A Crack In Everything: A Susan Callisto Mystery by Angela Gerst



Questions for


Angela signs at Launch for Mystery Writers of America 2013 Short Story Anthology, The Mystery Box


Angela Gerst photo

Angela Gerst

Politics, money, love . . . what could go wrong?


"A dazzling debut by a sure-handed and gifted writer. Angela Gerst introduces the freshest, most dynamic accidental sleuth to come along in years—A Crack in Everything, a page-turner that readers will want to slow down and savor."

—Mary E. Mitchell, PEN award-winning author of Starting Out Sideways and Love in Complete Sentences


"A street-smart, Italian-flavored Boston-area debut mystery novel: Gerst knows her turf, and renders it entertainingly."

—John Barth, American Academy of Arts and Letters


"Welcome to Angela Gerst, who makes an impressive debut with A Crack In Everything. Her heroine, Susan Callisto, gets more than she bargained for when her client's beautiful young assistant turns up dead, and Callisto follows the trail like a pro, as it leads to the killer—and to a man she once loved."

—Lisa Scottoline, NY Times best selling author


"Gerst introduces the reader to Susan Callisto, a charming sleuth, who provides us with a welcome fresh voice and an insider's view into the world of political consultants, intrigue and murder."

—Raffi Yessayan, best selling author of 8 in the Box and 2 in the Hat


"As Susan Callisto, observer extraordinare, led me through the unexpected twists and turns of this fresh riveting mystery, I fell into step with her droll outlook, her savvy love of food, cars, plants and most of the people in her life. By the end of the book, Susan was my new best friend and I can't wait to hang out with her again."

—Sally Ryder Brady, author of Instar, A Yankee Christmas I & II, Sweet Memories and A Box of Darkness


"A Boston lawyer and political consultant finds her latest client more than a handful in attorney-turned-reporter Gerst's debut novel. Gerst gets good mileage out of her political roots, but it's her finely honed plot that seals the deal. Here's hoping she runs for another term."

—Kirkus Reviews [Starred Review!]


"The plot unfolds like a set of Russian nesting dolls with each solution
hiding yet another surprising development and each testing Callisto's
resolve and resilience."

–Publisher's Weekly


"A spirited and feisty heroine with an unusual profession holds the reader's interest here. Gerst does a fine job with plot maneuvers, bringing in an exciting twist at the end. A promising new series.”

—Library Journal


After my car finished bucking, I locked up and trudged across the lot under the blazing sun.  A Lexus SUV was berthed in Chaz’s space today, but Torie’s Jaguar hadn’t moved since last night.  The efficient and highly paid Ms. Moran must have a doozy of a hangover.

Up close and in daylight her Jag wasn’t all that spiffy.  Rust nibbled the panels, and there was a puddle of oil under the chassis near the right rear wheel.  But even pockmarked, the Jaguar was a beautiful machine, long and sleek.  Sensuous in an obvious way, and when did men ever mind obvious?  I peered inside.  Ditz had left her keys in the ignition. 

I drifted around the car, letting my fingertips graze the enamel.  At the trunk, I noticed a strand of yarn dangling over the bumper.  I touched it.

Not yarn.

Way ahead of my conscious self, the hidden parts barked orders:  Open the trunk!  Check that puddle!

I stooped over the oil, though I knew it wasn’t oil, and touched something viscous, almost dry, like the skin over your pudding.  I stood and rubbed my stained finger on the trunk, which lifted slightly.  Another thread of fringe spilled out, and Jasmine Musk, and a strand of long black hair.

Susan's loft office on Moody Street
Dusty afternoon light slanted through the high arched windows that overlook Moody Street.  Three stories down, a horn blared.
The neighborhood seemed abandoned tonight, dimly lit and eerily quiet, and I was glad for the roof lamps that popped on and lit my way. At the side door, I dug out my key. A familiar scent, cloves or carnations, stirred in the air. I started to turn. “Don’t move.” Iron fingers gripped my neck. “Unlock the door.”


Charlestown Naval Yard Image
USS Constitution, a three masted frigate ready to sail in 1797 now anchored forever in place.  Destiny without destination . . the thought depressed me.

Will you look at that,” Roddie gasped. As if anyone could miss the postal holding box plastered with Day-Glo pink Froys.
Tacking around women on sun-chairs and men in fedoras, I ambled toward Caffe Vittoria.  For the moment, murder and the meaning of life were mere motes in my eye. 
Entering Newton Massachusetts sign
Wag’s definition of Boston: an island surrounded by Newtons.  This is just true enough to confound a California native like me. Newton is an edgy alliance of villages with names like Newton Lower Falls, Newton Highlands, Newton Corner, Newton-by-the-T:  thirteen in all, each with its own commercial center, activist organization, parking problems.  And bunches of aldermen, which is good, for the city and for my business.

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I liked to keep an eye on the Charles. The way it tacked to ocean through miles of urban clutter made me safe, like I had a means of escape.

Charles River Memorial Drive image

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I detoured past the Coast Guard base.  Patrol boats, troop carriers, sea gulls, flags, anything that streamed, fluttered or flew held my eye. 

Original crack in everything soundtrack, "Mood in Modes"

Dana Colley on drums, alto and bari sax
Justin Francos on Fender Rhodes

Play the entire "Mood In Modes" here

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Mystery Writers of America 2013 Short Story Anthology Book Launch, Apri1 29th 2013, , Mysterious Bookshop, Manhattan
Above left: Mysterious Bookshop proprietor otto penzler and angela ;above center, The Mystery Box editor/novelist Brad Metzler
Blood Rose Books interviews Angela September 16, 2012
Past Events
May 14, 2013 Waltham Public Library, Waltham, MA
September 15, 2012, New England Mobile Bookfare, Newton, MA
November 16, 2011, Wellsely Bookstore, Wellsley, MA
November 11-12, 20111, New England Crime Bake, Dedham MA
November 3, 2011, Saugus Public Library, Saugus, MA
October 15, 2011, Boston Book Festival [Sisters In Crime Booth], Boston, MA
October 13, 2011 Backpages Books, Waltham, MA
October 9, 2011, White Birches Books, North Conway, NH
October 6, 2011, Brewsters Ladies' Library, Brewster, MA
October 5, 2011, Truro Public Library, Truro, MA
September 30, 2011, Mysterious Bookshop (Signing)
September 22, 2011, Barnes and Nobles, Framingham, MA
September 16, 2011, Dante Aligheri Society, Cambridge, MA





My introduction to local politics came shortly after I moved to a small city near Boston, where a weekly newspaper was looking for someone—anyone—to cover the Board of Aldermen.  I was interviewed:  Can you walk and talk?  Can you sit on a bench under yellow fluorescents and take notes while people mumble and shout?  Can you tolerate hot rooms with stuck windows and no fans?  Yes, I said.  Yes.  I learned all that in law school.  So they hired me.

Two evenings a week I sat in the press box or at the back of committee rooms and took notes while the men and women who served on the Board debated matters that affected the minutia of all our lives.  I heard about berms, sewer lines, telephone poles, boundary walking, fence height.  To my bewilderment all of it, even sewer lines, made me starry eyed.  Hip guys! Sodium lamps! Parking meters! Granite curbing!  Wow!

This was NOT the way I worked...

It wasn’t all smoothies and skittles.  The aldermen were often outraged, astonished, sadly dismayed, depending on the issue--and no issue was too small to argue.  Cross-branch sniping?  Snide interviews?  Posturing for community cable TV?  Like the Nationals, the executive and legislative branches jostled each other.  Both sides could be goofy.  My disbelieving pencil scribbled phrases like, “The alderman from Ward x abstains on a motion to take no action.”  And from the mayor, “This Halloween I’m going to dress up like an alderman and agitate myself.” 

My own job came with perks: Ticonderoga pencils and thick creamy notepads.   Low-cost coffee and soft drinks.  Smiles and nods from citizens who’d come to City Hall to speak out.  Months went by.  As a newbie in town, I began to feel accepted; as a political novice, more informed.   A crash course in the workings of  local government, sharing information with people who wanted to know--these were the real perks.

Best were public hearings, mostly muted, but sometimes as wild as a night on Bald Mountain.  I listened.  My pencil scratched.  Here was democracy in the raw and I loved every messy, bombastic, repetitive, self-serving, exciting second of it.  I did not suspect, as I took notes, studied the red-faced man who would not stop talking, the soft-spoken woman with clenched fists, the elderly gentleman brandishing his cane, that I would one day join their ranks:

A beloved but down-at-heels Victorian, home to the Boys and Girls Library that anchored one corner of a gem-like Olmsted park, was about to be emptied of books and sold to private developers. The sky, it seemed to us parents and neighbors, was falling.  Or cracking.  Evil bean counters were plotting to sell off our children’s patrimony.  Now I became a red-faced complainer, and I raged around town with the best of them, waving petitions and stuffing mailboxes with flyers.  Victory was inevitable, and as sweet as a good book on a rainy night.

            Other fires flared:  parking issues, dying trees, pollution in our little lake. I urged my husband, a mild-mannered academic, to run for alderman.  After all, hadn’t he paid his dues, moderating our neighborhood association, speaking at public hearings, making his quiet, ironic, shank to the jugular points?  Why not take the next step and run for office?

             You do it, he said.

But I didn’t like the limelight, or the searchlight, and he could manage both.  I promised to do the grunt work.  I would make the calls, gather the nominating signatures, find the printers, collect volunteers, fund raise, schmooze, stalk the neighborhoods, strategize, pass out bumper stickers, line up endorsements.  I’d even go to parties!  All he had to do was win.   Right?

  We worked hard, did our best, and he lost anyway, by a handful of votes.  But losing taught an invaluable lesson--the difference between “doing our best” and “giving it our all”.  Two years later he ran a second time.  Now real obsession set in.  Nothing was left undone:  no house left unvisited, no phone call not made, no unpaved road passed by, no chit left uncollected.  Turn over that stone, there might be a voter under it, was our operating principle.  We rose at dawn and labored into the night.   Favorite promos were “campaign cookies” which I baked and gave away at the 4th of July fair—Frisbee-sized chocolate chip oatmeal pecan cookies wrapped in cellophane and labeled with my candidate's name.  Worth at least a hundred votes. 

           Dirty tricks beset our campaign:  Our lawn signs mysteriously disappeared.  Wee hours phone calls disrupted our sleep, mostly hang-ups, but once an obscenity and another time, an ethnic slur came rasping down the line.  On election day, double-parked vans blocked access to our home precinct.  A lout from the other side went from polling place to polling place and slandered my candidate at the top of his voice, goading me into my first, last and only street brawl, a screaming match that left me shaking and in tears.  And this was a non-partisan election!

         This time my mild-mannered academic swept with a big new broom, winning more votes than any candidate for any office in the city.  Was it the relentless campaigning or the chocolate chip cookies that gave him his edge? I wondered.

              The lesson from this second campaign?  Everyone loves a winner.  Running the operation made me an instant expert.  People who doubted we could win now asked for my help with other campaigns.  Yes, I said.  Yes. 

            And I lasted through three more election cycles, working for other candidates.  Before Facebook, getting noticed big time, all the time, had to happen off line.  A jazz boat cruise on the Charles earned one candidate some press, but through three more election cycles, the basic strategy remained steeped in tradition--spaghetti suppers, village fairs, ice cream socials, candidates nights, meet-and-greets, coffees, post cards . . . . 

            And then I burned out. 

            My candidates had won every election but one, and I had no desire to move on to bigger, partisan campaigns for higher office.  I went back to old love, fiction, not only as a constant reader, but as an aspiring author who eventually turned a passion for campaigning into a mystery novel, A Crack in Everything.  Enter Susan Callisto, young, daring, and a much better campaign consultant than I ever was.   Especially when the stakes include murder. 





A Susan Callisto Mystery