Ever thought about the ways to die? In my other life, I’m a physician, not a fiction author, so I avoid the prospect of death for my patients. However, in plotting and executing my fifth novel and thriller, The Five Manners of Death, I decided to play around a bit with the idea. The fun part was tossing my main character, surgeon Diana Bratton, right in the middle of all the craziness.
Doctors think they know everything or can do anything—maybe not everything—but they carry around a ton of confidence—and that’s a good thing most of the time. (Why do you think I decided I could write novels?) As bodies pile up around her, Diana sees the five ways to die—the five manners of death—checked off a list one-by-one: natural causes, accident, suicide, and undetermined—leaving only homicide. Diana’s problem is that her aunt Phoebe, one of the sole survivors of her shrinking family, is suspected of murder and could have completed that list. What’s worse is that Phoebe makes herself appear really, really guilty.
Research was required to tell Phoebe’s story and that of the other conflicted characters around her. Non-fiction writers, biographers, and historical fiction novelists aren’t the only authors required to dig for facts or explore other time periods or settings. There is an important backstory in The Five Manners of Death set at the University of Mississippi in the mid 1960s. I was a student at Ole Miss a decade later, so I interviewed a couple of friends who preceded me to describe student life accurately in 1965-66. That quest for realism also led me to explore the intricacies of playing poker and what is required of bee keeping.
Another question for you, my reader …ever been to a real morgue? If you’re writing a novel about the ways to die, it stands to reason that you might want to expand the study and soak up a little atmosphere, so I did. One Friday afternoon a friend and I visited the Mississippi State Examiner’s Office, a beautiful, expansive building set in a grove of pine trees in a rural setting off Interstate 20 south of Jackson. From the approach, the place reminded me of the facility in the movie Coma where the bad guys stored the organ donor bodies. There were no patients that afternoon in the autopsy room, but the glistening steel examination tables and the lingering scent of chemicals were enough to get the idea. And no trip to the morgue is complete without a peek into the skeleton and bone fragments storage room. The ME explained that hunting season always turns up more missing bones than other times of the year and that 2016-17 had yielded a banner crop. He and his staff still have a lot of sorting out to do.
I hope you’ll enjoy the “sorting out” I put into The Five Manners of Death where family loyalty trumps truth every time, and my protagonist, Diana Bratton, learns that murder is her family secret.
All the best,
About the Author
A board-certified physician in obstetrics and gynecology, Darden North writes murder mysteries and medical thrillers. His novels have received national awards, most notably an IPPY in Southern Fiction for Points of Origin. A native of the Mississippi Delta, Darden lives with his wife Sally in Jackson, Mississippi, where he practices medicine
Connect with the author on the web:
Instagram and Twitter: @dardennorth
Title: THE FIVE MANNERS OF DEATH
Author: Darden North
Publisher: WordCrafts Press
Find out more on Amazon
About the Book: The Five Manners of Death is a taut, tense, and gripping tale about a long-buried secret that once unleashed will begin a countdown of the five ways to die. For Mississippi surgeon Diana Bratton, the novel’s protagonist, pages torn from a 1960s college yearbook reveal that murder is a family affair…
About The Five Manners of Death: When a construction worker unearths a decades-old human skull on the campus of the University of Mississippi, he sets in motion an eerie chain of events that leaves one woman desperate to rewrite history and another woman desperate to find the truth.
After the discovery of her Aunt Phoebe’s 50-year-old note detailing the five manners of death, surgeon Diana Bratton is surrounded by bodies. Suicide, accident, natural cause, and one death classified undetermined are soon crossed off this grisly list—leaving Diana to believe that only homicide remains. But the police prove her wrong: Phoebe is linked to murder—not only by those skeletal fragments uncovered on the University campus but also to the recent deaths of two local men. Diana is torn: should she try to prove her aunt’s innocence or accept police theory that her beautiful, beloved aunt is a woman who harbors dark and deadly secrets?
Stealing precious time from her young daughter, her surgical practice, and her hopes for a renewed romance, Diana launches a pulse-quickening quest to clear Phoebe’s name. However, as she searches for evidence, Diana finds that her desire to reach the truth may be eclipsed by Aunt Phoebe’s need to rebury the past. When reality finally emerges, Diana faces the cold fact that murder is a family affair. After all, things aren’t always what they seem. And some things never die…
With the precision of a surgeon, Darden North has crafted a confident and chilling tale about lies, secrets, deception and the conflict that erupts when the past and present collide. Meticulous plotting, richly-drawn, engaging characters and a shocking storyline combine to create an extraordinary thriller resplendent with twists, turns, and the unexpected. A unique but realistic story teeming with the right mix of medical authenticity, The Five Manners of Death plunges readers deep into the minds of the novel’s characters as each learns that no one can be trusted—and that everyone has his own agenda. With this sensational, skillful and highly suspenseful tale, Darden North claims a solid spot among today’s finest thriller writers.