Persephone Cole: A Vintage Mystery Series

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The Persephone Cole Vintage Mysteries came about after the research I did on the early nineteen-forties for my stand-alone circus noir mystery, Murder Under the Big Top. I didn’t want all of that information to go to waste! Earlier in the year, I had been challenged to write a mystery series with a protagonist who wasn’t an ideal beauty, i.e. the perfect figure and face. I created Persephone (Percy) Cole, who at 5’11” and a full-figured gal, answered the criteria. Little did I know that in using a character that was often bigger than most men during that time, I was offering up a woman who was quite comfortable in being a female Sam Spade. Taking place in lower Manhattan at the beginning of World War Two, the series is a lot of fun to write and certainly keeps me on my toes. Any products, sayings, things like that I think might have been around at that time, I need to do research on. Sometimes the answers are surprising. I love that part. And the readers seem to be enjoying the Percy Cole Vintage series, too! I love that even more.

Meet Persephone Cole

A Sleuth You’re Going to Want to Spend Your Holidays With!

In 1942, no one heard of a female PI, not even in New York City. But meet Persephone ‘Percy’ Cole, a newly inaugurated private investigator, blazing a path for all the rest to follow. Five-foot eleven inches tall and a full-figured gal, she has a penchant for Marlene Dietrich suits, pistachio nuts, and tops her long, flaming red hair with fedora hats.  Percy lives on the lower east side of Manhattan with her zany family and uses her noodle, plus a 1918 German Mauser, to solve crimes.

In the early forties Persephone Cole is bucking the odds and pounding the pavement of Manhattan as one of its first female private detectives. Joining the ranks of other gumshoes such as Sam Spade, Lew Archer, and Phillip Marlowe, this five-foot eleven, full-figured gal has the same hard-boiled, take-no-prisoners attitude, but with a difference. She’s a shamus with a wicked sense of humor and is the mother of an eight-year old son. Whether it be on the Great White Way, the Diamond District, or a chocolate factory in Brooklyn, Percy Cole blazes a trail for all other lady dicks to follow. She finds her holiday cheer in solving crimes of the most deadly kind—murder.

Book One: The Dagger Before Me

The Dagger Before Me book cover

Halloween, 1942, finds Persephone (Percy) Cole backstage during the previews of the latest Broadway production of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. There’s double, double, toil and trouble when an actor falls from an overhead catwalk and breaks his neck. Only the latest in a series of catastrophes, his death serves to further fuel the lore and superstition surrounding the Scottish play and its supernatural force since the play’s creation in 1606. With a shortage of ‘man’ power due to the war overseas, the desperate producer takes a chance on the female PI to save the show from closing. But everyone has their secrets, from the director on down to the lowliest spear thrower. One more murder and a near death scene for Percy, and she’s not sure which is worse – that someone is trying to kill her or being foisted into the role of Witch Number Two. Armed with her noodle and a WWI German Mauser, Persephone Cole will make things right, because that’s what lady dicks do.

Dagger Before Me Excerpt

Persephone Cole’s hand hovered over the ringing telephone. Waiting for the third ring was almost too much effort, like everything else in this heat, but Percy had a thing about answering a phone on the first ring. Sucking in a hot, sticky breath, she was ever aware of the oppressive temperature. She dripped with it. Eight-thirty-five a.m., eighty-three degrees, and climbing. Humidity high enough to wash your socks in. Welcome to Indian summer on the lower east side, one of the hottest ever recorded…read more

Book Two: Iced Diamonds

Iced Diamonds book cover

Late December, 1942, finds Persephone (Percy) Cole hired to discover who killed a Santa Land elf and left the body in the storefront window of a swank 5th Avenue jewelry store. Was it the spoiled heiress whose big buck handbag was found on the scene? Or was it the rat who broke out of the big house to settle a score? Shortly after, the corpse of the Christmas Angel is found stuffed in Mrs. Santa’s workshop. Will Santa Claus be next? Cash for Christmas presents is ‘gone with the wind’ and her Pop needs a costly operation. So despite a flatfoot warning her off, and a killer wandering the tunnels below the largest toy store in New York City, Percy Cole is determined to solve these crimes. If not, it just might be the ‘kiss off’ for Christmas.

Iced Diamonds Excerpt

“Are you that fat lady detective?” The male voice spoke in a hurried manner on the other end of the line.

I don’t know about being a lady, Percy thought, being born and raised on the lower east side, but I am substantial and a PI. So two out of three ain’t bad.

“Yeah, that’s me, Persephone Cole. Although, I would have preferred to be called full-figured, plump, stout, portly, hefty, zaftig, rotund, corpulent, chubby, or how about roly-poly? Something with a little thought in it. But who’s this and what do you want?”…read more

Book Three: The Chocolate Kiss-Off

The Great Chocolate Kiss Off book cover

Valentine’s Day is around the corner and vats of delicious chocolate are being cooked up to win fair lady’s heart. But at Carlotta’s Chocolates, Carlotta is found cooking in her own vat of chocolate, and not so deliciously. Arrested for her murder is chocolatier Howie Goldberg, good friend to Persephone ‘Percy’ Cole. As one of Manhattan’s first female private detectives, Percy is determined to hunt down the real killer. But the sleuth, herself, is being stalked by the murderer, who not only keeps a diary of the latest kills, but records who is next. Percy Cole tops the list. When the lady shamus finds the elusive killer, will Death be her Valentine?

All proceeds from the sale of The Chocolate Kiss-Off go to the International Rhino Foundation, in an effort to save these noble beasts from extinction due to poaching and hunting. Thank you.

Global Ebook Award Silver 2015

The Chocolate Kiss Off won The Global E-book Award’s Silver Medal for “Best Mystery Fiction of 2016”.

LEFTY Award Best Historical Mystery 2016 Finalist.

The Chocolate Kiss Off Excerpt

Dear Diary,

July 15th, 1941. I will always remember this date. This is the day I found out her name, who she is. When I come face to face with her, will she know who I am? Will she be sorry? I will make sure of it, if it takes years…read more


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Book 4: Hotshot Shamus


A witness says a large redheaded woman wearing a fedora had an argument with the victim. A fedora was found at the scene.

And its owner could be only one person— hotshot P.I. Persephone (Percy) Cole–because it’s 1943 and how many nearly six-foot, red-haired fedora-fancying female P.I.s could possibly prowl the streets of New York? All the cops know Percy.

She’s one of a kind, both in1940s New York, and in all of crime fiction. For openers, she’s a single mom living with her adored son Oliver and her parents, each of whom is their own kind of hoot. Pantsuits haven’t yet been invented, so Percy wears men’s suits that her mom alters to fit her: “A seam let out, a seam taken in, and they fit the five foot eleven, one hundred- and eighty-two-pound Percy perfectly.”

(Mom’s an inventive cook too— cranberry and ketchup fish stew is one of her specialties.)

Will the Real Percy Cole Please Stand Up?

Percy finds out about the case when she sees her name in the personals column: “Persephone Cole, Hotshot Investigator. Investigate this: Wilma Markovich, fifty-eight years old, widow.”

She knows right away she’s being set up, and no sooner has she grasped the particulars than another personals ad appears:

“Still think you’re a hotshot detective, Percy Cole? I don’t think so. And soon everyone else will know you’re not. Check out Elizabeth Wallingford, age fifty-seven, Manhattan.”

Okay, this is war! And she acquires a powerful weapon to fight it—she gets hired to find the first victim’s killer and soon notices a pattern. It seems each murder has a disturbing connection to The Cloisters Museum.

Disturbing because so does Percy—her mom’s producing a fashion show there on Mother’s Day, and her whole family will be there.