Twin Cities mystery series continues with thrilling adventure that also boasts absorbing character studies


Northfield, MN — Staying alive depends on knowing whom to trust and when to run. In Should Grace Fail (Dec. 8, 2020, Coffeetown Press), Priscilla Paton once again shows her deft skill at creating a whodunit that contains adventure and intrigue, but also delves deeply into the psyche of its characters.

When a man who saves lives has his own brutally taken, Detectives Erik Jansson and Deb Metzger have their empathy and their wariness pushed to the limit. The murdered man rescued trafficked teen addicts from a crime boss, but he was also an alcoholic who left the police force under suspicion. Is his murderer a drug dealer, a pimp, a corrupt police colleague, all of the above? Or could the killer be a victim who lashed out at her savior?

In the mix is the imperious matriarch of a hotel chain who is blind to incidents on her properties. The best friend of the dead man yearns to help but shows up in the wrong place at the wrong time with his therapy dogs. And a young mixed-race pianist, haunted by drug abuse, endangers herself by protecting a charming sweetheart from the draw of crime.

To solve the case, blunt Deb has to ingratiate herself with the hotel matriarch. Reserved Erik needs to earn the trust of wrongfully accused teens. The detectives are pushed over a riverbank, pushed off a golf course, and pushed into a tiger enclosure. If they don’t catch the killer, the best friend and the pianist are as good as dead. Erik and Deb, working with and against each other, must move fast before helping others proves fatal.

Praise for “Should Grace Fail” and Priscilla Paton

Should Grace Fail is a lively police procedural featuring an unusual and highly enjoyable pair of investigators. Snappy dialogue, sharp plotting, and a colorful cast of characters kept me entertained and guessing until the last page!”
Mindy Mejia, critically acclaimed author of Strike Me Down

“Priscilla Paton delivers another exciting Twin Cities Mystery as she reunites detectives Deb Metzger and Eric Jansson. The partners find themselves facing a complex investigation in a novel that touches on murder, racism, and police brutality. Should Grace Fail is a timely addition to the crime fiction genre.”
Elena Taylor, award-winning author of All We Buried

“Priscilla Paton adds a fresh voice to the mystery scene with Where Privacy Dies. Paton delivers lively descriptions, and has an ear for dialogue that works well defining her characters. I loved the interactions, and verbal volleyball, between the unlikely G-Met partners, Detectives Erik Jansson and Deb Metzger. From the discovery of a well-dressed man’s body in a wetland, to the unsavory dealings of people in high places, she kept me reading, trying to figure out who was really in the bad guys’ corner.”
Christine Husom, National Best-selling Author of the Snow Globe Shop Mysteries. and the Winnebago County Mysteries.

“Fans of SJ Rozan and Deborah Crombie are going to love the mismatched crime fighters at the center of this masterful and timely debut novel; Priscilla Paton tells their story with confidence, style and cunning.”
David Housewright, Edgar Award-winning author of Like to Die

“Should Grace Fail”
Priscilla Paton | Dec.8, 2020 | Coffeetown Press
Trade paperback | 9781603817684 | $16.95
Ebook | 9781603817615 | $5.95
Mystery | thriller | police procedure

More about Priscilla Paton

Priscilla grew up on a dairy farm in Maine, a state of woods, lakes, and rivers. She now lives in Minnesota, another state of woods, lakes, and rivers, not far from urban Minneapolis and St. Paul. She received a B.A. from Bowdoin College, a Ph.D. in English Literature from Boston College, and was a college professor. She has previously published a children’s book, Howard and the Sitter Surprise, and a book on Robert Frost and Andrew Wyeth, Abandoned New England. She participates in community advocacy and literacy programs, takes photos of birds, and contemplates (fictional) murder. The first in the Twin Cities Mystery series, Where Privacy Dies, was a finalist for a 2018 Foreword Indies Book Award.

In an interview, Priscilla Paton can discuss:

  • How to do thorough research and preparation to flesh out a story idea
  • Continuity in a mystery series
  • Plotting (fictional) murder
  • How to balance character studies with more traditional thriller elements

An Interview with Priscilla Paton

1. What sort of research did you do for this book?

The serious research involved reading about sex trafficking and the opioid crisis and speaking with experts on abuse and psychological manipulation. I also read memoirs by addicts and the children of addicts. For the music component (the Jaylyn character is a classical pianist), I drew on my experiences as a violinist in community orchestras, interviewed a professor of piano, and attended a master class in which a student of color played a virtuoso piece by Liszt. Then there was eating out: lunches at a golf course, several truck stops, the Wilde Café (duck fat French fries), and Betty Danger’s in Minneapolis.

2. Your stories have such a strong sense of place. Why do you think that’s important?

I was formed by the distinctiveness of Maine and did academic work on literature and art about nature and place. I can’t NOT be aware of place. Minnesota, like Maine, has a strong outdoor culture. With the Twin Cities, it also has a vibrant, if troubled, urban area, so Erik Jansson can easily be outdoorsy and urban. Characters’ responses to settings reveal much about them—look for Jaylyn’s reaction to different places, and settings create opportunity and danger. For Should Grace Fail, I hung around the famous Stone Arch Bridge area of Minneapolis and visited the Minnesota Zoo when the baby tiger was on display.

3. What are some challenges you faced with writing the second book in the series? Were there things that came easier throughout the process?

Panic. I had ideas but a hard time starting until I heard a YouTube interview with a Famous Writer. She said that after the success of her first mystery, she was so worried about writing another that she wanted therapy. If the best of us can be nervous, I can accept panic as standard. You move ahead anyway. I did have a better sense of structure, but nothing felt easy.

4. What goes into plotting a good murder?

Every mystery is a new game to invent and master. I focus first on conflict and desire—what do people want and what, or who, is in their way? What are the worst outcomes that they fear? For the choreography of the events, I depend on research on real crimes and procedure, and on what I discover at site visits. In this book, Erik is stuck in a passageway beneath government buildings and the conversation around him mirrors one I heard. Then comes the quirky invention.

5. In a sense, your books are as much character studies as they are mysteries. Which one is easier to write?

Character comes to me more easily than structure. I can go down a rabbit hole with characters as I write their backstory, trial scenes, their desperation, their hopes, their way of processing the world which can be dangerously different from others’ views. My two detectives have distinct mindsets that can complement each but often clash. I admire Elizabeth George (the Inspector Lynley series) for her character development. HOWEVER, I can easily overpopulate a book and have had to murder darlings.