The Marriage At The Rue Morgue


When the search for an abandoned orangutan leads to the death of their best man, primatologists Noel Rue and Lance Lakeland find themselves in a wedding quandary. Police suspect the ape, but Noel and Lance know better. They cannot call off or delay the big day, and they must juggle their search for the real killer with last minute details like convincing half the family the wedding isn’t cursed just because it’s being held at a former funeral home.

This cozy mystery set in a fictional town in Northwestern Ohio shows the inner workings of a primate sanctuary, even as it explores deeper questions about the secrets we keep from each other. As the story progresses, Noel and Lance begin to realize they don’t know anyone as well as they thought, not even each other. In fact, just about the only thing they know for sure is that even though the orangutan is innocent, the only way they can prove it is to find the real killer.

About the Author:

I have a Master’s degree in English from the University of Kentucky. Additionally,  my novel Divorce: A Love Story was released in electronic format by Throwaway Lines in December 2011. My short mystery “End of the Line” was published in Idea Gems magazine in May 2012, and a ghost story “Terms” will appear in September 2012 in Diversion Press’s anthology After Dark.  Thanks so much for your time and interest. I look forward to talking to you soon.


This is my entry for The Lightning and The Lightning Bug’s pitch perfect prompt. A couple of notes.

1) Lance, I apologize for the name thing. I have been writing this since last year before I started reading your blog I swear. But I’m not changing the name.

2) People? I’m shitty at this part of the writing. This feels about as blah as it can get, even though, when I talk the book, it gets a lot of interest. My elevator pitch is SOSO much better: “Noel Rue and Lance Lakeland’s best man has been murdered, and the only thing they know for sure is that the orangutan didn’t do it”. Advice is welcome, and for God’s sake, shred the thing and inspire me to do better.

3) The book is finished, and in answer to an earlier question by SAM (who tagged me in the Lucky 7 meme awhile back, but I was too paranoid to post my own work at the time, only now I’ve decided to get over myself) Page 77, line 7, and continuing for seven lines goes like this:

It had not.

So I turned Lance’s own words on him. “I’m not going to change my mind,” I told him now, as I opened my door and swung down onto the parking lot asphalt.

He got out of the truck and came around to join me. “Neither am I,” he said. “And I don’t think Art would want us to stop now.”

“No, he wouldn’t.” I said. And then I started crying again because we were already speaking of our dearest friend in the past tense.

About jesterqueen:
Jessie Powell is the Jester Queen. She likes to tell you about her dog, her kids, her fiction, and her blog, but not necessarily in that order.


The Marriage At The Rue Morgue — 29 Comments

  1. Ooh, that's something of a teaser. How do you dream up plots like that?! I like your elevator pitch but this longer blurb works well too, I love the … well, I suppose it's a form of sarcasm, line about last minute details and cursed weddings. I think you should change 'as the story progresses' because you need a phrase that makes you feel that it is genuinely real rather than emphasise the fictional, more like 'as time goes on' but a more dramatic and less wooden option. And would you need a comma between 'primate sanctuary, even'? Finally may I suggest? 'In fact, the only thing that they know for sure is that the orangutan didn't do it but to prove it, they need to find the real killer'. 🙂

    PS. If you're at the final stage and need proofers then feel free to rope us in. I used to be quite good. 😉
    My recent post World of Work

    • Oh no – it’s not sarcasm. It’s a whole plot element. The groom’s mother flips out when she realizes the venue used to be a funeral home and becomes a major antagonist. Good point about ‘as the story progresses’. Maybe ‘the closer they get to their wedding’. As to commas, I’m known for needing a dose of ‘comma-lite’, so that one probably needs to go. And I love your suggestion for the final sentence. And oh yeah, I’d LOVE to rope you in for feedback at this stage. I’ll drop you a line in the next few days.

      • Though the line itself is supposed to be funny and heighten the contrast between 'dead best man' and 'annoying in-laws'

        • I liked the underlying humour, don't worry. The closer they get to their wedding works well. Let me know anytime. 🙂
          My recent post World of Work

  2. I've been doing a lot of research on queries/pitches and working with a friend who's at that stage, and frankly? Your elevator pitch should be the first line of your query letter. It shows more about who you are as a writer, and what the book is really about. Plus it's a great hook. Lead with the pitch line, then go into the blurb, which does a nice job of summarizing the plot—which sounds fantastic!

    I should be doing this prompt myself… though I'm not near the querying stage with Damselfly…

    • You know, I think you’re right. I’ll have to figure out how to work it in first, but it really does belong there. I actually wrote a lot of this before I wrote the novel. I’ve been using it as a guide and revising it as I go. I made the mistake of saving the pitch for last with Divorce, and it was really hard. I struggled with what to leave in and what to cut out, what a publisher needed to understand the story, etc. I’ve got THAT under control this time anyway, but I still feel like the whole thing overall is kind of ‘meh’ as opposed to the book, which is pretty good.

    • I totally agree with Cameron. Using your elevator pitch will catch the bait, while the rest of summation will reel them in. I like the play on Poe, which is why the elevator pitch would work so nicely. You are stating that this is inspired by that, but not at all what you thought.

      I had never written a pitch before today, so I really appreciate your feedback on mine.

      I can't wait to read the real thing when it comes out!
      My recent post After the Passion…

  3. I agree with Cameron's comment above about the elevator pitch as first line. I would also use another word to describe the mystery. Cozy doesn't really grasp the rest of what you've revealed.

    This is really excellent, Jessie. I deplore writing these things so much I'm going to pay my pre-editor again to cut mine to shreds until it's right.
    My recent post Putting the Cool in Blow

    • Excellent point about including the elevator pitch. I agree as well!! “Cozy” is an industry genre term. The title is a play on Poe’s The Murders in the Rue Morgue, which is a locked room mystery. This one isn’t a locked room (it’s an open forest), and I’m playing off the title and conclusion (in Poe’s tale, the orangutan did it, in mine, the only thing for sure is that the orangutan is innocent), and shifting the genre. My other options would be hard boiled (it’s not) and police procedural (again, it’s not). Cozies don’t have to be all lighthearted fun and games (though with the guidance of a real primatologist, I’ve got some hilarious fun and games worked into the primate scenes here, and there’s a bit of dark wedding humor), but the term encompasses (roughly) ‘amateur detectives who don’t suffer more than the murder victims to get to the conclusion’.

  4. Ohh, intriguing tale. I just downloaded something where the gorilla witnesses the murder but no one will believe the gorilla's trailer that he has the answers…or something.

    I like the look of the blog too!
    My recent post Knowledge

    • Thanks! It gives me a sense of hope about the project. I’ve kind of reached that point where I don’t know the good from the bad anymore. I just know the ‘is’.

  5. Because you were kind enough to go into such length at commenting on my synopsis, I will gladly repay the favor for you.

    I agree that your elevator pitch belongs at the beginning. It is the gripping opener that makes a person interested and wanting to know more. And personally, I don't think you would need much more than that. I would trim it down to a concise paragraph, and either have glowing reviews from others or a short except from the story itself be paired with it.
    My recent post Synopsis for The Curse of Fierabras

    • So my suggestion is to do the elevator pitch, followed by something like this: Planning their wedding threatens to consume their time as the big day approaches, making it a struggle to try and prove the primate's innocence. And to top it off, their whole family believes the wedding site, an old funeral home, is cursed because of this. As they dig deeper into this mystery Noel and Lance discover they don't know anyone as well as they thought in this small Ohio town. Not even each other. They only thing they know for certain is finding the real killer is the only chance they have to clear the orangutan from this crime.

      Hopefully this helps give you an idea of what I envision?

      My recent post Synopsis for The Curse of Fierabras

      • Great ideas! Thanks for dropping by. I worry when I go all Madame Syntax (especially on a stranger’s blog), but I kind of figure this one is an exercise begging for honest feedback. I really appreciate the ideas.

    • Very cool ideas. I actually have been working with a real primatologist to get my apes and monkeys right. Maybe I could get a ‘blurb’ from her.

  6. Wow! You have been really busy. This sounds intriguing with a rare added bonus of being completely original.
    My recent post Healing

  7. this looks really interesting – such an original idea!
    But do watch out for your first paragraph.
    I had to read it a few times to work out what was actually going on!
    It's a bit too full – there's too much going on, especially as it's such an odd idea.
    What I understood is it's something like a murder mystery with an orangutang…
    There was a wedding and a funeral at the same time…
    someone was murdered…
    and two people plus a monkey are the suspects..
    I think it needs to be clearer – it's quite hard to understand whether the story is about a murder mystery, a wedding, a funeral, or a monkey…
    M. x
    My recent post The Time Is Just Around The Corner!

    • Thanks for the feedback! I really appreciate your take. (I’m going to visit your site here soon, though it may be tonight. – I’m a fantasy reader, and I’ll let you know what I think!)

    • No, it’s still very much unpublished and in circulation. I invented a county and called it Muscogen. It’s where the real Logan, Champaign, and Union counties meet.

  8. Mysteries can be fun and intriguing, just haven't thought of any as cozy.

    I so enjoy all you write, Jessie and wouldn't hesitate to snatch this book from the shelf!
    My recent post Doorway…

    • Yay! I’m glad it appeals. The term “cozy” is so weird. I have an idea it’s a genre term that refers more to the reader’s perceived state (cozy reading for a wintery night) than the actual story itself.