I’m honored to be hosting a stop on Jean Henry Mead’s blog book tour for A Village Shattered, a senior sleuth mystery. The story is filled with intriguing characters living a retirement village shattered by a series of murders.
One of the secondary characters especially interested me, and I jumped at the chance to interview her. Please welcome retirement village resident and Portugese dairyman’s widow, Michelle Lugundos, known to all as Micki.
Lillie: Welcome to A Writer’s Words, An Editor’s Eye. Thank you for agreeing to answer questions about yourself and the murder mystery you found yourself entangled in. I understand your name is Michelle though most people call you Micki. Is Michelle a common Portugese name?
Micki: No, it isn’t. My parents came to this country from the Azore Islands just before I was born, and they wanted to give their first born child an American name. When they learned there were so many other Portuguese families living here in the San Joaquin Valley, they gave my seven younger sisters all latin names.
Lillie: It must be strange to read about yourself. The author, Jean Henry Mead, portrayed you as someone who is witty, perceptive, and distrustful of authority. Did she describe you accurately? If not, how did she get it wrong?
Micki: I don’t think I’m so witty. Sometimes my club members laugh because they think I say strange things, like the time I compared the sheriff’s investigation of the murders to gigging a tadpole instead of a frog. You know, he grabbed the first suspect that walked by instead of waiting for the real killer. I didn’t trust the sheriff at first, but then I learned that his only experience was training police dogs. He was trying his best but it just wasn’t good enough.
Lillie: Tell me about your experiences helping your husband run a dairy farm.
Micki: Oh, my, I had to get up every morning at four o’clock and cook a big breakfast before I helped with the milking. I was glad when we could afford milking machines because I had such calluses on my hands. I also helped him buck 100 pound bales of hay. See, I still have big muscles on my arms. I’ll never forget the night the hay caught on fire and burned for two days. That was the most exciting thing to happen at the dairy, except when a heifer gave birth to a calf.
Lillie: A Village Shattered takes place in a retirement village. Where is the village located? What attracted you to it? What is it like to live there? Did you and your husband retire there together or did you move there after Antonio died?
Micki: I moved to the village after Antonio died. It’s a mile from the city of Modesto in the northern San Joaquin Valley. I had some Portugese friends who lived in the village who talked me into moving here. If I had known that a serial killer was going to start murdering my club members alphabetically, I would not have sold the dairy. I used to love living here and going to Sew and So Club meetings. But now it’s too dangerous to even open my door.
Lillie: You were devoted to your husband but even more to your father. What made these two men so special to you?
Micki: Antonio was my first and only love and he reminded me of my father. They were both good, hardworking men. My mother died when my sister Phillipa was born and Papa raised his eight daughters by himself. He never looked at another woman. Not that we would have accepted a surrogate mother. I took over that job until I married Antonio, then my sisters in turn looked after the younger girls.
Lillie: Did you feel safer after your sisters arrived from Fresno to stay with you? What did you think when the sheriff told them to leave?
Micki: I could not believe how bossy my younger sister Josephina was. She made me crazy. I used to spank her when she was little and maybe she was getting even with me. I was glad when the sheriff told them it was too dangerous for them to stay in the village and they had to go home. Sheriff Grayson gave me another partner after he arrested Nola and put her in jail. She didn’t do the murders but she did set fire to Pat Wilson’s house. The sheriff kept taking my partners away or they got killed, so I did miss my sisters when they left.
Lillie: You are obviously a good cook. Describe some of your specialties, especially linguisa. How did you feel seeing the deputy squirming on the floor in pain after eating one of your brownies?
Micki: Everyone loves my brownies and linguisa, which is Portugese sausage. It’s mighty tasty but my friend Carole said there’s too much fat and calories in the food I cook. She only weighs 97 pounds so she doesn’t know what good food tastes like. I baked a batch of brownies the other night and one of the deputies guarding us ate one and fell on the floor. We thought he was dying. I was afraid that everyone thought I had poisoned him.
Lillie: What do you think of Sheriff’s Grayson’s investigation of the murders?
Micki: I know he tries hard but he doesn’t have enough experience. When he was elected, half his sheriff’s department quit and went home, so he doesn’t have anybody to advise him. I think he wishes he was still training police dogs.
Lillie: I understand that A Village Shattered is the first of the Logan & Cafferty Mystery Series. Do you think Dana Logan and Sarah Cafferty should be the ones getting top billing? Do you think the author will give you a larger role in future books?
Micki: No, the author put Dana and Sarah in a motorhome and took them to Wyoming to investigate the death of Dana’s wealthy sister. I don’t think they’re ever coming back to the San Joaquin Valley, except for maybe for a visit. I will miss them.
Lillie: What else would you like us to know about you or the story?
Micki: I feel like I’m running a boarding house. My friends are dying and just when I get used to a partner living here with me, the sheriff takes her away. He finally gave me a deputy to protect me but he’s having woman problems and can’t stay awake 24 hours a day, so I have to stand guard with Antonio’s hunting rifle so young deputy Dalton can get some sleep. I hope the sheriff finds the killer soon so we can all stop being afraid.
Lillie: Thank you, Micki. I’ve enjoyed getting to know you and am sure my readers did also. I’ll miss you in the next book. Please check in during the day to respond to comments and answer questions. And bring your author along, too. Readers may have questions for her.
Micki: Thank you, Lillie. You must stop by for some linguisa and brownies. The author is allergic to both of them.
Comments are open. Say hi to our guests and ask questions for either Jean or Micki.