Interview: Martha Reed

A big Mysteristas welcome to Martha Reed. Martha is the author of the John and Sarah Jarad mysteries set it Nantucket, and she’s quite the character herself. Read on.

What’s your idea of a perfect day?

NoRest_eBook_1563x2500An early spring Sunday, when all of the chores were done the day before, and I have hours free to wear yoga pants, drink too much coffee and to write, and to ride my bike along the Allegheny River with a stop somewhere for a nice lunch including a tall glass of mango iced tea. Doing this with my friends in Sonoma is even better, but that’s a very rare treat.

Do you have a signature accessory, color, fragrance, phrase/expression, or meal?

I have quite a few incomprehensible phrases such as:

  1. “That’s it, Fort Pitt,” or
  2. “Shazooey,” or my latest favorite,
  3. “There’s a new Sheriff in town.”

Fortunately, my day job workmates have learned to translate:

  1. “I’m through working on this. I am done.”
  2. “Holy cow, there’s a lot of work to be done. Who assigned me to manage this train wreck?”
  3. “I’ve been assigned to lead this train wreck to a successful project conclusion, so listen up, follow my lead, and we’ll all get out alive.”

Which books/authors inspired or influenced you the most?

There are some authors who simply blow me away with their gift: Margaret Atwood, Louise Erdrich, Annie Proulx, Nancy Pickard, Wallace Stegner, and lately, Megan Abbott and Art Taylor.

My genesis influences would have to be Dorothy L. Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey series, Martin Cruz Smith’s Gorky Park, Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City, with a tip of the hat to Thomas Harris’s Silence of the Lambs. I’m proud of that last one; I discovered Thom Harris with Red Dragon. I was ahead of the pop curve with him.

Do you listen to music when you write?

I have, but not all the time. I listened to the amazing Diana Krall sing “Let’s Face The Music and Dance” on a loop while I wrote parts of The Choking Game, because my character Sally Poldridge sings jazz karaoke. Listening to that track helped me shape Sally’s character.

If your latest book were chocolate, what kind would it be and why?

No Rest for the Wicked is a Chunky bar because it’s delicious, it’s knobbly, and it’s filled with fruit and nuts. My long-term goal is to someday write a frozen Milky Way. Thanks for the question. It’s good to have a goal.

What interested you about writing this particular story?

I read KIDNAP: The Story of the Lindbergh Case by George Waller in high school. That was back in the Seventies, before forensic science was invented. I was fascinated by the logic those early detectives used to pursue the case, without actually having much available science to lean on other than fingerprints.

I also wanted to make things as difficult as possible for my detective, John Jarad, so setting the cold case ninety years in the past (i.e., 1921) offered an interesting challenge. I loved researching that era, and I was able to incorporate some of the Gatsbyesque stories my grandfather shared about the Roaring Twenties. They really knew how to party back then. I hope I captured the essence of it. 1921 was quite a time.

What themes do you regularly (re)visit in your writing?

I’m conscious about learning from, and forgiving yourself for your mistakes, and in redemption. With No Rest I’ve noticed that I’m writing about the concept of going home, or of finding a place to call home. It’s definitely an underlying theme in my work.

Tell us about your main character.

There are two protagonists in my Nantucket Series, John and Sarah Jarad, but John has taken the lead with No Rest. He’s a 14th generation Nantucketer, so his roots go deep. He loves the island so much that he can’t imagine living anywhere else. John also comes from a large extended family with six siblings and hundreds of cousins. That is one thing that drives Sarah, his mainland wife, nuts. John literally knows something about everyone, which is a terrific plus for a detective. John is capable of making amazing intuitive leaps that are nevertheless flawlessly logical.

Describe your protagonist as a mash-up of three famous people or characters.

John Jarad would be Colin Firth, because he’s handsome, adorable, and he doesn’t take himself too seriously; Gary Cooper from “High Noon,” because John knows that you can’t run away from trouble, that you have to face it down, and of course Sherlock Holmes for his ability to follow up on some pretty good investigative, and intuitive, leads and clues.

If you could host a mystery-author dinner party, who are the six writers (living or otherwise) you’d include?

Wow, this would be fun. I would invite: Edgar Allan Poe, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Dorothy L. Sayers, Val McDermid, Lori Rader-Day, and Art Taylor. I’d invite Dame Agatha Christie too, if I could, but she and Dorothy L. Sayers would fight at the table. I’ve read that they didn’t get along.

What’s next for you?

I’m working on a stand-alone mystery set in New Orleans. I visited NOLA last October during Bouchercon 2016. I was scouting for a new location where my characters could get into terrible trouble. I was thinking about using Vegas, but NOLA won my heart, and she stole my vote.


Martha Reed is an award-winning, independently published crime and mystery fiction author. Book one in her Nantucket Mystery series, THE CHOKING GAME, was a 2015 Killer Nashville Silver Falchion nominee for Best Traditional Mystery. Book two, THE NATURE OF THE GRAVE, won an Independent Publisher IPPY Honorable Mention for Mid-Atlantic Best Regional Fiction. Book three, NO REST FOR THE WICKED, was a 2017 Independent Publisher IPPY award nominee in the Mystery/Cozy/Noir category.

Martha recently completed a four-year term as the National Chapter Liaison for Sisters in Crime, Inc. She loves travel, big jewelry, and simply great coffee. She delights in the never-ending antics of her family, fans, and friends, who she lovingly calls The Mutinous Crew. You can follow her online at or on Twitter @ReedMartha.

The Nantucket Mystery Series is available in trade paperback and e-book formats from Amazon and other retailers. Support your local bookstores!


14 thoughts on “Interview: Martha Reed”

  1. Welcome, Martha! Martha is a friend and fellow member of my Sisters in Crime chapter. She’s one of the women who welcomed a trembling newbie with open arms. So when I tell you she’s a character — she’s a character!

    I still haven’t been able to get my hands on this book. Next week at your workshop, maybe.


  2. Although I encourage everyone to support a local bookstore, it is available from all online retailers. If you can wait until next Saturday, we’ll have signed copies on hand!


  3. I also love the theme of finding home–should be interesting with your protagonists’ large family. Looking forward to checking it out!


  4. Finding “home” continues to be a theme in my new book, which will be set in New Orleans. I’m taking a bit of a side step, but we may still see some familiar and favorite characters. And, as much as I love Chunky bars, now I’m craving caramel.


  5. Wow! I just (twice) had that moment of dislocation when you see your name in a place you hadn’t expected to see it. Was already enjoying the interview here—and then surprised (and flattered) to be included myself in a couple of spots, and in such fine company!

    No Rest for the Wicked sounds great–and I love that description of it as a Chunky bar (and your aspirations toward the frozen Milky Way too).

    Fun interview! Congrats again!


  6. I also just noticed that five of my dinner picks (including Dame Agatha) wrote shorter fiction. That’s telling. I didn’t realize it when I considered my choices.


  7. Welcome, Martha! The 20’s sound like fun (or should I say the bee’s knees) to write about! There can never be enough Colin Firth-esque characters in the world 😉


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