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Where to Start with Agatha, Anthony, Lefty Award-Winning Kellye Garrett 

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photo of kellye garrett alongside 3 of her book covers
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  • Photo Credit: Author photo credit: Carucha L. Meuse

While many people want to be writers from an early age, few manage to win Agatha, Anthony, Lefty awards with their first novel. That’s just one reason why Kellye Garrett’s book should be your next read.

And good news: her newest thriller, Missing White Woman, is coming out in April 2024. 

Garrett just knew she wanted to be an author when she was young; she began writing stories at the age of five. She credited her mom for being a big reader and sharing her love of reading with Garrett, including a love of mysteries and crime fiction.

“Mysteries are a puzzle,” Garrett said, “I love trying to figure out what happened.” Garrett credited Encyclopedia Brown as an influence because “at the end of the story, you had to guess what happened,” Garrett said, “That helped me [realize] ‘I can be right. I could be wrong.’” 

Garrett wants her books to reflect the experiences of Black women in America, especially in her domestic suspense. The genre is very big right now but there is not a lot of diversity within it. The past three or four years have seen some progress, but much more needs to happen.

Garrett said, “Domestic suspense [situations]  are going to be treated differently if you're a Black woman, and so that's what I want to explore with both of my books.” 

In addition to her fiction writing, Garrett spent eight years writing for CBS drama Cold Case. She also co-founded Crime Writers of Color with crime superstars Walter Mosley and Gigi Pandian.  

Garrett also mentioned how exciting it is when people send her pictures of her books on vacation with them. She’s seen books in Jamaica and Hawaii.

“I love the fact that people want to take them, to the beach with them or on vacation, or talk about them in their book clubs,” she said. “I just want to have a good, interesting book that makes you think a little bit but surprises you a lot.” 

Missing White Woman

Missing White Woman

By Kellye Garrett

What do you do if you stumble across a dead woman in your Airbnb and your boyfriend is missing? Even worse, what do you do if the woman is the missing white woman who's been making the news and blowing up on social media? That’s Breanna’s situation. She’s a Black woman in an unfamiliar city, her boyfriend is missing, and social media is whipping up a frenzy to get justice for the victim. 

Garrett got the idea when she was using a friend’s house as a writer’s retreat in Baltimore. It was a four-story row house with a bedroom on the third floor. Just Garrett.

She explained, “I had an overactive imagination. So I was just, ‘I could walk downstairs tomorrow and there could be a dead body in the foyer. I would have no clue how it got there and all her neighbors would be like, ‘Who is this woman? Why did she kill someone?’ That’s the premise.”  

Growing up in her 20s, Garrett was aware of the missing white woman syndrome with the very public disappearances of Laci Peterson and Natalie Hollway. “When you’re that age, and people around your age are disappearing, it makes it [feel] like that could happen to me.”  

At the time of writing, the disappearance and murder of Gabby Petito was making the headlines. Garrett was fascinated with the reaction of a Tik Toker who was making several videos a day about Petito.

Garrett noted it was great that it helped bring attention to the story but “they would report every little thing, and they didn't really seem to care if it was accurate or not.”

So part of Missing White Woman explores that dimension of true crime and social media.  

Like a Sister

Like a Sister

By Kellye Garrett

In this Anthony and Lefty winning novel, Lena learns that her estranged half-sister Desiree Pierce is dead through the news. Everyone dismisses it as merely a drug related death but Lena knows something is wrong. She decides that she will find justice for Desiree even if they were estranged. That means diving into their shared past and unearthing some unfortunate truths.  

With this book and Missing White Woman, Garrett wants to be true to her experience, as well as the lived experiences of the women in her family, of being a Black woman in the U.S. Garrett pointed out that society treats Black women differently than white women, especially when it comes to assumptions about a person, Garrett noted.

For instance, with "Like a Sister, a Black woman is dead" and “they are going to assume the worst,” Garrett said, “They’re not going to give the benefit of the doubt to the victim in the situation, which they do with a lot of white women.”  

hollywood homicide book cover

Hollywood Homicide

By Kellye Garrett

Hollywood Homicide is Garrett’s award-winning debut that won an Agatha, an Anthony, and Lefty. Plus it’s the first of the two-book Detective by Day cozy mystery series. Danya Anderson needs cash and quick.

Her parents are at risk of losing their home. But she’s having difficulty getting a job since she left her lucrative but dull television career in Hollywood. When she sees a billboard offering a reward for information about a hit-and-run that she actually witnessed, Anderson decides that maybe this is the ticket to solving her and her family’s problems.  

Garrett got the idea when she saw a billboard offering a reward when she was “a semi-successful mega broke Black writer.” She thought that she should try to solve it.

But she said that “it was a horrible idea for a real-life situation; my mother would have killed me.” But it worked as the beginning premise for a book, and the start of a two-book series. 

Featured author photo: Carucha L. Meuse