Saturday, June 09, 2012

Meet Lee Alvarez Of Death Runs in the Family By Heather Haven

RIW:   What's your story/back story? Why would someone come up with a story about YOU?
LEE:   I have absolutely no idea. I think I’m boring as yesterday’s toast with no marmalade on it. However, detective work is the family business. We own Discretionary Inquiries. So maybe that’s it. Before Dad’s sudden death two years ago due to an aneurism, he taught me everything he knew about being a good detective, hoping I would follow in his footsteps. He built up this thriving business specializing in tracking down law-breakers in software and intellectual property computer fraud, here in the Silicon Valley. Of course, I have to deal with my family who run it with me. They can drive you nuts.

My kid brother, Richard, head of the Discretionary Inquiries Research and IT Department, is always giving me some new-fangled piece of equipment no bigger than a match and then yelling at me because I can’t get to work. I mean, I’m chasing down murderers in the middle of San Francisco winter storms and it’s my fault his stupid scanner doesn’t work? I haven’t read the instructions? I don’t think so. And then there’s my mother, the lovely Lila Hamilton Alvarez, a serious fashionista. She sends me out on jobs no other self-respecting gumshoe would take and then it’s my fault somebody gets killed on my watch? And God forbid, I should be wearing navy blue with black. She’ll tell me to stop chasing the perp and go change clothes.

At least I have Tío, my wonderful uncle, a retired Mexican chef who can do things with chorizo and cheese that stops traffic in the streets. Speaking of streets, there is a new addition to the Alvarez Family, a little kitten I found wandering the streets in the rainstorm. I’ve named him Rum Tum Tugger. He’s my best guy. I’ve been getting into a lot of messes lately, so I’m lucky I’ve got my family around, warts and all.

RIW:   Can you tell us about yourself?
LEE:   Here’s something nobody knows. I’ve always wanted to play the ukulele. In fact, I have one gathering dust under the bed. It’s been there for three years. I tried to play it when I first got it, but it’s really hard.  For about two weeks I would practice every day. The tips of my fingers were raw. I asked a musician friend and he said that if I practiced for the next two years or so, maybe I could advance from ‘horrible’ to ‘amusingly bad.’ I don’t know if it’s pride or just the time factor—I mean, I do spend the majority of my life investigating the theft of intellectual property and software piracy, with a few murders thrown in every now and then. Do I see myself like Sherlock Holmes and his violin?  Maybe. Maybe I’ll pick up my uke one of these days and play Tiny Bubbles for all the world to hear.

RIW:   What problems do you have to face and overcome in your life?
LEE:   In my heart of hearts, what I really wanted to become was a ballerina. I studied ever since I was five years old. I worked really hard at it. But the truth? There’s no substitute for talent. I am, at best, a mediocre dancer, no matter how hard I work at it. It doesn’t help that I’m 5’8” tall, either. A good ballerina is usually around 5’4” in height. Anyway, at about sixteen-years of age I had to face it. I could never get a job in anything more than the chorus of a second-rate ballet company. We all have our secret “what ifs,” things we wish had turned out differently. But I’m smart enough to know that not being able to do a first-rate glissade arabesque is probably one of life’s bigger regrets.

RIW:   Where do you live?
LEE:   The gorgeous Bay Area in the Golden State. Not sure if California is named for the gold hills or for the gold panned back in 1849. Whatever. Palo Alto is the location, to be specific but I’m always bopping everywhere. Like in my latest adventure, Death runs in the Family, I take off for Las Vegas and then Ipanema. Fortunately, I love to travel.

RIW:   During what time period does your story take place?
LEE:   Right here, right now. When you live in the Silicon Valley and deal with the theft of intellectual property or the rip-off of somebody’s latest software, yesterday is
centuries old. It’s the future we think about around here.

RIW:   How are you coping with the conflict in your life?
LEE:   A Sapphire Bombay Gin martini—shake that sucker, please—with two olives, served icy cold. Throw in a bowl of mixed nuts, and a Barbara Stanwyck movie. Curl up with my cat, Tugger, and my Snub Nose Lady Blue Detective Special, conflict solved. OMG. I just reread that. Does that sound as pathetic as I think it does?

RIW:   Not at all.  By the way, Acey and Tinkerbelle asked me to say hi to Tugger.  They can’t wait to help me read his latest adventure.  Those are all the questions we have for you. Thank you for speaking to us.

LEE:   My pleasure. One favor, please. Don’t show this to my mother. She’ll have a cow.

RIW:   I wouldn’t dream of going up against the infamous Lila Hamilton Alvarez with my off-the rack clothes, Wal-Mart sandals, and beluga white legs!

 Hi, Tugger!

Death Runs in the Family


Lee Alvarez’ ex-husband, Nick -- a man she divorced with joy in her heart and a gun in her hand – sprints back in her life only to disappear again. She’d love to leave it at that, but could he be responsible for the recent death of her cousin, who keeled over at the finish line of a half-marathon in front of hundreds of spectators? As PI for the family run business, Discretionary Inquiries, Lee follows the clues to Vegas, where she joins forces with Shoshone PI, Flint Tall Trees.  Together they uncover a multi-million dollar betting syndicate, a tacky lounge lizard act, and a list of past but very dead runners, plus future ones to off. At the top of the ‘future’ list is the love of her life, Gurn Hanson. Hoping to force the culprits out in the open, Gurn and Lee’s brother, Richard, vow to run San Francisco’s famous Palace to Palace footrace in only a few days. Can Lee keep the two men she loves from hitting the finish line as dead as her cousin? With more at stake than she ever dreamed possible, Lee is in a battle against time to stop the Alvarez Family’s 12K race with death.

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Chapter Seven
I Don’t Know Who’s the Bigger Idiot

Without much conversation, we jostled Nick out of the room and down the stairs. As a precaution, we used the back exit, Flint flinging boxes of DVDs every which way so fast, the clerk only managed one “hey” before we were out the door. The exit led to a narrow back alley filled with garbage, trash, and more small scurrying animals that should be calling the SPCA to complain about the conditions under which they’re forced to live.
While Flint went to bring the car to the side of the alley, I waited in the shadows next to Nick and pulled out the Glock. The irony of the situation hit me like a double charge on a credit card bill for shoes not only too tight to wear but last year’s style.
On the left, a disgusting dumpster; on the right, an even more disgusting ex-husband. And me stuck in the middle as usual—a reluctant PI if ever there was one.
Rather than inhaling the stench of fly-ridden garbage, I’d really rather be sniffing out dastardly doings of computer sabotage or thievery, in particular, long after said dastardly deeds have gone down. It’s my idea of a good job, especially when I get to zip off whenever I want and have a great lunch.
The part I like best—besides the food—is sitting at a highly polished, recently vacated mahogany desk in an air-conditioned office, sifting through the rubble of high-tech deceit and betrayal. I like gathering enough evidence to point a manicured fingernail at the culprit and shout j'accuse! Backlit by enough briefs, memos, emails, and other telltale papers, the culprit is mine. That is a real high.
This was a real low. But I had to think about Stephen. My cousin was dead, and Nick knew something about it. Hell, maybe he even had something to do with it. And, of course, there were the cats. If Nick was in any way responsible, I might do him in myself and save whatever goons there may be the trouble.
All these things were flitting through my mind when Nick—the stupid idiot—made a lunge for my gun, muttering he could take better care of himself than I could. Sometimes an ex-marine, like an ex-husband, needs to get over himself.
One of the first lessons you learn as a PI is to not to carry a gun if you’re going to let anybody take it away from you. All the years I’ve been carrying, ten to be exact, people have taken all sorts of things from me—including my virtue—but never my gun.
So when Nick came at me, my knee went up fast, strong, and accurate. Ex dropped to the ground in a fetal position. God only knows what else was lying there with him, but I left him on the dirt, anyway. He was busy moaning while I cocked the Glock and gave a 360-degree spin, prepared to do whatever was necessary to keep the jerk safe. At least, for the moment.
Fortunately, no one showed up except a passing rat or two, excluding the one I stood over. After what felt like a lifetime, I saw Flint’s headlights, although I’m sure it didn’t take him more than three minutes to get there. I helped Nick up. He limped to the car, and Flint, bless him, raised an eyebrow over Nick’s condition but didn’t say a word. What a guy.


  1. Great interview guys! (Lila wouldn't like my wardrobe either!)

  2. Hi Rochelle and friends! Just for the record, I get most of my clothes at Ross. Lila wouldn't be caught dead in this discount chain! Thanks for hosting me, Rochelle!

  3. Hi Gail and Heather!

    You're so welcome, Heather!

    Gail, thanks so much for stopping by.

  4. By the way, I don't know how Tink ended up above Acey, but she's the grey one and he's the one who looks just like Tugger.