Thursday, October 10, 2013

Fall into a Maggie Toussaint Mystery with a Social Issue

October is Domestic Violence Awareness month, an issue that author Maggie Toussaint addresses in her newest Cleopatra Jones mystery. Integrating such a dark and all-too-real issue into fiction meant mainly to entertain isn't easy - read Maggie's thoughts on the value of making the effort. Leave a comment and you will be entered for a drawing for an ARC (advance reader copy) of Dime If I Know.  ~ Sheila

Mystery with a Social Issue

by Maggie Toussaint

My Cleopatra Jones mystery series is often irreverent, often lighthearted, but at the heart of newly released book three of this series, Dime If I Know, is a dark tragedy. The youngest sibling in my sleuth’s boyfriend’s family died in a shooting accident years ago.

The Golden family kept the accident out of the press, but every family member is affected by the cover-up. Now, years later, a current murder shines a spotlight on the past event, and family secrets come to light.

Worse, the family is forced to admit that the first death was no accident. Something very wrong is within their ranks, something which pits family member against family member.

While this violent incident served the plot of a story, domestic violence is a very real concern in our world. By definition, domestic violence is a behavior used by one person to control another person. Behaviors may include belittling, halting communication with others, withholding money, interference with a career, actual or threatened harm, sexual assault, stalking and intimidation.

Missie, who inspired Madonna, the
"mama dog" of Maggie Toussaint's
mystery series, doesn't  believe in
violence at all.
Fortunately for the Golden family in my fictional world of Dime If I Know, penetrating the veil of secrecy is enough to start the chain of healing. My sleuth Cleopatra Jones is the catalyst for change. Once the Goldens quit perpetuating the lie told over the years, they realize there is a problem.

In the story, the perpetrator is a chameleon, appearing to be no different than anyone else, similar to abusers in real life. This character perpetuates a cycle of violence within the family, destabilizing the family unit behind the scenes whenever she/he needs to reassert control.

Cleopatra Jones once again rises to the occasion of solving the mystery, demanding the truth, and refusing to let closed doors hamper her quest to clear her boyfriend’s good name. She brings healing to a troubled family.

For more information on Domestic Violence, start here:  

Find Dime If I Know (hardcover) at Amazon and Barnes and Noble

Formerly an aquatic toxicologist contracted to the U.S. Army and currently a freelance reporter, Southern author Maggie Toussaint loves to blend murder and romance in her fiction. With ten published books to her credit, her latest releases are Hot Water (romantic suspense) and Dime If I Know (mystery). She’s an active member of Mystery Writers of America, Romance Writers of America, and Sisters In Crime.

Visit Maggie at:


  1. Thank you for having me here today, Sheila.

  2. Maggie,

    Your novel deals with a serious problem. Wishing you every success with your new mystery.

    1. Hi Jacquie,

      Yes, domestic violence is a serious problem. It isn't something to be taken lightly, and it can devastate an entire family. In my book, I had the parents cover up the incident to protect their children, but that exacerbated the problem. Many family conflicts spun off this central problem that no one spoke about.

      While this is terrible news for an actual family, it made for great conflict in a book. I did my best to portray the hurt feelings, the isolation, and the sense of being unimportant within the characters.

      Thanks for stopping by!

    2. Maggie, you are dead right in saying how covering up incidents, often to protect the children, can exacerbate the problem. Too often, children are the reason given, although I sometimes feel the real reason is nothing more than pride. The all-too-real effects of "family secrets" live on through adulthood and can alter and estrange family relationships for decades and mar the child's development.

  3. Maggie--fortunately, I've never experienced any sort of family violence, nor have I ever heard of any until a few years ago. It's something not in my realm of knowledge.
    Now, I can't wait for the library to send an email saying, "Dime if I Know is now available to pick up from the Hold counter You have seven days to respond." Yea! I'll respond in one and run right into town and get it.
    Congratulations on a great series.

    1. Celia,

      You and I are indeed lucky. I've never experienced family violence firsthand, but I've known people in these situations. I also see a lot of incidents when I work on the Police Blotter for our weekly paper. When a family is broken, emotions run high and people act unlike themselves.

      I hope that this topic doesn't make folks squeamish. No actual families were harmed in the production of Dime If I Know.

  4. Fascinating the way you blend real life issues into darned good reads.

  5. Fascinating how you turn real life issues into darned good reads!

  6. Hi Beth,

    I'm flattered by your compliment. One of the things that drives me to write is that it gives me an outlet to make everything right. I like to fix things and to tidy up messes, and it's nearly impossible to fix a person, especially if they don't want to be fixed. For me, a story like Dime If I Know allows me to create a better ending for folks stuck in emotional and hard situations.

    I know real life issues can't be wrapped up so easily as they're portrayed in books, movies, or TV, but I always hope that something I write sparks a dialog amongst my readers. It seems to me that the first step in admitting there is a problem is to be able to tell someone about what's happening to you. If even one person seeks help because of this story, I will truly feel blessed.

  7. Love your doggie!
    About chameleons - I often hear on the news that the perpetrator was such a quiet guy who kept to himself. You just never know who to trust these days.

    Morgan Mandel

    1. Thanks, Morgan. I agree. It's hard to know what's inside a person from their public persona. Thanks for the comment.

  8. Maggie, domestic violence is such an important issue--I admire you for tackling it and incorporating it into your story. I can think of two family members who were "chameleons" and no one in the outside world knew what monsters they were to their kids and wives.

    Sweet fur baby! She looks so "pettable"! LOL I enjoyed your post.

    1. Hi Cheryl,

      I'm humbled by your comment. I don't know as I sat down to consciously write this story, but it must have been a big part of my subconscious, since domestic violence is such a strong thread.

      Thanks for the comments about our Missie. She is very pettable and huggable.

  9. Domestic violence is a difficult topic, yet it's far too prevalent in our society. I'm glad that you've tackled it in your story, which sounds like it should be an interesting read!

    1. Hi Karen,

      Everyone likes to think we are all so enlightened in this new century, but it seems some issues never go away. I don't know why or how family members could hurt each other this way, and it seems that the victims should speak out, but that is not often the case.

      I don't take on a lot of causes, but I hope that this story encourages family members to talk to each other and to someone who can help if they find themselves in a bad situation.

      Thanks for your comment.

  10. I think it's wonderful to incorporate real social issues in novels, and you did a great job in DIME IF I KNOW, Maggie. Actually, I do the same thing, but half the time people don't notice. Sigh.

  11. HI Alice,

    I'm touched by your comment. DIME is a book of my heart. It wrote itself nearly, and that doesn't happen to me very often. I have seen families torn apart by secrets, and I think that's something I felt moved to explore.

    I appreciate your visit of the blog post. Thanks!

  12. Maggie,
    Domestic violence is a tough but necessary subject that so many people deal with. There's no easy answer. My sincere best to you with Dime If I Know!

  13. Thank you, Diana. I appreciate your comment.

    Best to all at Sheila's blog.