The City of Santa Clara might be a rapidly growing city, but many still consider it a bit of a small town. So much to where some people still have no idea where Santa Clara is on a map, but that might all change soon as Santa Clara native and City of Santa Clara employee Eileen Magill has recently written her debut novel, “House of Homicide” – a mystery that takes place within the City. In fact, the infamous house Magill writes about, although dramatized, is actually located within City limits.
“The house is based on a house that my agent and I went to see,” says Magill. “It was everything I wanted on paper and when I walked in there, I was ready to buy that house. As soon as I stepped foot in it, I got one of the worst feelings I’ve ever had and I could only describe it as evil. It made my hair stand up. I looked at my agent and she had the same look on her face. So she went into the kitchen and I went into the first bedroom and the floorboards were torn up. I went back out into the kitchen and she told me there had been multiple deaths … in three years.”
Magill says she tried to put the bad vibes of the house behind her, but eventually the idea to write “House of Homicide” “bubbled up” inside her and she wrote the first draft in six weeks, but revisions, she says, took nearly two years with the final draft hardly resembling the original version.
The book, however, is an easy read and although written for adults, could cross over to mature youth due to a few curse words and sexually suggestive scenes. In it, Cindy, the protagonist, is a widow and mother of two teenage children. The trio, along with Cindy’s aunt afflicted with Alzheimer’s, move into the house knowing its previous tenant had died from “heart failure,” but unaware that the home has a more nefarious past.
Eventually, Cindy, haunted by her nightmares about the home’s victims, uses her skills as a former investigative journalist to sniff out clues in an attempt determine what makes the house tick and why all of the home’s murders remain unsolved. It isn’t long before someone – or something – gets a whiff of what she’s doing and wants to silence Cindy’s family.
Before she knows it, she’s racing against the clock to close the case, but first, she has to figure out who committed the heinous crimes. Was it the cop? The old man who gives the young boys the creeps? Maybe it was the gentleman who just happened to injure his shoulder, possibly prompting a change in murder weapon. Everyone is a suspect, but the devil is in the details. Keeping those straight helps the whodunit unfold before the reader’s eyes.
“For me, part of the fun of writing is going through and thinking that would be a good twist and then knowing that I better go back and put a clue in,” says Magill. “You have to be honest with the reader and I make a promise when I put pen to paper that I’m going to give you a crime and I’m going to give you a solution and I’m not going to pull a rabbit out of the hat for the solution. So, the reader says, ‘I didn’t see it coming but gosh if I had paid attention I would have seen it.'”
Magill will be part of a free, three author panel, Sisters in Crime from the Bay Area, hosted by Santa Clara native Abby Normal, on Sunday, Aug. 2 from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Santa Clara Library, 2635 Homestead Road. M.P. Cooley and Dana Fredsti will also be part of the panel. Magill’s “House of Homicide” will be available for a special $15 purchase price at the event.