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Q&A: Penny Goetjen, OVER THE EDGE By Kathryn Gandek-Tighe Posted on 11/11/2020 11:01 PM

Penny Goetjen not only answers our question about OVER THE EDGE: Murder Returns to the Caribbean, but she has a question for you – and a recipe for a Mango Hurricane!

Writers usually hate writing book summaries. Will you share with us your real book blurb or one you wish you could have used?

On this trip back to the Caribbean, don’t expect an umbrella in your drink….

Returning to the tropical breezes and turquoise waters of St. Thomas to rebuild her mother’s bungalow after it was destroyed by fire, Olivia is shaken by the extensive devastation wreaked by a Category 5 hurricane that recently ripped through the Virgin Islands.

After an exhaustive search for Colton, her on again/off again love interest from her previous visit, she’s left with more questions than answers, his whereabouts unknown.

With nowhere to stay, she accepts the offer from an older, wealthy man to house-sit his spacious villa overlooking the Caribbean Sea while he sets off on an extended sailing trip.

What seems like a perfect arrangement turns into a nightmare. Before she can unpack her suitcase in the posh digs, Olivia stumbles upon the man murdered in his own home and becomes the prime suspect.What was the a-ha moment that made you write this story?

I love a good a-ha moment. Who doesn’t? This one came when I wrote the last few lines of THE EMPTY CHAIR Murder in the Caribbean, which I thought was going to be a stand alone when I started to lay out the first few pages. Like my readers, I didn’t see the ending coming. (I’m a pantser.) This one showed up with a resounding thud, leaving all of us to wonder how the story would continue in the next book. OVER THE EDGE Murder Returns to the Caribbean picks up where THE EMPTY CHAIRleft off.

Is there a setting in your book that you would like to visit?

OVER THE EDGE is set in the seductive tropical paradise of the U.S. Virgin Islands—the main islands of which are St. Thomas, where OTE is set, St. Croix and St. John. I’ve traveled to several locations in the Caribbean over the years but the Virgin Islands has been my destination more often than the others combined. I try to get there once a year, unless a powerful hurricane plows through and rearranges everyone’s plans. I’ve fallen in love with the islands and the people and their culture. It’s so familiar to me that when I arrive, it’s akin to going home (and I usually cry when I have to leave). The people are doggedly resilient, entrenched in their faith, and optimistic almost to a fault.

After two Category 5 hurricanes rammed the islands in September 2017, the devastation and loss were unprecedented, not to mention heartbreaking. Hurricane Irma showed up first with sustained winds of 178 miles per hour for hours on end, destroying or damaging a majority of the structures on St. Thomas and St. John. A scant thirteen days later Hurricane Maria barreled in, aiming directly at St. Croix, drenching the islands with rain and causing flooding and landslides. What Irma hadn’t destroyed, Maria nearly washed away. The two-hurricane event, dubbed by locals as Irmaria, knocked them on their backsides. But they’re a tenacious bunch, not to be kept down long. In spite of their catastrophic loss, they were quickly talking about rebuilding and brighter days ahead. I dedicated OVER THE EDGE to the people of the U.S. Virgin Islands. And yes, I would like to visit the setting of this book again and again. It never gets old.

What was the most interesting thing you learned writing the book?

The crime in the story takes place on Peterborg Peninsula on the northwest side of St. Thomas, with Magens Bay on the south and the Atlantic Ocean to the north. I knew the currents could play a major role if “something” was disposed of in the water so I needed to be sure I understood the movement of the currents around the peninsula. I consulted a friend who’s been a boat captain in the Virgin Islands for many years, skillfully navigating the potentially hazardous waters in around the cays and reefs. Since I tend to become mesmerized by the sparkling turquoise made even more dazzling by the nearly constant sunshine, thoughts of currents below the surface have never entered my mind—before now. So, I was curious. For instance, if “something” of considerable weight was tossed overboard—depending upon if you were on the bay side or the Atlantic side— would it simply sink or be whisked away? If the latter, where to? And while we were talking about what-ifs, he brought up where sharks could be seen. (All those times I’d been snorkeling in the islands, the possibility of sharks swimming in the vicinity—again—never crossed my mind. It will now.) His insights were—let’s just say—quite helpful in writing OVER THE EDGE.

What meal and drink do you think would pair well with your book?

The Caribbean is known for its colorful array of fresh seafood and tongue-tantalizing spices. OVER THE EDGE would pair well with grilled mahi tacos served with seasoned rice and beans. While you’re waiting for your entree, indulge in some conch fritters to whet your appetite and a cold beverage to help you cool off. Rum is the liquor of choice in the islands as it is made on St. Croix (Captain Morgan and Cruzan) and relatively cheap compared with other liquors that have to be imported, so the list of mixed drinks made with local rum is as long as the days are sunny. A Painkiller is a popular go-to rum drink along with a Dark ‘N Stormy and Rum Punch. My drink of choice to pair with this meal and OVER THE EDGE is a Mango Hurricane (recipe below)—a name not only indicative of its potency but a reminder of what islanders deal with on a regular basis. If you’re craving something sweet after your meal, dig into some fried plantains. Although they’re usually served as a side dish, their sweetness could easily put them in the dessert category in my mind. They’re delicious served warm.

Cheers to your visit to the Caribbean as you read OVER THE EDGE! (Remember to read THE EMPTY CHAIR first.)

Do you have a story about a trip to the Caribbean that you could share here? Perhaps a close call or something you thought was odd that you wondered about after you returned home? I’d love to hear about it.

Mango Hurricane


3 oz Cruzan® Mango Rum          

3 oz Cruzan® Aged Dark Rum

6 oz Orange juice

Splash of grenadine

Mixing Instructions:

Combine ingredients with ice in a hurricane glass. Add a splash of grenadine. Garnish with orange wedge and a cherry.

National award-winning author Penny Goetjen has written five mysteries set in colorful locales. A self-proclaimed eccentric known for writing late into the night, transfixed by the allure of flickering candlelight, she often weaves a subtle, unexpected paranormal twist into her stories. Her husband claims to sleep with one eye open.

© 2022 Penny Goetjen