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  • Writer's pictureRandy Overbeck

Why So Anonymous?

In my bestselling Haunted Shores Mysteries series, the tales are as much about the location as the murder mystery. For example, I chose the Eastern Shore for the first entry, Blood on the Chesapeake, because the location itself evokes the split personality of the area, on the one hand current and modern and on the other stuck in the past of racial injustice.

Likewise for Scarlet at Crystal River, I selected a quaint small town on Florida’s Gulf coast because of its charm and manatees, of course. Readers of the series have shared how much they felt my settings enhanced the tales and have even written to say they have added the locations to their “must travel” list.

These earlier choices then beg the question: why did I decide to make the setting of my newest work, Cruel Lessons, an anonymous, fictional midwestern town?

Cruel Lesson is an atmospheric, amateur sleuth mystery, the first in a new series set in schools called “Lessons in Peril.” The story involves a rogue, hallucinogenic drug being pushed in a middle school and, after it results in the death of four students, the rush to stop the drug pusher before more children die.

According to early reviewers, Cruel Lessons is “Brilliant from start to finish…Impressive storytelling left me with a racing heart and shivers. One of the best thrillers I’ve ever read.” ★★★★★+++—N.N. Light’s Bookheaven.

ReaderViews called the novel “a thrilling murder mystery…with an immersive plot, steady pace and stellar character development…one of the best mysteries of 2023.” ★★★★★

Literary Titan wrote “Cruel Lessons is “masterfully written…Each new revelation adds to the suspense and keeps the reader on edge, eagerly anticipating what further secrets the story holds…a gripping crime thriller and amateur sleuth mystery.”

But the novel is far more than a gripping mystery and thriller. The underlying theme of the story confronts the plague of drug abuse by children. Although the narrative takes place in fall, 1994, the central story about children experimenting with drugs—however fictional in my tale—is hauntingly close to what’s happening in small towns across the country right now. In fact, this plague of drug experimentation by students is so widespread, I could have chosen most any small town, midwestern or not. Most schools and school districts have dealt with this problem on some scale, whether or not they’ve chosen to acknowledge it.

But the story of Cruel Lessons is so damning of a place and a school, I did not wish to level even a fictional accusation at any particular town or school system. I chose to keep the setting anonymous, so readers could picture their own town—or city—in the place of Foster Middle School in Shakerville. What I hope is readers of my novel will gain a new insight into this problem and will ask the pertinent question: could this happen here?

Cruel Lessons will be released October 11 by the Wild Rose Press an

d will be available everywhere you buy your books. But you don’t have to wait. You can preorder my newest—and I think—best work right now. Check out all the details on my website, .


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