Los Angeles author Dete Meserve returns to the Idyllwild Author Series with “Perfectly Good Crime” (Melrose Hill Publishing, 2016), a follow up to her successful first outing “Good Sam.”
“Stories about senseless murders, tragic accidents, massive fraud and the dark side of the American Dream dominate the headlines,” notes Meserve. “I was inspired to write ‘Good Sam’ because I wondered: instead of yet another story about a serial killer, what if there was an anonymous person secretly doing extraordinary good?”
She continues that exploration of altruism, albeit with an ethical twist, in her new novel “Perfectly Good Crime.” It’s a fast-paced mystery with a curious conundrum at its core. Its thesis and propelling question is “can you bring about powerful and uplifting change by committing a perfectly good crime?”
The publication of “Perfectly Good Crime” comes at a time of growing national confusion, angst and violence. “It’s one piece of bad news after another,” Meserve noted, “with people saying, ‘It’s not going to get better.’ How do you deal with that sense of despair?”
Her answer, as posited in both her novels, is to act in ways that create positive change. “You can help your neighbors and your friends, with small and meaningful gestures that can lift us up,” she said. “When you help someone else you get back so much more than you give.”
“Perfectly Good Crime” imagines a series of high-tech heists of the estates of the 100 wealthiest Americans. Nothing is damaged and the goods stolen — cash and super-expensive luxury goods — are, to the average Joe, the objectionable and undeserved booty of the uber rich. As her central character television reporter Kate Bradley investigates the heists, leading TV crews into the unimaginably extravagant villas of the victims, viewers see luxuries and lifestyles that are jaw-dropping.
Early in the novel, Bradley discovers viewers are finding satisfaction in the robbing of the rich. The twitter-sphere becomes electric with tweets such as, “A 60,000-square-foot house? These rich people deserve to be robbed.”
And that is where the novel begins to take off. What is the purpose of these immaculately executed robberies and to what end will the $20 million in stolen cash and luxury items be used?
Meserve writes with an authority that comes from working within the broadcast media she writes about. As a principal of Wind Dancer Films, she develops and funds feature films and television series. As a result, she also understands the tastes and appetites of her audiences, including the attraction to and media focus on what is dark and disastrous.
“I’m truly convinced that there is far more good going on in this world than the news media have time or commercial inclination to tell us,” she said. And it is from this conviction that her stories unfold. “How do we get people to pay attention to the homeless and veterans when it’s not ‘dramatic?’” she asked. “One thing would be to commit a crime. That would be a way into the story.”
Idyllwild Author Series founder and impresario Eduardo Santiago interviews Meserve at 4 p.m. Sunday, July 31, on the deck of Café Aroma.