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The Murder Game
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ISBN-10: 0-10000-000-1
Genre: Mystery
eBook Length: 227 Pages
Published: July 2002

From inside the flap

THE MURDER GAME is a 70,000 word romantic mystery about a mystery game designer whose game goes murderously wrong.

When Lawrence Van Hise offers Gwen Wilson $10,000 to create a mystery game in honor of his birthday, Gwen agrees. Gwen's mother once worked as the Van Hise housekeeper before her death twenty years ago, and Gwen is looking forward to returning to Hillside Cottage, the beautiful mansion on the flanks of Mt. Tamaplais. Before Gwen can explain to Lawrence who she is, Lawrence tells her about a housekeeper who stole a jade statue. Gwen is shocked to learn the thief was her mother and sets out to prove her mother innocent, only to uncover more secrets from the past, long buried secrets about her mother's suicide from the Golden Gate Bridge and her relationship with Lawrence Van Hise. To complicate matters, Gwen's feelings for Hunter, Lawrence's son, confuse her. When she was 13 and Hunter 16, he was her first crush. Having matured into devastatingly handsome man, he still has the power to send her heart and mind reeling. Is he really attracted to her or merely using her as his father used her mother? Is his offer to help genuine or is he merely trying to protect his father?

Then the night of the party, Lawrence Van Hise is found dead, and it appears someone is trying to frame Gwen for murder.

Reviews and Awards

5 Stars!

Gwen herself is a delightful heroine. Battered by life, she is nobody’s pawn, but her own independent woman. Thus is it even more pleasurable to watch her freely give herself to Hunter ? you can?t get much more romantic than that! Their passion is mentioned in passing; this is not your blatantly sexual affair, nor does it need to be. The secondary characters play their roles well, in a manner very similar to an old-fashioned Agatha Christie story. I kept waiting for someone to say ?You?re probably wondering why I?ve asked you all here tonight...? For the record, I had three guesses about ?whodunit? ? I shall simply say that one of my guesses was right. I recommend Ms. Suzane’s eBook to any mystery lover, or any romance lover...but the latter be warned, you may just get hooked on solving the murder first!

Reviewed in September 2002 by Celia.

The Murder Game (Excerpt)


Gwen curled her legs under her, just as she had done as a child. The mahogany window seat shone with fresh polish, and the scent of lemon oil lingered, bringing back memories of her mother. A line from her last novel, Fallen through the Crack, kept playing through her mind, something her fictional detective Adam Long had said to his partner. "Fate? There is no such thing as fate. It’s always our own choice. Sometimes we don't like the choices we make; sometimes we don't want to believe they are our choices, but we made them."

What choices had led her to the Van Hise mansion on Mt. Tamalpais? To this room with its polished mahogany, overstuffed chairs, genuine Tiffany lamps, and a curious mixture of Art Nouveau and ancient Chinese art?

Adam Long didn't believe in fate, only in choices, but Gwen wasn?t sure. Was it fate that led Lawrence Van Hise to offer her $10,000 to create a murder game party for his seventieth birthday? Possibly?but it had been her choice to return to Hillside Cottage, where her mother once worked as a housekeeper.

Gwen shivered slightly. The cold of the January night, which would cover everything with a coat of white frost before morning, crept into the window seat and under her peach mohair sweater, making the touch of her satin shirt icy. Maybe she had been wrong to let her curiosity get the better of her.

The mantle clock chimed the half hour. A man entered the living room, and Gwen pulled back into the deep shadow of the window seat. He deposited his briefcase on a chair and headed across the spacious room to the fireplace, where he stood warming himself.

Gwen recognized him instantly. Hunter Van Hise, Lawrence's only son. She had been ten when they moved to the mansion, and he had made her life miserable, as only a thirteen-year-old boy could. When she was thirteen and he sixteen, with his first car, he had been her romantic dream, her first crush.

She sat very still, hoping not to attract his attention, wanting time to study him. The handsome boy had matured into a very handsome man. An actor might envy his dark, almost brooding face. He pulled off his overcoat and tossed it over the sofa and stood rubbing his hands in front of the fire. His dark gray wool suit was perfectly tailored, emphasizing a slender build, and his full dark blonde hair had obviously been styled in an expensive salon.

His pleasure at the fire's warmth was enticing, but Gwen didn't move. Then he turned and saw her. He took a step toward her, stopped, studying her as she had done him.

Her heart fluttered in her breast. Would he recognize her? Would he remember the little girl who cast such moon-eyes at him? What would he think of her? She had no illusions. She wasn't a beauty. No, most people saw her as practical. That didn't mean she wasn't attractive, because she was, but in a down-to-earth way. Still, she knew peach was one of her colors. It complimented her dark brown hair and fair skin, and her oversize sweater, with its matching satin shirt and pants, made her look chic. The big gold earrings and gold bangles on her wrists completed the look

"You must be Gwen Wilson, the woman my father hired for his crazy scheme." His tone cut right through her reverie.

Suddenly Gwen was ten again, in this very room, and Hunter was telling her that this was his house, and if he ever caught her playing in here he would see her mother was fired. Gwen felt her chin tremble?then she caught herself. She wasn't ten anymore, and Hunter couldn't bully her.

"I don't think it's such a crazy idea."

"You wouldn't."

Anger rose inside her. "I think your father has the right to choose. It is, after all, his birthday."

"Of course, and what my father wants, he always gets." Gwen couldn't miss the bitterness in Hunter's voice.

"That's right, boy." Lawrence Van Hise entered the room. Gwen's mental image superimposed itself over the real man. The rough lion of a man that she had at once idolized and feared, who even now in her memory seemed larger than life, was just an ordinary man. An old man with a shock of white hair. Despite the frailness and the white hair, Gwen saw he still possessed, undiminished, the autocratic air of power. Almost 70, Lawrence stood upright; he commanded attention. In fact, he could even be called handsome, despite the deep lines that etched the forehead and bracketed the eyes, nose, and mouth. Not unattractive lines, but lines that spoke of experience.

Gwen rose to meet him, putting out her hand in response to his outstretched one. He introduced himself and Hunter. Before Gwen could tell him that she knew who he was because her mother had been Sylvia Moss, Lawrence turned to Hunter.

"Will you be joining us for dinner?" he asked.

"No. I've just enough time to change before I have to leave. A charity dinner for the San Francisco Ballet."

Lawrence tucked a hand under Gwen's elbow. "If that's the case, son, you?ll excuse us. Mrs. Lee tells me that dinner has been ready for thirty minutes and will be totally ruined if we don't sit down immediately." Without waiting for Hunter's reply, Lawrence guided Gwen out of the living room.

She glanced back; Hunter was scowling.

"I've been thinking, my dear," Lawrence said, as they crossed the entryway. "I once had a housekeeper who stole a priceless jade statue. Perhaps we could work that into the mystery."

Gwen briefly wondered which housekeeper. She couldn't remember hearing about any housekeeper stealing, but perhaps after they left.

He opened the door to the formal dining room.

Gwen eagerly looking around the room. Even less had changed in here than in the living room. The large oak table still dominated the middle of the room. The massive fireplace took up one wall, sideboards the other three. Paintings?old, beautiful oils in gilt frames?accented warm oak paneling.

The table was already laid. A young Spanish girl carried in a tray and placed it on one of the sideboards. "You may serve the soup, Quinta," Lawrence said, seating Gwen before taking his own seat. Quinta placed a bowl in front of Gwen. One perfect slice of mushroom floated on the creamy white soup, accented with a tiny sprig of parsley.

"Thank you," Gwen said, smiling at the girl, who did not smile back. Gwen turned her attention back to Lawrence. "Tell me more about this robbery."

"As robberies go, I suppose it wasn't that exciting. One of the jade statues from the cabinet in my office was missing. We searched and found it hidden in the housekeeper's room. It was her day off, and she probably planned to take the statue into San Francisco to sell. Her name was Sylvia Moss."

Gwen's spoon dropped, clattering as it hit her plate.

"I'm sorry," Gwen mumbled, hiding her face behind a napkin and swallowing hard. No, it couldn't have been her mother. It just couldn't. "What happened?"

"I fired her, of course. I should've pressed charges, but I felt sorry for her. She was the sole support of a young daughter. You can see the figurine if you want; it's in my office."

Was Lawrence watching her with a sense of expectation? Could he know who she was? Who could remember a thirteen-year-old girl nicknamed Taffy? She herself didn't recognize the person she had grown into, and long ago she had stopped using the nickname. Besides she still used her married name, Wilson. No, it was just a coincidence.

Gwen took a sip of wine and smiled. She hoped it looked natural. "Are you sure the woman was responsible?"

"Absolutely. It wasn't the first time things had come up missing’small stuff, mostly money." Quinta took away the soup and left a broiled salmon fillet and green beans with almonds.

Salmon was Gwen's favorite fish, but she didn't think she could eat it. Even so, she picked up the lemon slice, squeezed the juice over the pink flesh, then picked up her fork.

Lawrence attacked his fish with relish, and, after a few minutes, said, "I must confess I've eagerly been waiting to find out how you plan to kill me."

Gwen blinked. "I usually use a fictional victim, who dies off stage."

"Definitely not. I want to set the stage with me lying dead. I'm sure you can devise a marvelous plot to kill me."

"I can use you as the victim, but understand this will be a completely fictional story. I've learned from experience that it's much easier to get into the spirit of the game if you're playing make-believe."

"A fictional story it is, then. Just what character do you have in mind for me?"

"Since I'm from Hollywood, how about a movie mogul? A wealthy producer."

"I like that idea." Lawrence took a sip of wine. "I'm curious. Why did you leave Hollywood?"

Gwen didn't want to talk about herself, but she could think of no reason to refuse to answer his question. "My aunt died. I moved here to settle her estate and to sell her house in Oakland."

"I'm sorry," Lawrence said, with rote politeness. "Are you returning to Hollywood soon?"

"I'm not sure. I'm thinking about staying in the area for a while. My publisher wants another Adam Long novel, and my agent suggested setting it in San Francisco. But, back to the game. I need to know how large a group this will be."

"About ten guests."

"Somehow I thought it would be a much larger party."

"Does it make a difference?"

"No. I prefer smaller groups. Then everyone can have a role to play. I do have one question. Why me?"

"Your reputation. A well-known writer who creates murder games. To be frank, I checked you out, and you were highly recommended for being very creative and innovative."

"By whom?" Gwen's curiosity rising.

"Mrs. Sutton, for one, was very impressed."

Gwen nodded, she had done a game for a charity Mrs. Sutton chaired. "But why offer my agent $10,000 to have me create this game?"

"Because, as my son says, I always get what I want. I wanted you, and I knew you wouldn't turn down $10,000. I was right, wasn't I? But don't worry. I assure you that I will consider it money well spent. There’s one stipulation. I want to know everything about the game. Do you have any problem with that?"

"No, if you're willing to accept that I am the expert."

Lawrence smiled at her. "That much is obvious. I've never plotted to murder anyone before, but I'm looking forward to it. May I make a confession? I'm a big fan of yours. I loved Fallen through the Crack and The Merry-go-round Murders. There’s a part of me that always wanted to be a mystery writer, and this will be the closest I come. I hope you?ll indulge an old man."

"Willingly," she said, suddenly wanting very much to make this old man's dream come true. If not for him, then to show his son. She would create a wonderful game, her best ever. It wasn't a crazy scheme, and she would prove it to Hunter.

"You've hardly eaten," Lawrence said. "I've been keeping you too busy talking."

Gwen stared down at the fish and knew that she couldn't eat. What was now in her stomach churned uncomfortably. "I wasn't very hungry. If you don't mind, I think I'll forgo dessert and begin working on the game. Five days isn't long."

"But you'll finish the game by Saturday?"


"Then I mustn't keep you from your work." Lawrence rose from his chair, and Gwen made her escape upstairs.