Lori L. Lake Presents

The Hall of Fame

Click Bullet Hole to visit Ellen Hart's official site
Mystery Writer Extraordinaire

I read my first mysteries, Perry Mason oldies, in 1969 and fell in love with the mystery genre. Over subsequent years, from age 9 to 29, I read any mystery I could get my hands on - everything from Miss Marple to Mrs. Pollifax, Inspector Maigret to Inspector Morse, Sherlocke Holmes to Kinsey Millhone. None of the main characters were ever lesbian, but that didn't dull my interest in the genre. Still, I wished for a strong lesbian sleuth, never quite expecting that my wish would come true.

And then along came Ellen Hart. Though Barbara Wilson's lesbian mystery novel Murder In The Collective and Katherine V. Forrest's Amateur City predate Hart's Hallowed Murder, it was Hart's 1989 Jane Lawless mystery that I read first. Wow! That was my response to finally reading a mystery with a lesbian protagonist. After the hundreds--maybe thousands--of mysteries I had read all my life, finally Ellen Hart wrote one for me. And then another. And another...

Jane and her wacky best friend Cordelia Thorn have entertained and enthralled me through thirteen (soon to be a fourteen) increasingly complex mysteries. In addition, their author has managed to publish seven Sophie Greenway culinary mysteries. Because Ellen Hart lives in Minnesota, I have also had the opportunity to meet her, get to know her, go on tour with her, and call her a friend.

Ellen Hart is not only prolific and enduring, but also endearing. Below is information about her books. Long may she pen!
~Lori L. Lake

Hallowed Murder (1989)

The police call Allison Lord's drowning a suicide, but her housemates at her University of Minnesota sorority insist it was murder. That's when alumnae advisor, Jane Lawless, steps in to find out the truth. Assisted by her irrepressible sidekick Cordelia, Jane searches for clues, and what she finds is as chilling as the Minnesota winter. At a lonely vacation lodge, amidst the icy snow drifts, she risks her life to ensnare a cunning killer.

Vital Lies (1991)

An old friend invites Minneapolis restaurateur, Jane Lawless, to her Victorian inn to celebrate the winter solstice - and investigate a murder from years before. Yet as soon as Jane and her theatrical pal, Cordelia, arrive, they face broken glass in the parking lot, dead animals in the bedrooms, a bomb scare - malicious pranks that eventually lead to another homicide. As falling snow blots out the rest of the world, and ghosts of the past rise up with a vengeance, Jane finds herself tracking the twisted psyche of a dangerous killer.

Stage Fright (1992)

Aging actor Torald Werness just had his last affair, his last drink, and his last curtain call. In a darkened theater, restrauteur-sleuth Jane Lawless finds his dead body impaled on a part of the set - and herself a suspect. Yet Jane believes the motive for the murder lies within the dead man's family, a glamorous Midwestern theatrical dynasty, whose talented members give their best performances off stage. Jane and her uninhibited crony, Cordelia, start digging into the family dirt, and discover a tangled web of deceit.

A Killing Cure (1993)

After seventy-five years of high-minded respectability, the Amelia Gower Women's Club is in trouble. One distinguished director has been strangled. And another, the founder's granddaughter, has taken a fatal plunge down a third-floor staircase. As soon as restrauteur-sleuth Jane Lawless begins a bit of discreet snooping into these high profile murders, wheels within wheels start to turn, meshing the private lives of Gower friends and family with the club's inner workings and the wealthy Gower Foundations's covert agenda. Even Jane's new lover, Dorrie, is somehow involved. But best friend Cordelia hangs tough, and a good thing too, for the way things are going, the Gower Club murders may well branch out to include Jane herself.

A Small Sacrifice (1994)

When Jane Lawless' wise-cracking sidekick, Cordelia Thorn, is summoned to Summer Green, Wisconsin, for a reunion of the Shevlin Underground - a group made up of Cordelia's five closest theatre friends from college - it quickly becomes evident that reminiscing is not all that is on the weekend's agenda. One of the friends, soap opera star Diana Stanwood, is an alcoholic whose condition is so dangerous that her friends have gathered for an intervention to save her life. Emotions are running high. As the story twists and turns around the elusive lives of these five college friends, one of them drops dead. Alarmed, Cordelia sends for her old friend, Jane, to do some quiet investigating. Together they follow their hunches into the not-so-carefree past and back to the troubled present, where they find a single match could blow up all their lives.


Faint Praise (1995)

When a well-known television personality meets with an untimely demise dressed in compromising attire, a sinister series events begin to unfold in the shadow of Minneapolis' famed Foshay Tower, entangling the Twin Cities in a web of deceit. In chic Linden Lofts, where the man lived, the other tenants are spooked, and Jane Lawless soon finds out why. They, like the deceased owner, have secrets to conceal, and the ghostly someone with a full set of keys who's scouting out their apartments may soon make that impossible. Can one of the Linden Loft's upscale professionals really be an aspiring blackmailer? Before Jane and her theatrical pal, Cordelia, can make sure, a brutal murder ups the ante.

Robber's Wine (1996)

When Minneapolis amateur sleuth Jane Lawless and her saucy sidekick, Cordelia Thorn, set out for the sleepy shores of Pokegama Lake in northern Minnesota to escape the urban swelter, hope for a little R & R quickly heads south. Before they've even had a chance to unpack, they find that old friend, Belle Dumont, has vanished, only hours before she was to reveal startling news to her three grown children. The kids and Belle's lover deny any knowledge of this mysteriousbombshell. After being misled again and again, Jane begins to suspect the entire family of hiding something dark - and deadly.

Wicked Games (1998)

Jane Lawless has worked hard to make her Minneapolis restaurant a success, and she's finally reaping the financial rewards. Yet even the demands and excitement of being a popular restaurateur and living the good life don't bring the same satisfaction they once did. Jane needs a bigger challenge. A mystery to solve. The thrill of the chase. When Jane rents her third-story apartment to a new tenant, children's book author Elliot Beauman, she unwittingly opens the door to a sinister, decades-old mystery that has been waiting patiently to unfold--in her own house. Meanwhile, Jane assists a detective in tracking down clues about a new neighbor, Patricia, whose husband died under suspicious circumstances. Patricia is eager to become friends with Jane - friends or even a lover - though she knows Jane is immersed in a long-distance relationship with the attractive but secretive Dr. Julia Martinsen. Little does Jane know that the strange lodger upstairs, an attractive neighbor, and a volatile love affair are just the beginning of her problems.

Hunting the Witch (1999)

Minneapolis restaurant owner Jane Lawless has a knack for cooking - and an uncanny talent for detection. But assisting a private investigator has left her with a serious head injury...and vulnerable enough to say yes when a former lover offers to help her recuperate. She never suspects that returning to Dr. Julia Martinsen's TLC will take her out of the frying pan and into the fire. Nervous and jittery, the doctor is hiding something, and Jane - in love, but wary - needs to know what it is. Since desperate times call for desperate measures, Jane takes matters into her own hands and does some checking into Julia's life, both past and present. What she learns makes her blood run cold. Now, a man lies dead in an elevator shaft, the doctor is clearly in danger, and Jane can either turn to the bottle for a way out, or find a killer, before death becomes the final way to leave a lover.



The Merchant of Venus (2001)

Jane Lawless is a woman at a crossroads--her lover has left, she's recovering from a vicious attack sustained last year, and the holidays are closing in. With no one to help her ring in the new year, Jane reluctantly agrees to accompany her good friend Cordelia Thorn on a peculiar holiday trip: Cordelia's estranged sister, Broadway star Octavia Thorn, has asked them to attend her wedding. Octavia getting married is no surprise - she's done it three times before - but her candidate for hubby number four certainly is. Roland Lester is a reclusive eighty-three-year-old retired Hollywood director, a relic from the golden age of Tinseltown with a controversial past. No one can understand how the two met, much less fell in love. When the bodies start to drop, Jane realizes it might not be love at all that brought the young diva and the aged director together, but something much deeper, and perhaps more sinister. Delving deep into film history, Jane finds unsettling connections between Roland and a murder that was never solved. Finding out what happened forty years ago could be the key to unlocking the mystery of Octavia's curious marriage, but laying bare such long-buried secrets also promises grave consequences for everyone involved.

Immaculate Midnight (2002)

When suspected arsonist and serial killer Bobby Alto commits suicide in his cell and it doesn't end the Twin Cities murders, Jane Lawless begins to wonder whether a "psycho [has] declared open season" on everyone involved in the case or if the dreaded Midnight Man is still on the loose. Jane's father, who was Bobby's defense attorney, is in danger, and so is Jane herself, as it seems the Alto family contains more than one seriously disturbed member in Immaculate Midnight, Ellen Hart's 11th mystery starring the lesbian restaurateur and amateur detective.

An Intimate Ghost (2004)

Restaurateur Jane Lawless is thrilled to be catering the wedding of some family friends, Nick and Lauren Clifford, but when Jane arrives at the wedding, she's in for a shock of a lifetime-and one that could jeopardize her career. The food has been spiked with hallucinogenic mushrooms and the drug-hazed guests are engaged in reckless behavior. When the groom takes a near fatal dive into an empty pool, an investigation begins and Jane turns to her best friend Cordelia Thorn for help in clearing her name. But when Cordelia's sister, Octavia, suddenly deserts her infant daughter on Cordelia's doorstep, Jane is on her own. Events take a turn for the worse when the father of the groom comes up against shocking accusations, and it's up to Jane to uncover the truth.

The Iron Girl (2005)

After years spent mourning the death of her partner, Christine Kane, Minneapolis restaurateur Jane Lawless is moving on. As she sorts through the boxes of Christines belongings, she is shocked to discover a gun. Before her illness, Christine, a real estate agent, was selling a house for the Simoneau family. The night before her death, three family members were murdered. Jane always assumed Christine knew nothing of the Simoneau family secrets, but the gun suggests otherwise. As Jane searches for clues to understand what really happened to Christine those many years ago, her pursuit leads her deep into danger.

Night Vision (2006)

When movie star Joanna Kasimir returns home to Minnesota to perform in a production of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" at Cordelia Thorn's St. Paul theater, she has a lot to be afraid of. Her ex-husband, Gordon, who once served prison time for stalking her, may be back to his old tricks. At Cordelia's encouragement, Joanna enlists her old chum Jane to keep an eye on Gordon. Meanwhile, Jane's best friend, David, who is also Joanna's brother, arrives hiding secrets that he's afraid to reveal even to Jane. When Joanna's ex winds up dead, David is the suspect. But any number of Joanna's fans may have killed Gordon, and it's up to Jane to figure out who's responsible.

The Mortal Groove (2007)

Minneapolis restaurateur and amateur sleuth Jane Lawless is in the middle of ringing in the New Year the best way she knows how - with her family, friends, and some excellent champagne - when the biggest financial backers in Minnesota politics break up the party with a little backroom proposition for her father: How'd he like to be the state's next governor? Flattered, Ray Lawless, a retired defense attorney, agrees to run, and the latecomer's sprint to the state capital is going great until reporters and opponents start digging up the kind of dirt thatis more valuable than gold out on the campaign trail. He and his family are fair game, but worse than that, so are the men running his campaign. Their secrets, involving the mysterious death of a young woman, have been buried since the summer they all came home from Vietnam. Unfortunately for Jane and her father, those secrets won't stay that way for long.

Sweet Poison (2008)

Jane Lawless is at her wit’s end keeping her Minneapolis restaurants running while volunteering on her father’s campaign for governor. With an eleven-point lead, the race is Ray Lawless’s to lose, but all that changes when his rival posts a list of violent criminals that are back on the streets early, thanks to Ray’s work during his career as a defense lawyer. Corey Hodge is one of the convicts that took Ray’s advice to plead guilty for a crime that he swears he didn’t commit. Bitter from time served, revenge lurks in the back of his mind. Then one of Ray’s young campaign volunteers is killed, and with the murder mirroring the crime Corey was convicted of, Jane has to bring the killer to justice to save her father’s political career and to keep Corey from going to prison again. The high stakes and political intrigue that fuel Sweet Poison, the latest in Lambda and Minnesota Book Award--winning author Ellen Hart’s absorbing Jane Lawless series, make for an intense mystery of ambition and obsession.

The Mirror and the Mask (2009)

Minneapolis restaurateur Jane Lawless is at crossroads. The rough economy has put her plans for a third restaurant on hold, and her long distance romance is on the rocks and quite possibly unsalvageable. Unsure of what to do next, she takes her good friend A. J. Nolan up on his standing offer to take her on as a private investigator. While in training, her first job seems simple enough: Find Annie Archer’s stepfather. Jane tracks down a likely match—a man who has made a small fortune in real estate. A murder, deceit, and psychological intrigue lead Jane to uncover disturbing truths from clues that point to more threatening family secrets than where Annie’s father has been hiding out.

The Cruel Ever After (2010)

The shock Minneapolis restaurateur Jane Lawless is in for when Chester Garrity, her ex-husband, comes home to a city that he swore he’d never see again is nothing compared to Chester’s own. After their divorce, he took off with his inheritance to travel the world, leaving Jane with enough seed money to open her first restaurant, which worked out well for Jane but less so for Chester. Now, he’s back and penniless or as he would prefer to say, between fortunes. He’s working an angle to make his next one by selling a priceless artifact recently looted from the Bagdad Museum, but that all falls through when he wakes up next to the dead body of his buyer with no memory of what happened the night before. Panicked, Chester flees the scene but eventually returns to cover his tracks only to find that the body has already been removed.

The Lost Women of Lost Lake

Restaurateur and part-time P.I. Jane Lawless is taking some much-needed time off at her family’s lodge when her best friend, Cordelia, arrives with news that Tess, one of their good friends, has taken a nasty fall and needs their help with rehearsals for a play that is set to open in a week. When Tess isn’t on crutches, she helps run the Thunderhook Lodge, the premier resort on Lost Lake. And while she clearly needs Jane and Cordelia’s assistance, she isn’t exactly acting all that grateful.

A man who claims to be a journalist has arrived in Lost Lake with an old photograph and some questions for Tess that go back decades. His questions have put her on edge, and when he shows up peeking through her kitchen window, everyone else is right there with her. As beloved as Tess is, there are plenty of people who don’t care about any so-called journalist and are happy to protect her, but how far are they willing to take it? And when will they need answers to questions that only Tess can provide? Jane's only hope of protecting her friends from the secrets that are surfacing all around them is to uncover the whole truth before anyone else can.

Rest For The Wicked

Armed with little more than a message on her phone from a dead man, PI and restaurateur Jane Lawless races to find a killer. DeAndre Moore came to Minneapolis from St. Louis to clear up a misunderstanding. But when the situation gets out of hand, he reaches out to P.I. Jane Lawless just as his uncle, Jane’s partner Andy Nolan, told him to. However, the message Moore leaves on Jane’s phone becomes a voice from beyond the grave when she discovers that he left it minutes before he was knifed outside of a gentlemen’s club. And soon his murder isn’t the only one.

With Nolan in the hospital, Jane sets out to find out who killed his nephew and what his death has to do with the others in another outstanding addition to Ellen Hart’s award-winning mysteries series.

Cover Still
To Come

Taken By The Wind

Ellen Hart's 21st Jane Lawless mystery, Taken By The Wind, is due in the stores in late 2013. Stay tuned for the cover and to learn information about the story.

  If you love Ellen Hart's writing, you may enjoy her other series, The Sophie Greenway Culinary Mysteries. Click Here to read about the books in that series.

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This page last updated on April 19, 2012

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