Lynne Raimondo is the author of two novels, Dante’s Wood (Seventh Street Books, 2013) a Library Journal Mystery Debut of the Month, and Dante’s Poison (Seventh Street Books 2014), both featuring Mark Angelotti, a blind, psychologically troubled forensic psychiatrist. Before turning to writing, Lynne was a partner at a major Chicago law firm, the general counsel of Arthur Andersen, LLP, and the general counsel of the Illinois Department of Revenue. Visit her here.
NAW- Tell us about your book, Dante’s Poison. How did you get the idea for it?
DANTE’S POISON is the sequel to my first novel, DANTE’S WOOD, both starring Mark Angelotti, a newly blinded psychiatrist who acts as an expert witness in criminal cases. When I started DANTE’S POISON, I knew Mark would be involved in a trial of an experimental drug that might restore his eyesight. I thought it would be fun to have that subplot intersect with a larger story about the pharmaceutical business and some of its more questionable practices. In DANTE’S POISON, Mark is called upon to help his romantic interest, Hallie Sanchez, defend a prominent Big Pharma lawyer who’s been accused of murdering her lover with a powerful anti-psychotic drug.
NAW- How long did you take to finish the book? How did you decide the title?
It took me roughly seven months to complete a first draft, and another few to revise it. The titles of both my books refer to Mark’s seldom used first name, Dante, and each takes its theme from a canto of Dante Alighieri’s Commedia.
NAW- Tell us about Mark Angelotti. How did you develop the character? The blindness adds to his personality, doesn’t it?
Mark was originally a minor character in the first novel I wrote – the one that will stay hidden away in the attic. When it came time to write another, I thought he was too juicy a character to abandon, but I questioned my ability to write from the point of view of a blind character. I discovered it is hard work! Mark’s blindness certainly affects his detecting abilities, but it doesn’t shape his character as much as certain events in his past that have left him guilt-ridden and doubting himself. I did a great deal of research in order to portray Mark’s blindness as accurately as possible, and readers can expect to learn about a number of amazing new technologies that have revolutionalized life for the blind. Without giving away spoilers, in DANTE’S POISON one of them becomes the key to how Mark solves the case.
NAW- What can a novice reader expect from Dante’s Poison?
DANTE’S POISON is a traditional mystery in which the plot is very much driven by ‘whodunit.’ But along with DANTE’S WOOD, it’s also a character study of a deeply troubled man trying to find redemption.
NAW- Tell us about your other works.
DANTE’S WOOD is the first in the series and introduces Mark just as he is returning to work after months of rehabilitation. On his first day back, he meets Charlie Dickerson, a developmentally disabled teenager. Charlie’s wealthy mother believes he is being sexually abused by an attractive young teacher at his school. Upon examining Charlie, Mark thinks otherwise, but his advice comes back to haunt him in a big way when the same teacher is murdered and genetic tests show she was pregnant with Charlie’s child. To save his license, Mark must track down the real killer.
NAW- Tell us about yourself. What do you do when you are not writing?
I practiced law for twenty-five years before turning to writing. I spend half the year at a cottage on the Maine coast, and while I’m there I love to hike, bike, kayak and sketch. My husband and I also love to travel. And of course, I love to read.
NAW- Tell us about your publishing journey. Was it easy, difficult or a roller coaster ride? How did you find a publisher?
The hard part for me was finding an agent. You could paper the walls of my office with the rejection letters I received. Once I had an agent, finding a publisher went more smoothly. I’m extremely grateful to my editor, Dan Mayer, and Seventh Street Books for picking up the Mark Angelotti series.
NAW- Please name your favourite writers. Are there any who you’d like to name as an inspiration?
Dorothy L. Sayers probably comes closest in the inspiration department. In fact, DANTE’S POISON is my take on Strong Poison, one of her best-loved novels. I read just about everything in the mystery genre, but I particularly like Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, and the other early masters of American noir. My favorite present day authors include Louise Penny, Laurie King, Julia Spencer Fleming, Hank Phillipi Ryan, Brad Parks, Philip Kerr, and Michael Connelly.
NAW-What are you currently reading?
I just finished Greg Iles’s Natchez Burning and am looking forward to reading Timothy Hallinan’s Herbie’s Game.
NAW- What will you be working on next?
Currently, I’m working on the third in the series, called DANTE’S DILEMMA. In it, Mark is called to determine whether a woman accused of murdering her husband, a controversial academic, is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. The body is discovered in a rather spectacular fashion on the campus of the University of Chicago.