Death of the Zanjero is the first book in the Old Los Angeles series, featuring woman sleuth Maddie Wilcox, a healing woman and winemaker in 1870. You can buy it from any of the retailers below for $15.99 for the paperback, and $3.99 for the ebook. The book runs just under 300 pages.
In Old Los Angeles, life was cheap and water could cost you everything
Synopsis for Death of the Zanjero
In Los Angeles in 1870, the most powerful man in town was the Zanjero, or water overseer. And he was often the most corrupt, as well. When Zanjero Bert Rivers turns up dead in the irrigation ditch, or zanja, leading to young widow Maddie Wilcox’s vineyards, Maddie has the odd feeling he was murdered.
Then the undertaker’s wife, Mrs. Sutton, confirms that Rivers was shot, and not just hit on the head.
Maddie finds herself drawn into finding the killer, at first, to see justice done. But then she needs to save the skin of the one person she knows did not do it – the town’s most infamous madam, Regina Medina.
Maddie quickly discovers that Mr. Rivers was not the kind, upstanding civic benefactor he presented himself as. Instead, he was a most despicable man who preyed on the weak and vulnerable, and cheated everyone else. With nearly everyone having a reason to kill the zanjero, Maddie stumbles on more than a few secrets and the terrible truth about the people she thought were her friends.
Some thoughts on writing the novel
I wrote about how the novel happened on The Old Los Angeles page. But there is more to Death of the Zanjero than that. Early in the process, when Maddie first whispered at me, there was another character whose voice joined hers. Regina Medina, a madam in the pueblo.
I didn’t know what to do with her, at first. I thought she could be a sequel character, maybe in Death of the madam. Nah. That didn’t work. Then it made sense that she would be Maddie’s friend – an unusual one, to be sure. But it spoke volumes about Maddie that she’d make friends with someone whose livelihood was abhorrent to Maddie.
Keep in mind, I was still learning who Maddie was at that point. I knew she had to be a widow so that she could have enough independence to question suspects. She needed to know enough about the human body to make it believable that she’d be able to figure out how someone died. Finally, I wanted her to be a winemaker.
As for Regina, well, I’m not sure how her little oddity happened, but it did. The weird thing is, as I wrote the story, I thought I had made it blatantly obvious what it was. Um. Apparently not. Almost nobody figures it out. See if you can.
Even stranger, though, a couple years after Death of the Zanjero came out, I discovered that I potentially have an ancestor with the same oddity. We don’t know for sure, and it won’t be easy to find out. But I have to think that Regina wasn’t just happenstance.