MURDER IN THE SECRET MAZE
A Tory Benning Landscape Architect Mystery
My latest book, MURDER IN THE SECRET MAZE, the first in the “Tory Benning Landscape Architect” mystery series, is set in Santa Sofia, California, a fictional small town just north of Santa Barbara. It's late September and Tory Benning, a thirty-something landscape architect who works at her family’s business, Benning Brothers’ Landscape Design and Nursery, has just gotten married after a whirlwind, four-month romance to rock-star architect, Milo Spinelli. But after her wedding ceremony at the fancy Hotel Santa Sofia, a luxury resort with lush gardens, including the Secret Maze she designed, Milo disappears. Did her new husband skip town voluntarily like the police think, or did he meet with foul play as her gut tells her?
Tory sets out to discover what really happened to her husband. When she finds convincing evidence to suspect foul play, she becomes a person of interest herself. One cop, in particular, Santa Sofia Police Department Sergeant Ernesto Gomez, who'd crushed on Tory in middle school and still nurses a grudge because his feelings weren't reciprocated, trains his sights on her as the prime suspect.
Meanwhile, a Halloween fundraiser turns deadly, someone keeps following Tory, and she receives a threat warning her to stop snooping around or she might be the next victim.
Aiding and abetting Tory in her search for the truth are her feisty BFF, lawyer Ashley Payne; Tory's solid, old school chum and SSPD sergeant, Adrian Ramirez; and a handsome but mysterious PI, Jake Logan. We also meet her family members, Uncle Bob, Aunt Veronica, and cousin, Sam. To round out the shenanigans, there's Iris, Tory's rescue Pomeranian, and Otis, an orphaned cat.
But all is not what it appears to be. While avoiding arrest by the hot-to-trot cop and dodging danger from a menacing stalker, Tory forges ahead in her quest to solve Milo's disappearance, gathering clues along the way that lead her, in the end, to shocking, unexpected revelations about her husband, her family, and the Secret Maze.
Judith Gonda is a writer and psychologist who lives in Southern California. Her mysteries are full of heart, humor, family, and rescue pets, and feature female amateur sleuths with a strong sense of justice and compassion for crime victims.