Jan 1, 1991
The Trouble with Moonlighting
A Simona Griffo Mystery
by Trella Crespi
Where I Get My Ideas
I wanted to bring my Italian life into this one to flesh out Simona's past so I gave her a two-week vacation to act as dialogue coach for an Italian film crew shooting New York locations. Again the autobiographical intrudes heavily. The film director, Sara Varni, is modeled after Lina Wertmüller and the male film star bears a strong resemblance to Marcello Mastroianni, people I worked with often.
New York City -- Lincoln Center, the Upper West Side, Spanish Harlem, Greenwich Village, Soho, the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn, the tony Royalton Hotel.
Simona's dialogue coach stint starts with the glamorous Hollywood star nearly getting electrocuted in the Lincoln Center fountain during a shoot. Simona will also have the pleasant job of finding Johanna dead in her fancy Upper West Side apartment. The still photographer, Toni Berto, Johanna's lover and Simona's old friend, is accused of the murder. Simona, overriding the objections of her detective lover, jumps in to help Toni and uncovers old and new obsessions. It's also a story about loyalty and Simona's search to find her American legs which leads her to make mistakes.
More about names -- Some people objected to a man being named Toni with an i. That's the Italian spelling of the name and since Toni is Sicilian, it would have been wrong to spell his name Tony.
* Stan Greenhouse, her NYPD homicide detective lover
* Raf Garcia, Stan's partner
[regarding Small Raise and Moonlighting]: Both these books are fine mysteries, well and fairly plotted. But Trella Crespi deserves special congratulations for her characterization of Simona. Crespi has made Simona confident and uncertain, happy with her life and regretting choices made, self-sufficient and, just occasionally lonely. In the hands of some authors the results would seem inconsistent and irritating, but Crespi's writing makes Simona seem very very human. And Crespi has given Simona a normal love life, with lows as well as highs, with everyone doing the best they can and hoping things will work out at last. The reasons for this are numerous as they are trivial, but the end result is a heroine who rings true. -- The Drood Review of Mystery
As the series progresses, she [Simona] will undoubtedly become more skilled in her search for information and more discriminating about what she seeks. I hope she will also become more analytical. At times I grew tired of her efforts to assuage the feelings of the other suspects, but then a less-involved amateur sleuth would not have lingered to create the delicious Sicilian Good Fish Salad, whose recipe concludes the book. -- Mystery Scene
Author comment -- Simona is starting her life over again. She's new at sleuthing and is propelled by emotion and intuition. Give her a chance to settle, to come of age all over again in America. My aim is to give the reader the arc of a woman's life.
Things were getting off to a fine start on my moonlighting job. I was standing on skyscraper-high stiletto heels, wearing a summer evening dress one choking size too small and being sprayed by the wind-swept fountain mist at Lincoln Center on an unusually cold September midnight.
Recipe -- Sicilian Good Fish Salad
* 1 19-oz. can of cannellini beans
* 1 15-oz. can of corn kernels
* 1 heart of celery sliced very thin -- about two cups
* 1 bunch scallions sliced -- green part included
* 1/2 red pepper diced very small (for color)
* 3 hearts of palm sliced (optional)
* 1 1-inch tuna steak or 2 cans of light meat tuna
* 4 large basil leaves
* 1+1/2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar or 1 tbsp. lemon juice
* 4 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
* salt and pepper
* 1 clove of garlic -- minced
Drain the beans and the corn, and put in a serving bowl. Add sliced celery, scallions, red pepper, hearts of palm. If using tuna steak, sear it in a tbsp. of oil in a very hot skillet three minutes per side. Let cool and slice. Add to bowl. If using canned tuna, drain and add. Tear basil leaves into small pieces and add to bowl.
In a small bowl mix salt, pepper and garlic to lemon juice or balsamic vinegar. Add olive oil. Whip together well, pour in tuna bowl, and gently mix all ingredients. Serve at room temperature with hearty bread and chilled white wine. Buon appetito!
The Trouble with a Small Raise
A Simona Griffo Mystery
by Trella Crespi
Where I Get My Ideas
I was angry with my boss. I wanted to kill him. When I told him I'd committed murder on paper and he was the corpse, his response was, "A lot of women have written about me." I may just have to kill him again.
New York City -- Greenwich Village where she lives, the Union Square area where she works.
Simona comes to the advertising agency early one Monday morning, hoping to catch her boss and ask for a long-deserved raise. Instead she finds him dead. She is busy working on a new perfume campaign, but she's appointed the agency's liaison with the police. That's how she gets to spend time with Stan Greenhouse and his partner Raf Garcia. She shares cooking tips with Raf, but Stan is the one who gives her hormones a big surge. When Simona gets implicated in her boss's death, she sets out to clear herself.
There are a lot of characters in A Small Raise. Apart from giving the reader a fun mystery, I was trying to describe the New York advertising world which is full of many egos. I added a Cast of Characters at the beginning, something I've continued in my other mysteries.
Nothing spoils the fun of this thoroughly engrossing whodunit, introducing one of the boldest and most likable of female sleuths. -- Publisher's Weekly
Ms. Crespi truly shines in the humor department....Though her characterization of Simona Griffo was wonderful and her portrayal of the inner workings of an ad agency was realistic and richly detailed, Ms. Crespi did not write what I consider a taut, well-honed mystery. There are far too many characters to keep up with: twenty-three to be exact, many of whom had French, Italian or Spanish names -- pretty darned confusing when trying to figure out the culprit. -- Mostly Murder
Author comment -- Too many foreign names? Ever look at the New York City phone book?
It wasn't going to be the usual manic Monday someone on the radio was singing about. It was going to be much worse.
There's no separate recipe in this one. Simona cooks an eggplant pasta dish with a friend while discussing possible suspects. After the book was published I got two conflicting complaints: 1. All of a sudden it sounded like a cook book! 2. I want to cook that dish but you didn't give the exact proportions!
That's when I decided to put the recipe in the back from then on. At the time I hadn't heard of Virginia Rich and Diane Mott Davidson whose first book was published only a few months before mine.