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The Sirens of Suspense




Maddy Hunter has endured disastrous vacations on three continents in the past five years. The first six titles are available from Pocket Books; books seven and eight are available through Midnight Ink Books. The first in the series, Alpine for You, was an Agatha Award finalist and a Daphne du Maurier Award finalist. Also, Hula Done It?, Pasta Imperfect, and Top O’ the Mournin’ were named to the Independent Mystery Bookseller’s Association bestseller list. The author resides in Madison, Wisconsin.

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My mother was a war bride.

You’ve probably seen old movies where a young soldier marries his girlfriend in a last minute ceremony before he goes off to war. Sometimes, it’s not even a girlfriend, but a pretty young thing he might have developed a crush on at the USO, or in a hospital, or on a train. Hollywood dramatized these wartime romances for the big screen, especially after World War II. The plots were often fictional, but those hastily arranged weddings? They really did happen.

It happened to my mother.

Five days after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, my mother walked down the aisle with a 21 year-old soldier she barely knew. But it was war, and the drumbeat of the day was that soldiers who were about to face imminent death should be allowed a few days of *bliss* before they shipped out.

I suspect the majority of those marriages survived the test of time, but many didn’t. My mother’s didn’t. Six months after I was born, my parents parted ways, so I grew up never knowing the man who’d married my mother before heading off to war.

As a child, I played with neighborhood kids who, like me, would come to be known as baby-boomers. My playmates’ fathers had also gone to war, but they never spoke of the conflict. Ever. They kept their wartime experiences locked so deeply inside them that we kids never realized there had been a global event called World War II.

My father died at a very young age, before I’d gained the needed wisdom or mustered the courage to contact him. But I was aware of WWII by then and knew my father was German, so I grew inordinately curious. Did I have relatives who still lived in Germany? Had they fought in the war? On whose side? Where had my father been stationed during the conflict?

My mother was no help. She’d blocked that part of her life so completely, that the only thing she could remember was that my father had been stationed in New Guinea and worked his way up the Pacific islands to the Philippines. She also remembered he smoked, as did most GIs, whistled like a bird, was a wonderful dancer, and had contracted malaria while in the jungle, which would flare up every so often. But she couldn’t recall small details, like his birthday or his mother’s name. And she’d kept no photos of him.

I grew even more curious. I read books about WWII. I bought a slew of DVDs. I watched every documentary on the Military Channel and Military History Channel. And then my aunt told me that my father had been a medic in the war. Wow! A new piece of information! So he wasn’t in combat per se, but was assigned the grim task of treating wounds and trying to save lives. That made me very proud. I hoped he’d been a crackerjack medic who’d patched men up ably enough to send them home to their families.

I mentioned my quest for family information to a friend who was dabbling in genealogy, and she offered to track down a few details. Literally, within five minutes, she provided me with a veritable feast. I now know my father’s date of birth, the year when his parents emigrated to America, his father’s occupation, his mother’s maiden name and country of origin. It was so enlightening! I actually felt connected to my father’s side of the family for the first time in my life. And the two funny takeaways from this are – my paternal grandfather was a tailor of fine men’s clothing, which is rather ironic considering I go into withdrawal at the thought of threading a needle; and my paternal grandmother’s name – the name my mother couldn’t remember? – it’s the same as my own.

I remain passionate about World War II history and gobble up any new information that comes my way. In 2012, on one of those bucket list trips, my husband and I walked the D-Day beaches in Normandy, explored the German gun emplacements above Omaha Beach, climbed the rocks and ruins of Pointe du Hoc, and placed flowers at the graves of two unknown soldiers in the American cemetery overlooking Omaha Beach. That trip became the basis for my new Passport to Peril mystery, FLEUR DE LIES, and of course, I had to incorporate a World War II subplot into the story. Unbeknownst to me at the time, one of my continuing characters is so old, he actually fought in the war.

I also felt the need to dedicate it, in part, to the father I never knew, in recognition of the service he performed that he most probably never talked about. To quote from the book: “In memory of World War II veterans Frank Mayer, Gardner Holmes, and George Foley – three ordinary men who left ordinary lives in ordinary towns to save the world… and did. With thanks and admiration ~ maddy hunter.”




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