3131 Ocean Avenue
A Ray Stiles Mystery
Ray’s a small town Private Eye. Belmar, NJ. A Jersey Shore girl born and bred. If she had her druthers, Ray would spend her day surfing and cruising the boardwalk on her beach bike. But she needs the dough.
Ray's happy to pick up the small stuff: Insurance fraud. Missing persons. She follows women whose husbands think they might be cheating. Shadows college and high school kids whose parents fear drug deals and overdoses. Anything to pay the bills.
But late one night Ray receives a call. A woman with a sultry voice says she has a dead guy in her foyer and she could really use Ray’s help.
Dead guys are a different story.
Dead guys are serious business.
Still, Ray can’t afford to turn down the work. Bills and expenses out the wazoo. One kid in college, another one will be soon. Mortgage to pay. Health insurance. Car insurance. Food to buy.
And just about no help at all from either of her no-good ex-husbands. Ray’s just about 100% on her own.
So yeah, she agrees to drive up to Sea Grove from Belmar. At three o'clock in the morning. Really she has no choice. Bank account on its death bed.
And hey, 3131 Ocean Avenue in Sea Grove—that’s where the fat cats live. Where the big money resides. Where the super well-to-do have their summer beach houses.
Ray finds both money and the dead guy at 3131 Ocean Avenue. She also finds Ms. Valerie Worthington, who will, over the next few weeks, beguile and confound Ray as Ray attempts to unravel the mystery of the dead guy’s demise.
More than a simple whodunit, 3131 Ocean Avenue delves into the psyches of the story’s two primary characters, Ray and Valerie. What motivates them? Money, yes, but also power and ambition, lust and love, revenge and revulsion.
The plot is thick and ever changing. Lies and deceptions litter Ray’s path to the truth. Hair loss, corporate profits, corporate espionage, family animosities, corrupt cops all stand in Ray’s way. She gets threatened, kidnapped, roughed up, held at gunpoint. But Ray doesn’t give up.
No give-up in Ray. Ray's a tough cookie. She doesn't like getting pushed around, deceived, used and abused. Mess with her and she’ll mess right back.
As a kid I spent summers at the Jersey Shore. Now, decades later, I’m back there again with my own kids. For a long time I had wanted to write a novel with the Jersey Shore lingering mightily in the background. The ocean, of course, the beaches, the boardwalks, the food, the miniature golf courses. Surfing would have to play a prominent role.
Initially I had in mind a family saga, but that turned into Those Murderous Macbeths with a setting out on Nantucket Island. So I decided to write a mystery. A good old-fashioned murder mystery in the style of Dash Hammett and Raymond Chandler.
I wrote the first draft. I liked the plot. It was demanding, definitely not predictable. But something about Ray bugged me. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it but for some reason I just didn’t like the guy. Yes, initially Ray was a guy. Ray Stiles. And he annoyed the hell out of me. His mannerisms. The stuff he said. The way he acted toward women.
So what did I do?
I turned Ray into a woman. On the verge of 40. All kinds of angst and money troubles and wild sexual desires.
Ray turned into one of my all-time favorite characters. I love Ray. She’s a smart, crazy, savvy, sexy, wounded, insecure modern woman.
And a hell of a PI.
I hope to write a bunch of Ray Stiles Mysteries.
Thanks for giving Ray a try and please let me know what you think.