listen to what other people are doing and saying, then write it. Mix your story with a dose of fact and enough lies—fiction—so that no one will ever know what you’re writing is based on real events.”
“Sure, that makes sense.” Alice yawned as she returned to her desk and sat down. She was getting bored. “Now, tell me about your present. I love presents!”
“I’m going out now to get it. I’ll leave it for you in your trunk.”
“My trunk?” Alice asked, curious.
“It’s the best place for a body, dear, until you can dispose of it.”
“Okay, so I should write about someone leaving me a dead body in the trunk of my car.”
“I didn’t say it was going to be dead.”