Murder at the Portland Variety will be published in late 2005 by Midnight Ink, a division of Llewellyn Press.
This completed novel by M. J. Zellnik is the first in a proposed series set in Portland, Oregon in the 1890's, featuring seamstress-turned-sleuth Libby Seale and newspaperman Peter Eberle.
Libby is a young Jewish dressmaker who has recently fled New York's Lower East Side, to escape an arranged marriage, and now works as a costumer at a popular Portland vaudeville theater. When her friend Vera, a magician's assistant, is murdered, Libby is thrust into the role of detective. Vera's body is discovered in the notorious "Shanghai tunnels," (a labyrinth running beneath the city, which still exists to this day) and the investigation opens Libby's eyes to the dark world of smugglers and white slavers lurking beneath the friendly city she now calls home.
In unraveling the mystery of Vera's death, and subsequent killings, Libby acquires sleuthing partner and potential beau Peter Eberle, a reporter for the Portland Gazette. Their burgeoning romance is hampered by the strains of the murder investigation, as well as by secrets from Libby's past. Naturally, their relationship will develop and blossom in future books.
This new series will appeal to the numerous readers of historical mysteries - but the fresh locale sets it apart. During this time period, Portland was a city undergoing enormous growth and upheaval, and nowhere was the shifting character of the American frontier more visible.
Murder at the Portland Variety paints a colorful portrait of the city rich in historical detail, from the lavish homes of timber barons to the bawdy houses (and barges) of Portland's red light district. In addition to providing a tightly-plotted and satisfying puzzle for Libby and Peter to unravel, the novel deals with the themes of assimilation and change. With a light touch, the book also explores the changing role of women in society as America moved into the modern age.
M.J. Zellnik is the joint pen name of sister-brother writing team Miriam and Joseph Zellnik. Miriam, based in Portland, is an accomplished freelance writer who's been published in Marie Claire, Bust, and other local and national publications. She is the author of several books published by Running Press, including the upcoming Cyclopedia Of Love. Joe lives in New York City and works as a composer/lyricist and playwright. His works have been performed at New York's Ensemble Studio Theater, Playwright's Horizons, and London's Bridewell Theater, among others. This is our first collaborative effort (well, since early childhood!) but we are both avid readers of this genre.