reed magazine logosummer2006

burke imageLife Imitating Art Imitating Life Imitating. . .

As Burke settles into life in Manhattan’s West Village, her time as a prosecutor in Portland is slowly fading from view. She was halfway through another Samantha Kincaid mystery when she dropped it and started writing a new novel, due out next year, introducing a new protagonist: detective Ellie Hatcher, NYPD.

While Hatcher takes Burke out of the courtroom (as a detective, the character works on the “order” side of the law-and-order equation), the author also continues to develop storylines that have a personal twist.

For instance, she met her husband, Sean Simpson, via, an internet dating service. (They were married in January.) She’s now working on a plot involving danger and deception in the online dating world. She imagines a scenario in which the man and woman sitting next to her at a local coffee shop are on their first date after corresponding on the internet. Could he be about to take her hostage? Could he have some other nefarious designs?

Online dating, she says, “takes you beyond the friend of a friend. With me and Sean, we cannot find six degrees of separation in our lives. That’s scary. You’re putting your trust in someone and believing what they say about themselves.”


Sniffing Out Reed

From Close Case:

Her job had been to hide out at Reed College, a small liberal arts college nestled within an upscale residential area of southeast Portland. For decades, the place had been a bastion of hippie culture, largely isolated from the political changes that had hit the real world since the 1960s. Tom Runyon had instructed Heidi to blend in and see whether students really did use marijuana openly on campus, as her editor had heard.

She knew exactly what Tom had in mind. The news departments were under orders from the top to make sure that a “liberal bias” wasn’t affecting the paper’s coverage. What better way to prove the paper’s evenhandedness than do a cheap expose targeting pot-smoking by the liberal academic elite?

She wanted to tell Tom Runyon to stuff it. That kids smoking some doob on campus wasn’t news. That she was working on something far more important, the re-creation of Percy Crenshaw’s pending stories. But, as always, she did as she was told.


On the other hand, the roll of the cyberdice that brought the couple together was probably the only chance they had of ever meeting. Simpson is a former army captain, a West Point graduate who now heads up security for the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He’s a conservative Republican, she a moderate Democrat.

“We have to be the only West Point-Reed couple in the country,” she says. “Even if we did have a mutual friend, I don’t think they’d think we’d ever hit it off.”

And in small ways, life for Burke continues to imitate art. She recently added a new member to the family: Duffer, a compact French bulldog identical to the one Samantha Kincaid dotes on in the novels (to the exclusion of her boyfriend). “He’s our little obsession,” Burke says.

And then there’s an obsession that goes further back, to her favorite children’s book—From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. It’s about a brother and sister from Connecticut who run away from home and camp out in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, sneaking around after hours right under the noses of museum security guards, as they try to solve the mystery behind a beautiful sculpture attributed to Michelangelo, which may or may not be a forgery.

“It’s sort of eerie that I married someone who works at the Met,” Burke admits sheepishly. “I get to go through those corridors all the time now.”