The seventh book in the Spencer Manning mystery series is about one-third done. This book is about drugs, a problem Spencer has yet to encounter. In the six books I’ve written so far, I’ve known what the basic plot was and who the culprit was. And in four of them I knew how I was going to catch him/her. The work came in surrounding the villain with a cast of possible suspects and filling out the story with clues and red herrings to make it interesting and, well, a mystery.
In this book I have the opposite problem. To borrow a title from Ellery Queen, I have too many suspects. Spencer has an early discussion with Stosh about whom he can trust, and Stosh tells him he can’t trust anyone… Stosh aside of course. But in this book Spencer isn’t working with Stosh.
The crime occurs on the west side of Chicago in a different precinct. At first, the drug problem was simple. It involved the arrest of a kid for possession and selling cocaine. The kid lives on the north shore in the richest congressional district in the country. In the beginning, it involved his mother, her big bucks lawyer, the Chicago police, and a federal agent whom the lawyer is trying to cut a deal with.
But I write murder mysteries, so someone had to die. And when that happened the list of suspects started to grow. The story now involves two police departments, the federal agent, the kid and his rich mother, a senator and his son, the head of the largest gang in the city, the head of organized crime, and a nun. I know how I am going to catch the villain, but while I have it narrowed down to four, I don’t know who it is. My hope is that as I write, it will become obvious who it should be. That has happened in past books… as I wrote, whatever problem I was having worked itself out. There’s something magical about that process.
When Spencer discusses his list of suspects with Stosh over a game of gin and a few bottles of Schlitz, Stosh laughs and reiterates that he can trust no one… the drug problem involves everyone. The gangs and organized crime are obviously involved. But rich people get richer, and politicians and policemen take bribes. The only way you can cross someone off the suspect list is if they’re dead and maybe not even then. That remains to be seen, as does which character is the villain.
I can’t wait to see who it is!