Hunter launches murder mystery sequel

by Patricia E. Matson
Thursday, November 11, 2010

Staff photo by Allison Breiner Potter

Ellen Elizabeth Hunter promoted her new book, "Murder at the Holiday Flotilla," on Saturday, Nov. 6, during a cruise along the Cape Fear River with Wilmington Water Tours.

"Book launch" became more than just a figure of speech on Saturday, Nov. 6, when book author Ellen Elizabeth Hunter joined Wilmington Water Tours for a cruise along the Cape Fear River. The aquatic activity was entirely appropriate for promoting her newest tale, "Murder at the Holiday Flotilla."

Hunter is known for a light-hearted, romantic series of murder mysteries set around the Cape Fear region. Her titles now number nine, from "Murder on the Ghost Walk" and "Murder at the Azalea Festival" to "Murder at Wrightsville Beach." Her latest was "Murder at the Bellamy Mansion." The fifth book in the series, "Murder on the ICW," briefly featured the North Carolina Holiday Flotilla in a climactic scene at the end.

In the new book, the annual post-Thanksgiving parade of decorated boats takes place at the beginning, when Melanie Wilkes is holding a flotilla viewing party at her renovated hunting lodge. Wilkes is set to become president of the North Carolina Association of Realtors. When her sister, Ashley, finds a body on the stairs, she of course becomes involved in solving the mystery, along with other familiar characters from the series. Narrator Ashley’s business is restoring historical homes, so it’s not quite unexpected when secrets from the Colonial/Revolutionary period come into play.

Mary DeLollo, a fan of Hunter’s, runs the gift shop at Wilmington Water Tours, and sells Hunter’s books. She had the idea of having a book signing, and asked the author to come on a river cruise to talk and answer questions.

The cruise drew about 20 people. Some were there just for Hunter; others had signed on for the ride and had her appearance as an unexpected bonus. The ride aboard The Wilmington, a powered catamaran, was very smooth and comfortable. After Captain Doug Springer gave a safety briefing, Hunter began to speak.

"I think this is what’s meant by a captive audience," she joked.

Hunter explained that she had wanted to live here for many years, so even while residing in Greensboro, writing about the Cape Fear area was the next best thing. She also loved researching the region’s history and using that in her books’ plots.

Hunter asked Jo Ann Seiple, former dean of arts and sciences at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, to read from the new book. Seiple gave a spirited rendition of the love for the flotilla as expressed by Hunter’s character, Ashley Wilkes, who said that no matter how often she watched the event, she still got a charge when the boats come into view, and how it got better every year.

Hunter said she had just bought a house in Wilmington, not historical but a fixer-upper. She was looking forward to being able to do even more historical research now that she’d be living here, from old newspapers to government records.

"I try to be very careful… I can read 200 pages and it boils down to one paragraph in a book," she said.

After speaking to the group, Hunter moved around the deck and spoke individually with several people on the tour, while Springer pointed out interesting historical features along the river.

The Wilmington will not be participating in the flotilla this year but will stay on the sidelines, as some people from SeaPath have booked it for a viewing party.

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