About Elaine

Elaine's biography in three flavors


In 50 words

Award-winning mystery writer Elaine Viets returns to her hardboiled roots with her Angela Richman, Death Investigator series. Elaine's written 34 mysteries in four bestselling series: 4 Francesca Vierling novels, 15 Dead-End Job mysteries, 10 Josie Marcus Mystery Shopper novels and 4 Angela Richman mysteries. A Star Is Dead debuts in April.

In 100 words

Elaine Viets has written 34 mysteries in four series: the bestselling Dead-End Job series with South Florida PI Helen Hawthorne, the cozy Josie Marcus Mystery Shopper mysteries, and the dark Francesca Vierling mysteries. With the Angela Richman Death Investigator series, Elaine returns to her hardboiled roots and uses her experience as a stroke survivor and her studies at the Medicolegal Death Investigators Training Course. Elaine was a director at large for the Mystery Writers of America. She's a frequent contributor to Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine and anthologies edited by Charlaine Harris and Lawrence Block. Elaine won the Anthony, Agatha and Lefty Awards.

In 750 words

National bestselling mystery writer Elaine Viets completed the Medicolegal Death Investigator Training Course at the St. Louis University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Mo. This inspired her to write the Angela Richman, Death Investigator series: Brain Storm, Fire and Ashes, Ice Blonde (a novella), and A Star Is Dead, which debuts in the UK in December and the US in April 2020.

The New York Times Review of Books calls her Dead-End Job mysteries “clever,”  and she’s received starred reviews in Publishers Weekly.

She has written 34 mysteries: Four hardboiled Francesca Vierling mysteries for Dell Books: Backstab, Rubout, The Pink Flamingo Murders, and Doc in the Box. These mysteries were also sold as audio books and Elaine narrated them.

The Art if Murder by Elaine  VietsShe has written 15 Dead-End Job mysteries: Shop till You Drop, Murder Between the Covers, Dying to Call You, Just Murdered, Murder Unleashed, Murder with Reservations, Clubbed to Death, Killer Cuts, Half-Price Homicide, Pumped for Murder, Final Sail, Board Stiff, Catnapped!, Checked Out and The Art of Murder. The series went into hardcover at Murder Unleashed.

Her Josie Marcus, Mystery Shopper series has ten novels: Dying in Style, High Heels Are Murder, Accessory to Murder, Murder with All the Trimmings, The Fashion Hound Murders, An Uplifting Murder, Death on a Platter, Murder Is a Piece of Cake, Fixing to Die and A Dog Gone Murder. Fixing to Die was nominated for a Barry Award in April, 2015.

Deal with the Devil and 13 Short Stories, a collection darkly humorous short stories, was published by Crippen & Landru. Her stories have appeared in anthologies including Mystery Writers of America presents Crimes by Moonlight: Mysteries from the Dark Side, edited by Charlaine Harris. Many Bloody Returns, edited by Charlaine Harris and Toni L. P. Kelner, and Mystery Writers of America presents Blood on Their Hands, edited by Lawrence Block. Her short story “Vampire Hours” was reprinted in the Barnes & Noble anthology, Vampires in Love. She regularly writes short stories for Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, including “Gotta Go”  in the November 2015 AHMM.

  The Agatha Award, named for the legendary Queen of Crime, Agatha Christie, is one of the numerous awards Elaine has garnered. She also won the Anthony Award and the Lefty Award for Best Humorous Mystery. She’s been nominated for the Macavity Award, Barry Award, Anthony and Agatha Awards.
Elaine had speech training in New York with Ruth Franklin, director of both AFTRA and SAG, and voiced her own audio books for Americana Publishing.

She hosted the top-ranked half-hour Dead-End Jobs Radio Show on Radio Ear Network for two years.
She is a frequent guest on local, national and international TV and radio shows, including the Discovery Channel’s MythBusters, and Michael Feldman’s Whad’Ya Know? show. Elaine also hosted the syndicated Travel-Holiday Radio Show and was a commentator for the National Public Radio station KWMU. She hosted a primetime television program, Viets Beat, for KMOV-TV in St. Louis and won two local Emmys. She was featured on National Public Radio station WLRN with Jeff “Dexter” Lindsay on Literary Florida.

Elaine was inducted into the St. Louis Media Halls of Fame in 2011. Her Dead-End Job series is taught in universities in the United States and Japan.

She is a popular speaker, and has been invited as a special guest of Lit in the Lou, a program to celebrate St. Louis’ literary achievements for its 250th birthday celebration. She was also a guest at the Vegas Valley Book Festival, Las Vegas, NV. She’s given two commencement addresses at the University of Missouri School of Journalism, and is on the faculty of the Florida Writers Academy. She has taught writing seminars at Sleuthfest on Saturday in Sarasota, Florida; to Sisters in Crime chapters in Jacksonville, Florida, Richmond, Virginia, and Nashville, Tennessee. She's appeared on numerous panels at Malice Domestic, Bouchercon, the American Library Association, and Sleuthfest. She was Toastmaster at Malice Domestic, Left Coast Crime and the Missouri Writers’ Guild. Elaine was named one of the top One Hundred Women in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Elaine knows the book business from the ground up, and worked as a bookseller at Barnes & Noble for two years. She was a director at large on the National Board of the Mystery Writers of America, served on the board of Sisters in Crime, and is a past president of the Florida Chapter of the Mystery Writers of America. She lives in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, with her husband, writer Don Crinklaw.

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About Elaine

Hardboiled, with a blood chaser? Warm and cozy? Or funny and traditional, with all the clues, and some good laughs? My four mystery series have something for every reader.

I started dark with the Francesca Vierling mysteries, set at a newspaper. My Dead-End Job mysteries are funny and traditional. The Josie Marcus Mystery Shopper mysteries are sweetly cozy.

Now I'm going back to the dark side with Brain Storm and Fire and Ashes. I've started a dark series featuring Death Brain Storm by Elaine VietsInvestigator Angela Richman. Death investigators work for the medical examiner. They take charge of the body, photographing it, documenting the wounds, and more. The police investigate the rest of the crime scene.

Why return to this gritty world?
Because I was in the mood for hardheaded forensics. To return to the dark side, I took the Medicolegal Death Investigators Training Course for forensic professionals, given by St. Louis University's School of Medicine. The intense training gave me the latest forensic information.

Look at the agenda for one morning, taught by medical examiners and pathologists:

Gunshot wound fatalities, explosion-related deaths, motor vehicle fatalities and drowning. At lunch we watched a teen driving and alcohol video. After lunch was alcohol-related deaths, suicide, blunt-trauma fatalities and more.

I didn't want to write a dark series with the same old protagonists: the retired cop learning to live with his heart-wrenching divorce or the private eye who drinks to kill "the big hurt." Other writers have done those novels, and done them well.

Instead, I turned my fascination with death investigators into a series featuring DI Angela Richman. This is a one of a kind series. Janet Rudolph, head of Mystery Readers International, believes there are no other series featuring death investigators.

Angela lives in mythical Chouteau County, just west of St. Louis. The rich live in the town of Chouteau Forest, a bastion of old money. The workers live in Toonerville. But death doesn't discriminate between the rich and the poor. Angela works cases for the super-wealthy as well as the down-and-out. She believes the dead can talk, and it's her job to examine, photograph and document their bodies, so they can tell her when and how they died. The Angela Richman series is dark, but it's not as gruesome as Patricia Cornwell's novels. It's closer to Kathy Reichs's Tempe Brennan mysteries.

Brain Storm was the first Angela Richman mystery, published by Thomas & Mercer August 2. Fire and Ashes, the second Angela Richman death investigator mystery, is just out. Brain Storm is a deeply personal mystery, which reflects my own fight to survive six strokes and brain surgery.

Fire and Ashes, is a look at small town injustice and the fatal dangers of "junk science."

In the mood for a newspaper mystery? My first dark mystery series featured Francesca Vierling, a six-foot-tall St. Louis newspaper columnist. I wrote four hardboiled Francesca mysteries.

Tough, glamorous Francesca drives an '86 Jaguar. She investigates the murder of a transvestite in Backstab and the death of a RUB, a rich urban biker, in Rubout. In The Pink Flamingo Murders, Francesca looks into a murder that would horrify anyone fighting to improve a rundown city neighborhood: a ruthless gentrifier is stabbed with a pink plastic flamingo. Got her right in the heart with the bird's metal legs. In Doc in the Box, bad doctors get the deaths they deserve.

The Francesca series ended after four books, but readers still enjoy it. This May, a New Yorker with lymphoma told me she gave Doc in the Box to her oncologist as a gift - or a warning.

After the hardboiled Francesca series, I worked dead-end jobs until my agent sold Shop Till You Drop, my first Dead-End Job mystery. This series features Helen Hawthorne, a St. Louis woman on the run in South Florida. Now I was writing funny, traditional mysteries, cheerfully slaughtering bad bosses and annoying customers. Shop Till You Drop made the list of 16 Florida Must Read Books, along with John D. MacDonald, Carl Hiaasen and Elmore Leonard.

Elaine Viets portraitHelen works a different low-paying job each novel, and I've worked most of them. In Shop Till You Drop, Helen sells bustiers to bimbos. Murder Between the Covers was set at a bookstore. Bookselling is one of my favorite jobs, and definitely not a dead-end one. Helen and I worked as telemarketers for Dying to Call You. That was my worst job ever – I sold septic tank cleaner. In Just Murdered, Helen and I worked in the bridal department of a posh store and survived attacks by crazed bridezillas. I loved working at an upscale dog boutique for Murder Unleashed. Helen and I were hotel housekeepers for Murder with Reservations. We learned hotel secrets, including never use a hotel coffee pot. Spend twenty bucks for room service coffee. You'll thank me.

For Clubbed to Death, Helen and I were in "customer care" at a snooty country club whose motto was "Do you know who I am?"

Killer Cuts took place at a hair salon where a color and cut were $300. Half-Price Homicide was set at a consignment shop where trophy wives sell their designer duds. It's the only way they could get cash from their controlling husbands.

In Pumped for Murder, Helen's tenth adventure, she opened a detective agency, Coronado Investigations, with her private eye partner and husband, Phil Sagemont. That opened new possibilities to keep the series fresh. Helen still works those low-paying jobs, only now she goes undercover as a PI.

Final Sail, set aboard a 143-foot yacht, gave a crew's eye view of floating luxury. Board Stiff was the ultimate beach book, set in the cutthroat world of beach concessions, including paddleboarding.

Catnapped" By Elaine VietsCatnapped! was fun to write, but poor Helen went undercover in the world of cat shows and learned how to wash a long-haired cat. (You start with Goop. Seriously.) Checked Out is a library lover's dream. Helen and I volunteered at our local library.  Suspense Magazine named it one of the top mysteries of 2015.

Once the Dead-End Job series was launched, Penguin asked me to write a cozy series featuring a mystery shopper, Josie Marcus. My mother was a mystery shopper, so I was born to write this series. Besides, it would only be for three books. The series got off to a good start with Dying in Style when it tied for first place on the Independent Mystery Bookseller Association bestseller list

Josie happily mystery-shops everything from high heels in High Heels Are Murder to lingerie in An Uplifting Murder. Then I turned in A Dog Gone Murder, where Josie mystery-shops dog day care. Think your pup is romping on the grassy green lawns you see on the Website? Josie says you should tour the day care center in person. With A Dog Gone Murder, I realized my three-book series was now ten books.

I enjoyed writing all those mysteries, but I missed the dark side. Even cozies aren't all kittens and cupcakes. Miss Marple, the fluffy knitter who declared "I am Nemesis," relentlessly brought killers to justice.

I can't wait for you to read my 15th Dead-End Job mystery, The Art of Murder, set at a quirky South Florida museum.

I like writing about Helen Hawthorne's lighthearted adventures in South Florida, as well as Angela Richman's visits to the dark side.

I enjoy mysteries for all moods: Light and dark, hard-boiled and cozy. I hope you will, too.

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Elaine Viets

Published on  June 8th, 2023