Award-winning author Jane Isenberg completed her latest murder mystery novel, “Murder in the Melting Pot.” Known for her eight-book Bel Barrett mystery series, Isenberg said she wanted to write a murder mystery story set in Washington, specifically Yakima Valley.
Isenberg and her husband moved to Issaquah almost 16 years ago from Hoboken, New Jersey. As a Jewish couple from a busy city moving to a small suburb in Issaquah, Isenberg said she felt out of place. While she said the transition was a little disorienting, it also proved to be a source of inspiration. It was this inspiration that led her to write, “The Bones and the Book,” a Seattle-based murder mystery and now “Murder in the Melting Pot.”
“It was good for my writing to move,” she said.
“Murder in the Melting Pot” takes place in Yakima Valley where the protagonist, Miranda Breitner, retreats from her tormented past to begin a new life by opening a bed and breakfast. When an Orthodox Jew sent from New York City to juice grapes is murdered nearby and the local police can’t discover the killer, tourists stop coming and their fear threatens to ruin her business. Motivated by a deathbed promise and a growing determination not to be victimized again, Miranda risks her life to unmask the murderer and keep her promise.
“It’s different from all of my other books. It’s contemporary and set in Yakima Valley, which is not a place I have ever lived but it was a place that fascinated me because I had been reading all these different things about it,” Isenberg said.
Isenberg drew the story idea from two different newspaper articles she read. The first idea for the book gave her the victim, and the second provided the protagonist.
She feared since the book contains many social and political topics that it would be out of touch by the time it would be published. It took her almost three years to complete the book.
“I thought, ‘this book is going to be so out of touch — it’s not going to be contemporary, like it’s going to be historical by the time I finish it and get it published,’” she said. “Unfortunately, or I guess fortunately for me, it became more and more timely every year. Honestly, I thought it was really far-fetched when I first started writing it but now it’s quite plausible.”
Writing the book required extensive research, including multiple visits to Yakima and interviews with the locals.
“It is just so beautiful there, but it’s also kind of wild. The whole experience of doing research was a lot of fun,” she said. “It was exciting to learn more about this place and see how it would fit into my jigsaw puzzle.”
Isenberg foresees some readers being upset by the book because it involves current social and political topics.
“I wrote it the way I wrote it because I really believe we should all be able to talk to each other even if we don’t agree,” she said. “I wanted my protagonist to be this sort of person who starts out as an outsider and she learns a different way of looking at things, and other people learn from her. While they all don’t agree on everything, they manage to get on and get to understand the other person’s point of view and their right to have it.”
She hopes the book will give readers “food for thought” and serve as a small offering toward encouraging people to pursue better communication and understanding.
“Murder in the Melting Pot” will be released July 31 and will be available at local bookstores as well as Amazon.