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PARK RIDGE: A Senior Center Murder by Cheryl Hagedorn

PARK RIDGE: A Senior Center Murder

by Cheryl Hagedorn

216 pages
Murder mystery at the Park Ridge Senior Center

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Category: Fiction:Mystery
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About the Book
When Ellie Montgomery shoves a banana down the throat of eighty-three-year old Sheila Marshall, readers of the new novel, PARK RIDGE: A Senior Center Murder, will cringe. Author Cheryl Hagedorn was amazed at the resistance to a banana as murder weapon. One email she got in protest said, “I'm a banana lover and would prefer not to think about bananas as an implement of destruction (I have one banana each day - an apple too, for that matter).” But Hagedorn refused to give it up. “I was absolutely married to the idea of death by banana. However, I had a great deal of difficulty imagining how that might go in actuality. I wanted it to look accidental, but in order to tip off the police, I had to give the victim an aversion to bananas which would make her choking to death on one very unlikely.”

This is an inverted mystery (you know who did it, can the detective prove it?) set in Hillary Rodham Clinton’s hometown. Four elderly pinochle players: Jack the irascible, Ellie the inelegant, Margaret the mouse, and the polished Professor, discover the stakes have changed when Jack names murder trump. Beginning when Jack smacks Gordon Williams with a pool cue, the bidding escalates with each new murder. From power cord to banana, from woodcarving chisel to insulin, their choice of weapons are as individual as they are. Linda Mowry, Associate Editor of Jane’s Stories I and II, writes, “The Senior Center where they play cards, with its many rooms and flucuating population, is a perfect setting for crime.”

As they play at crime, the card players become a lethal unit, sworn to secrecy and revenge. Their victims are overly-enthusiastic activity boosters who parade their participation and deride those who choose not to join them. Readers can get inside the head of each murderer with special sections where the killer speaks in first person, present tense as they kill. Before and after conversations highlight the group’s gruesome fantasies, convoluted plans and celebrations.

While investigating the five murders, Stan Nevins, the thirty-seven-year old Park Ridge police detective, who wears western shirts, cowboy boots and hat, falls for the luscious Italian center director, Teresa Cusentino. Complicating the case, Stella Nevins is dating her son’s number one suspect, the Professor.


Hagedorn does a nice job of recreating daily business at a Senior Center and creating characters who are interesting. Human nature drives her plot, and one can imagine the seething resentments, even in a place that should be completely non-threatening. But there's the rub. Take a seemingly neutral environment and add passion and cruelty, and one has an excellent plot. Hagedorn's own understanding of human nature from years of experience provides the spark, and her writing skills tell the rest of the story. PARK RIDGE is an entertaining whodunit that rates with Agatha Christie and could easily convert to an enticing television movie.
- Shelley Glodowski, Midwest Book Review
Cheryl Hagedorn's Park Ridge is a delightful murder mystery. The plot is interesting and not only held my attention but also was extremely funny. The characters are well developed. Jack, Margaret, and Ellie were a senior center's worst nightmare -- out of control card players, developing a new game, one that's deadly. The romance between Stan and Teresa was nicely developed without rushing things. I eagerly turned pages to see what the seniors would come up with next. This is an excellent read. I highly recommend this book to all mystery lovers.
- Debra Gaynor, Reader Views
Park Ridge is a very different mystery than the one I was expecting. It is a story full of surprises, but the most notable surprise is that the author chose to create a mystery which goes beyond cardboard cutout characters and instead chose to write a mystery which exposes many of our cultural stereotypes about people over the age of sixty. Park Ridge demonstrates one of the lures of mystery fiction: it's ability to show us how mysterious we can be to one another. As the Chicago area author replied when I asked her if she felt mysteries as a genre offered opportunities for exploring relationships, "What's more mysterious than relationships?"
- The Blind Bookworm


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About the Author
Cheryl Hagedorn Cheryl Hagedorn, former Salvation Army officer, computer programmer, and writing instructor for the Chicago Department of Aging and the Park Ridge Senior Center, has an MA in Writing from DePaul University and is a member of the Emily Dickinson International Society and the Illinois Philological Association.



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