A petite widow, medical secretary and sole support of her young son and grandparents, is framed for the murder of her boss. Wealthy village residents conspire with the DA to indicte her and stop further investigation. The medical examiner thinks the shooter was a tall individual. When his report is shoved aside, he starts his own side-investigation trying to clear her and in the process he falls in love with her.
Lucinda Byrne lost her husband and parents at sea. When she discovers the body of her boss, his A-List society finacee, backed up by her powerful family and a corrupt DA, acuses Lucinda of murder. She struggles on shielding her five-year-old son, her feisty grandfather and arthritic grandmother from the ugliness of her situation. She mistrusts the dapper ME, thinking he's a ladies' man, but soon realizes he may be the only one in her corner.
Hank Jansen, the county ME who's had his share of pain and loss, doesn't know if this little widow was in on the murder, but he knows by the trajectory of the bullet she's too short to have pulled the trigger. His professional opinion ignored, he begins his own investigation and at least one cop accuses him of an ethics violation. He certainly can't deny he's fallen head over heals for the accused, and also is crazy about her son. A huge problem is there's a leak inside the investigation and the murderer is always one step ahead of them.
Q: How did you develop the plot for DARKEST HOUR and how did you come up with the name?
Nike: In my Sanctuary Point series, one novel flows out of another. Main characters in one novel will appear as subordinate characters in the next one. Hank Jansen, the Nassau County Medical Examiner, first appeared in my Christmas/New Year's novel in the series, GOODBYE NOEL. Then he popped up at the murder scene in PERILOUS SHADOWS. I got to like him and thought he'd be a terrific hero. He is the most flawed of my heroes, but like all my others, he seeks to right injustice. So, he needed a heroine, but I wanted a gal who would be put off by him at first. So, I created a widow with a young son who is dignified and protective of her family. At first she thinks Hank is a ladies' man and too cavalier for her taste. Then, of course, he grows on her. It helps that he's practically the only one who thinks she's innocent of murder. The name DARKEST HOUR came to mind because things in this story get so scary for the heroine.Q: In DARKEST HOUR, your heroine Lucinda Byrne isn't as feisty as your previous heroines have been. Can you comment on that?
A: Lucinda Byrne certainly is strong, but she doesn't shoot from the hip the way my other heroines did. She's much more careful. I think a woman can show strength in many ways. Lucinda is a widow, the mother of her five-year old son, and the sole support of her grandparents. Her strength comes through as she handles her responsibilities with courage and grace while powerful individuals in the village seek to destroy her. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy writing spunky heroines, but in this story, I wanted Lucinda to have poise and dignity, first and foremost. Still, she can and does stand up for herself to the village detective and to Hank Jansen, the medical examiner, who she's falling in love with in spite of the fact that she doesn't know if she can trust him.
Q: Is there anything that happened in the writing of this novel that surprised you?
A: I thought my heroine Lucinda Byrne had two sweet grandparents who would stay in the background and just...well look sweet. However, Nellie and Daniel Walsh took me by surprise. I hadn't planned on Mrs. Walsh having crippling arthritis and on that illness becoming a subtheme in the novel. So, I had to research how severe arthritis was treated in the 1940s. As his wife's role in the novel grew and blossomed, Mr. Walsh also made himself known as an elderly gentleman of honor and dignity with quite a backbone. Then I began to depict them engaging each other as a married couple. They weren't content to remain in the background. They insisted on coming to life.
From Chapter one…
A black coach resembling an ambulance drove into the lot. An older man in overalls pulled a collapsible gurney out of the back and raised its bed to hip level. Its chrome gleamed.
The night orderly and two nurses getting off the night shift stopped to watch.
The brown-haired man pointed to the gurney and his voice carried. "They finally allocated some funds my way. Makes transporting much easier. Oscar and I used to carry them on a stretcher. My back sure is grateful to the board of supervisors."
The detective laughed. "Don't you county guys have all the dough you want?"
"Who're you kidding?"
The gurney's wheels rumbled across the gravel parking lot. The older man pulled on the straps of his overalls."Hank, you ready to move the body?"
The stylish man nodded. "Let's do it." They lifted the body onto the gurney and the man in overalls covered Dr. McCloud with a white sheet. Blood seeped through and began spreading.
Lucinda gasped, took another step back, stumbled, but managed to keep her footing. She straightened her spine. She still had to go into that building and work a full day. She had a son to support.
The detective nodded toward the body. "By the size of the hole in his chest, I'd guess he was shot with a pistol, maybe at close range. I need to have the bullet as soon as you recover it."
"Then by all means, you'll be my guest at the autopsy."
"Gee, thanks." The detective shook his head.
The debonair man chuckled, turned, and approached Lucinda.
A tremor ran down her back. More questioning, and all she wanted to do was run and hide. She sniffled and wiped her nose with the side of her index finger.
He reached into his inside pocket and offered her a folded white handkerchief. "It's rough if you've never seen anything like this. I'm Hank Jansen, the medical examiner, by the way."
Lucinda's gaze followed the gurney to the black coach. "He was my boss."
"You work at the hospital for Dr. McCloud?"
"Yes. I... I'm his secretary... was, I mean. And Dr. Hinsey's too." She couldn't believe the doctor's life had ended this way.
Detective Daltry barked, "Hank, can I speak with you?"
"Excuse me." The medical examiner stepped away.
"Wait." Lucinda quickly refolded the handkerchief and handed it back to him. She didn't know this man. Wouldn't begin to know how to return the white cotton cloth. "Don't forget this."
"Take it with you. The day's not over. Things could still get rough." He smiled.
"No, I can't take your hankie."
"Listen, I'll pick it up the next time I'm at the hospital. You say you work for Dr. Hinsey?"
"Hank," the detective called, impatience sharp in his tone.
"Yes, Dr. Hinsey is the head of the maternity ward. I'll launder it and have it ready for you."
The medical examiner nodded and smiled. "It's a date. I mean, I'll stop by and pick it up." He turned and trotted toward the detective.
Lucinda slipped the handkerchief into her purse. She headed for the main entrance of the hospital, bent and picked up a fountain pen in the gravel lot.
She pivoted and advanced toward the two men.
The detective made a chopping gesture with his hand and raised his voice. "I'm not fooling, Hank. Don't go putting another notch in your belt. She's a witness."
"Can't a fellow do a simple act of kindness?"
"I'm warning you, stay away from her." The detective spun around and nearly collided with Lucinda.
Heat rushed to her face, and she couldn't meet either man's gaze. If the ground would only open and swallow her. She held the pen out to Detective Daltry. "Uh...I…I'm sorry. I think you dropped this."
Like so many writers, Nike Chillemi started writing at a very young age. She still has the Crayola, fully illustrated book she penned (penciled might be more accurate) as a little girl about her then off-the-chart love of horses. Today, you might call her a crime fictionista. Her passion is crime fiction. She likes her bad guys really bad and her good guys smarter and better.
She is the founding board member of the Grace Awards and is its Chairman, a reader's choice awards for excellence in Christian fiction. She writes book reviews for The Christian Pulse online magazine. She was an Inspy Awards 2010 judge in the Suspense/Thriller/Mystery category and a judge in the 2011 and 2012 Carol Awards in the suspense, mystery, and romantic suspense categories. BURNING HEARTS, the first book in the crime wave that is sweeping the south shore of Long Island in The Sanctuary Point series, finaled in the Grace Awards 2011 in the Romance/Historical Romance category. GOODBYE NOEL, the second book in the series released in December, 2011 won the Grace Award 2011 in the Mystery/Romantic Suspense/Thriller category. PERILOUS SHADOWS, third in the series released July, 2012, and DARKEST HOUR, the fourth in the series released in February, 2013. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and the Edgy Christian Fiction Lovers (Ning). http://nikechillemi.wordpress.com/