During the Facebook Live launch party for Dead Winner in November, I posed a trivia question for the folks who were live online and offered to award a limited-edition Mike Stoneman Thriller Series baseball cap to the first person who could get the right answer. Nobody came up with the answer during the live party. So, in my monthly newsletter in December, I made the same offer to my subscribers. Two of my newsletter readers got the correct answer. Jonanna J, in New Zealand (one of my best Beta readers) knew the answer. The other correct answer came from Kathryn B, who won the hat. For those who got it wrong and want to know the correct answer . . . keep reading.
Here’s the question: In the Mike Stoneman Thriller series books (numbers 1-5), there are four characters who appear (have a line of dialogue) in every book. Three are (of course) Mike Stoneman, Jason Dickson, and Michelle McNeill. Who is the fourth?
For readers who have completed the first five books of the series (yes, that’s all of them to date), you know that Book #1 (Righteous Assassin), #2 (Deadly Enterprise), and #4 (Fatal Infraction) are all set in New York City, where Mike, Jason, and Michelle work on solving the murders that are the main plots of each story. Along the way, they are supported by the other detectives from the Manhattan homicide squad and Mike and Jason deal with their captain, Edward “Sully” Sullivan, the mayor, the police commissioner, and many other recurring characters. But, book #3 (Lethal Voyage) and #5 (Perilous Gambit) have different settings. Lethal Voyage is almost entirely set aboard the cruise ship Colossus of the Ocean, while Perilous Gambit is mostly set in Las Vegas, although there are several scenes in New York before Mike and Jason, along with Michelle and Jason’s fiancé (by then), Rachel Robinson, take off for Sin City. So, what character shows up in all the stories?
The most common incorrect guess was Rachel Robinson, who is a very prominent character in books 3-5, but who does not make her first appearance until book #2, where she was Jason’s date at the Hero’s Ball. Another common wrong answer was Captain Sullivan, but he was not part of Lethal Voyage.
An answer that was almost correct is New York Times reporter Dexter Peacock. The reporter appears in books 1-4, and appeared in a chapter of Perilous Gambit right up to the last edits, when my editor persuaded me that the chapter where he showed up unexpectedly in Vegas really didn’t advance the plot and should be cut. It was cut, so Peacock missed out on being part of the final edition of the book.
For my fans who love the stories, you may remember one character who provides some comic relief and some tender moments. She first appeared as a witness being interviewed by Mike and Jason in an early chapter of Righteous Assassin. She was the widow (although not grieving) of the man who was the first victim of the serial killer, Nick DiVito. My first draft of the chapter did not give her much of a personality, other than that she was not particularly sad that her husband was murdered. My wife, Sharon, who gives me some of my best ideas, recognized Mrs. DiVito as someone who could be a much more colorful character. She saw her as Marisa Tomie in her Oscar-winning performance in My Cousin Vinny. This woman was sassy, confident, and takes no crap from anyone. The short scene in which she appeared in Righteous Assassin became one of my favorites. We decided that Mrs. Divito should have a recurring role and should show up in every story, where we could further develop her colorful personality.
In book #2, at the Hero’s Ball, the same woman shows up on the arm of a new husband, Dr. Allan Rosen. She accosts Mike and Jason at the reception briefly, telling her new man about how she knew the famous detectives who were honorees that night. It was a true cameo appearance and allowed me to plant her in the book. It also allowed me to give Mrs. DiVito her signature line. She told Dr. Rosen that she never forgets a face, because she has a “photogenic memory.”
In book #3, on the cruise ship, Mrs. DiVito shows up again — this time on the arm of a man selling jewelry on the ship. Unfortunately, Dr. Rosen died suddenly and his children cut his buxom trophy wife out of the estate. She had to sell her engagement ring — to the Jewler — and ended up getting hired as his assistant. On the ship, Mrs. DiVito-Rosen has an important role in solving the case — because she remembers the emerald ring worn by the wife of the Broadway theatrical agent who dies on the ship. She’s into jewelry — and she has a photogenic memory.
In book #4, when Jason needs an engagement ring for Rachel, who else would he turn to but Mrs. DiVito, the jeweler? He visits her at her boss’s Manhattan booth in the jewelry district and obtains the perfect ring — an emerald. Mrs. DiVito remembers that Rachel said emeralds were her favorite stone. (She has a photogenic memory, you know.) Mrs. DiVito gives Jason a good deal, and on a cop’s salary, he can get a lot more stone for the money than a diamond.
Finally, in book #5, when Jason and Rachel need to find an alternate venue for their quickie wedding, they show up at a wedding chapel that had only recently re-opened. Inside, they find Mrs. DiVito. Her sister had run the chapel until her sudden death from a respiratory infection (this was in December of 2019). Mrs. DiVito had come to Vegas to take over the business, and to open a jewelry store in the same venue, making it a combo jewelry store and wedding chapel (nice idea!). She is thrilled to host Jason and Rachel’s wedding. She remembers the ring Jason bought (photogenic memory, remember). Her efforts to help our heroes again plays an important part in the story — especially at the end.
(One footnote to the saga is that I watched an HBO special called The Captains, which was about the actors who played the roles of the starship captains in the many versions of Star Trek. I highly recommend it for Trekkies (like me). During the program, Kate Mulgrew (Captain Janeway from Star Trek: Voyager) talked about herself and mentioned that she has a “photogenic memory” about scripts. Yes, she said that. So, Mrs. DiVito is not the only one.)
So, kudos to Joanne and Kathryn for knowing that Helene DiVito-Rosen is the fourth character who appears in all five books in the series. I hope my readers appreciate her humor and enjoy being able to spot her in the books and say, “I know her!”