Murder on Her Mind

Cooking up mayhem comes easily to Minneapolis mystery writer Ellen Hart. Her most recent book, Wicked Games, about a lesbian culinarian and sleuth, is a tangy and tempting stew

Nor did her teaching seem to suffer. Many of her Loft students reported that she was the best teacher they'd ever had there, and they repeatedly requested that she offer an advanced class.

But Ellen Hart suffered. "In the fall, I hit a wall. I got severely ill," she says. "It was just too much."

She expanded her vocabulary to include the word "no." She asked for extensions on her Sophie Greenway series, and worried that the publisher would drop her. (They didn't.) She reduced her teaching commitments. She took some time to catch her breath. She says she still is recovering, but being sick has taught her to take it a little slower.

She says this even as she is deep into writing the next novel in the Jane Lawless series. Even as she is about to bop about the country to conventions and bookstores, promoting Wicked Games. Even as students are standing in line to sign up for her next writing class.

It's not unusual, she says in her easy, offhand manner, for her to have three books in her head at once: One she's editing, one she's writing, and one she's sketching out.

There's proof. Next time you're shopping at a south Minneapolis grocery store, keep an eye peeled for her. She's a little on the short side with graying hair that softly frames her round face. She could be browsing the spices in aisle eight, buying apples, or comparing the price of Northern and Charmin. Whatever else she is doing, she surely has murder on her mind.

Ellen Hart will read from her latest work,Wicked Games, at a publication party at Amazon Bookstore (1612 Harmon Place, Minneapolis) from 7 to 9 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 9. She will also appear at the Loft (66 Malcolm Ave. SE, Minneapolis) on Wednesday, Oct. 21, for a 7:30 p.m. reading, and at Once Upon at Crime (604 W. 26th St., Minneapolis) on Thursday, Sept. 17, at 6:30 p.m.

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