In these murder mysteries it’s never the butler who did it, it’s the accountant.
Panola County author Gae-Lynn Woods is an experienced, practicing accountant. Her crime thrillers, however, are messy, violent and bloody even as her protagonists seek the justice that sometimes isn’t found at the courthouse.
Unabashedly Texan, the Facebook promo for her work reads, “Texas Crime Thrillers — because some folks just need killin’.”
If anyone knows someone who “needs killin’,” Woods is for hire, but only on paper. The cheating husband who becomes a murder victim in her third novel, “A Case of Sour Grapes,” is based on the cheating husband of a friend. Even though the real-life cheater remains very much alive, weaving his violent death into her novel proved quite satisfying, Woods said.
“People do say to me, ‘How can you be so structured and ordered as an accountant and write these novels that are so multilayered and the characters are so interesting and deep, and the storylines are sometimes so violent. We don’t see that in you at all,’” she said.
Her answer: “I don’t know where that place of creativity comes from.” Her ideas come as they come.
Woods, who works part-time for the Sloan Firm in Longview and part-time for accountant Raymond Schieffer in Carthage, lives on a ranch near Gary with her husband. Her twin brothers, whose younger selves appear in her novels, also live in Panola County.
Her fictional characters live in Forney County and emerge on cue.
“They show up when I need them,” she said. The lead character is Detective Cass Elliott, introduced in Woods’ debut book, “The Devil of Light,” and appearing again in her second, “Avengers of Blood.”
Where did Cass come from?
“There are parts of me that are in Cass. She’s probably a lot braver than I am, but she’s hard-headed and she is determined and she‘s willing to take a stand for what she believes is right even if it’s contrary to popular opinion or contrary to what her boss thinks she ought to do,” Woods said, adding, “Her boss is someone that I don’t like very much, but I love writing him.”
Women fill the main, meatier roles but men get a fair share, Woods said. In her third novel, “A Case of Sour Grapes,” Maxine Leverman, Cass’s childhood friend and a private detective, takes the lead role in seeing justice done, but Woods gives assurance that Cass will be back as the main character in succeeding works, Woods promised.
“I think we all kind of know justice misplaced when we see it,” Woods said and apparently there’s plenty to be done in that realm.
Love them or hate them, Woods is surprised at how attached readers can get to her character.
Resident bumbler Hugo Petchard is one they love to hate, she said. A character familiar in many small towns, Petchard has a powerful father who manages to keep him on the police force even though his incompetence continually thwarts crime-solving efforts.
Woods’ books are available on numerous platforms in electronic form as well as in print on Amazon.