Neve Maslakovic is joining us today to talk about her novel, All the Whys of Deliah’s Demise. Here’s the publisher’s description:
From the author of Regarding Ducks and Universes, a new speculative whodunit set in an all-too-possible future where brand is everything.
Top Ten. Top Hundred. Top Thousand… Scottie’s not in any of them.
A rocky year into adulthood, she’s skidding toward the bottom of New Seattle’s popularity list—which means a short ride out into the frozen wasteland that surrounds the town dome. When a brand finally falls into her lap, it’s a disastrous one: Scottie is accused of causing the death of the longtime #1, a charismatic stage actress named Delilah.
Aided by her “Watson,” the companion her brain chip provides, Scottie scrambles to uncover the person who framed her—and who killed Delilah. Motives in the tight group of the town’s social stars abound. What Scottie unearths will shake the very foundation of her world…and place her squarely in the crosshairs of a shadowy killer intent on clearing a path to #1.
What’s Neve’s favorite bit?
One of the fun things I got to do in this novel is pick brands for my cast of characters.
The story takes place in the near future, inside one of the domes that have gone up because of a new Ice Age. In the Dome of New Seattle, life’s a popularity contest—everyone’s sorted onto a People List, with those higher up entitled to better salaries, roomier living spaces, and other perks. Naturally, having a personal brand helps with the popularity bit.
The total number of residents in the Dome is ten thousand, so this is more of a town than a city. It consists of residential buildings, eateries, a single theater, the Social Agency in charge of the List, and so forth. There are subsets to the List: Top Ten. Top Hundred. Top Thousand.
Our protagonist, nineteen-year-old Scottie, is in the bottom thousand and lacks a personal brand. She thinks of herself as Scottie the No One, though we can see that she’s an individual with goals, friends, a job, a life.
At the top is Delilah the Duchess. The #1 is a stage actor at the theater and in charge of the town. She’s a larger-than-life character who (since this is revealed in the title and on the first page, it’s very much not a spoiler) has met with an untimely end. The blame for this falls on Scottie, which kicks off the story.
Now to the personalities I picked to populate the other TopTen spots. I wanted them to be interesting, varied in personality and day jobs…and to hold their own as murder suspects.
I figured managers of establishments are likely to be popular, and so we have Jet-Set Jada, Everyone’s Friend Bonnie, and Wheelin’-n-Dealin Chase. The three are very different. Jada is cold and calculating and runs a tight ship in her upscale eatery—and covets the #1 spot. Bonnie’s tavern is a warm place that welcomes all ranks, but does her friendliness hide a sinister streak? Chase, the manager of a coffeehouse, is a small-time crook who always has something up his sleeve. It may very well be a nefarious plan to reach #1.
Then there’s the comedy duo: Samm and Sue, the Jokers. They are self-centered and cavalier and give the impression of not caring about rank or perks. But is it all just a pretense?
I also wanted to have someone in the Top Ten who didn’t really want to be there, and that’s where Poulsbo the Handyman comes in. He can’t say no to any request to fix this or that, whether it be a broken door hinge or a crumbling garden wall. The more he says yes, the more popular he gets, a circle with no way out—one that has rendered him anxious and jumpy. Did he snap and do away with Delilah?
A contrast to Poulsbo is Franz, the Relationship Wizard. He’s a counselor who loves attention and whose satisfied clients shower him with praise. It’s possible he might be counseling and moderating his way up the List, his goal the very top.
And then there’s McKinsey the Time Management Genius, the head of the Social Agency. She’s known for her efficiency in juggling a demanding job with a plethora of hobbies—and what could be more efficient than to occupy the top of the List and be in charge of the town itself?
Finally, at #11 as the story opens is Ben the Birdman, who has promised to do something about the house sparrows that nest in New Seattle’s buildings and trees and pester its residents. He’s eager to get into the Top Ten and Delilah’s death has cleared the way.
Oh, and did I also mention that each of the suspects has a secret that Delilah knew and held over their heads?
And there you have it. Ten people, all coveting that #1 spot for different reasons, hopefully intriguing ones…and making for my favorite bit in the book.
Neve Maslakovic’s newest release is a speculative whodunit set in an all-too-possible-future where brand is everything. She is the author of five novels, including Regarding Ducks and Universes (“Inventive… a delight.” — Booklist). Her life journey has taken her from Belgrade, Serbia to a PhD at Stanford University’s STAR Lab to her dream job as a writer. She lives with her husband, son, and very energetic goldendoodle in the Twin Cities.