Monday, May 27, 2013


By Nancy Lynn Jarvis

After years as a Realtor, I’ve given up my career in favor of murder.

I never planned to kill anyone and never intended to write anything other than enticing advertising copy for my listings, but in 2008 when I was fifty-nine and the real estate market tanked, I decided to run away from the too-real world of foreclosures and short sales, take a time out, and pretend to be retired. I quickly got bored so, as a purely time-filling intellectual exercise, I began killing people, at least on paper.

The logic and careful structure of mysteries has fascinated me since the days when I sat in a wicker rocking chair at my grandmother’s house and read Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers, sworn to secrecy in case my mother wouldn’t approve of a young girl reading something other than Nancy Drew.

I discovered that writing mysteries is like solving a logic puzzle — Sudoku on steroids — and if that isn’t fun enough, mystery writing gives me an excuse to delve into a world of fascinating but unsettling things like decomposition, accidental mummification, and how ligature strangulation and death by hypothermia work. 

I took my twenty-plus years of situations — that’s a polite term for all those things that happen in the world of real estate that makes agents say, “I could write a book” — and used them for background.  I created a real estate agent protagonist named Regan McHenry who is kind of like me, only younger, thinner, and more daring, and used my favorite agents, clients, and associates  as inspiration for characters.

The murders in my books are made up, but the real estate stories are real — yes, Realtors do come across bodies in the course of doing business — so a Realtor who solves mysteries isn’t as far-fetched as it might seem.

After earning a BA in behavioral science from San Jose State University, Nancy worked for the San Jose Mercury News, as a librarian, and as the business manager for Shakespeare Santa Cruz at UCSC before starting a long career as a Realtor.
Nancy’s work history reflects her philosophy: people should try something radically different every few years. Writing is the latest of her adventures.


Nancy Lynn Jarvis said...

Thanks for giving me a turn on your blog, Linda. The book you featured isn't one of the real estate mysteries, but it might appeal even more to us geezers. The protagonist is an 83 year old would-be bank robber who leads her renegade octogenarian band into a life of crime to pay off the mortgage and save their mobile home park from foreclosure. Yes, it's funny.

H. Kirk Rainer said...

Thanks. Seems like a great transition from The Bubble to bread crumbs.

H. Kirk Rainer said...

Seems like a good transition from The Bubble to bread crumbs.

Nancy Lynn Jarvis said...

Very good, Kirk.

................................ Kevin Parsons said...

Very cool! It is amazing how much fodder for fiction you can garner after a few decades of real live working. Bravo!

Nancy Lynn Jarvis said...

Hi Kevin,
It doesn't have to be at work, either. For example, when I was scoping out my local bank trying to get a feel for how a robbery might work, a woman came in and did just what my character did in Mags and the AARP Gang. I stole the scene from a real person's actions.