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Flora, Kate (Katharine Clark, Kate Clark Flora)

Flora, Kate (Katharine Clark, Kate Clark Flora)

PERSONAL:

Born in ME; daughter of a farmer and a writer; married Ken Cohen (an attorney and law professor); children: Jake, Max. Education: Northeastern University, LL.D.

ADDRESSES:

Home—Concord, MA; Harpswell, ME. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

Author and attorney. Represented the Department of Human Services for the office of Maine's attorney general; maintained a private practice. Cambridge Center for Adult Education, Cambridge, MA, writing teacher; radio personality.

MEMBER:

Sisters in Crime (New England chapter president, 2003).

WRITINGS:

"THEA KOZAK" SERIES

(As Kate Clark Flora) Chosen for Death, Forge (New York, NY), 1994.

Death in a Funhouse Mirror, Forge (New York, NY), 1995.

Death at the Wheel, Forge (New York, NY), 1996.

An Educated Death, Forge (New York, NY), 1997.

Death in Paradise, Forge (New York, NY), 1998.

Liberty or Death, Forge (New York, NY), 2003.

Stalking Death, Mystery Company (Carmel, IN), 2006.

OTHER

(As Katharine Clark) Steal Away, Fawcett Books (New York, NY), 1998.

(Editor, with others) Undertow: Crime Stories by New England Writers, Level Best Books (Prides Crossing, MA), 2003.

(Editor, with others) Riptide: Crime Stories by New England Writers, Level Best Books (Prides Crossing, MA), 2004.

Playing God, Five Star (Waterville, ME), 2006.

(As Kate Clark Flora, with Capt. Joseph K. Loughlin) Finding Amy: A True Story of Murder in Maine, University Press of New England (Hanover, NH), 2006.

SIDELIGHTS:

Kate Flora was born in Maine where she later worked for the attorney general's office, before leaving to become a full-time writer. She has written a number of mysteries featuring Thea Kozak, a Massachusetts educational consultant and amateur private investigator who, in Chosen for Death, loses her husband in a car crash and her sister to murder. In the second book of the series, Death in a Funhouse Mirror, Thea is in a relationship with detective Andre Lemieux and looking into the death of Helene Streeter, the mother of a good friend. Eve Paris thinks her father Clifford killed Helene so that he could be with his gay lover, but there is no evidence to prove it. Booklist contributor Emily Melton felt the ending was obvious but called the story "terrific," based on its "deft characterizations, the wonderfully original humor" and Thea's "in-your-face charm and chutzpah." A Publishers Weekly contributor noted that Flora "wraps things up satisfactorily in a story that is successfully carried forward by the strength of its characters."

In Death at the Wheel, Thea's mother introduces her to Julie Bass, whose cheating husband has died in a racing accident. When the police suspect that someone tampered with Calvin's car, they arrest Julie on suspicion. Thea agrees to help her but soon discovers that the widow has been having an affair with a local doctor and that there are a number of people who disliked Calvin. "Despite Flora's tight pacing, the finale is disappointingly convenient," remarked a Publishers Weekly reviewer. Melton called the story "funny, suspenseful, playful, and moving," and described Thea as "honest and genuine."

In reviewing An Educated Death, a Publishers Weekly writer commented that Flora "rings some new changes on the academic mystery with her contemporary private school settings." Library Journal reviewer Rex E. Klett called this the "fourth in a fine series." Thea is asked to help by a friend who is the headmistress of the private school where a female student has drowned. Thea discovers that Laney Taggert was pregnant, possibly by a member of the faculty, and that an employee has a suspicious background. When she interferes with the police investigation, Thea nearly becomes a victim herself. Melton called this "another notable entry in an entertaining series."

Death in Paradise is set in Hawaii, where Thea is assisted in solving a crime by eleven-year-old Laura Mitchell, called a "bright spot" by a Publishers Weekly contributor. Thea is handling a conference for an association of girls' schools and being frustrated by her incompetent coworkers and the executive director, Martina Pullman, who has many enemies, including the first wife of her husband. When Martina is murdered, strangled with her own stocking, Thea tries to find the killer before he or she strikes again and in the process is nearly drowned while scuba diving. Klett described the book in Library Journal as "an exciting series addition." Booklist reviewer John Rowen called it "a trifle long but smoothly written, solidly plotted, and populated with strong characters."

Flora wrote her next book, Steal Away, as Katharine Clark. When asked about her use of a pseudonym by Jon Jordan for the Mystery One Bookstore Web site, she responded: "When Ballantine bought Steal Away, which is a suspense novel rather than a mystery, they were trying to create an opportunity for it to be a ‘break out’ book…. The usual marketing solution is to create a ‘brand new author’ to promote to bookstores, and that author gets a new name. That being said, I rather like the idea of being Katharine Clark."

A Publishers Weekly contributor called Steal Away a "mannered novel of suspense." Nine-year-old David Stark disappears on his way home from school, and his estranged parents, Rachel and Stephen, must work together to try to find him. The couple lost their first son to a genetic disease carried by Stephen, after which he underwent a vasectomy. David was, in fact, conceived through a sperm donation from a doctor who has contracted AIDS, thus posing the question of whether Rachel was infected. Stephen, who has been having an affair with Rachel's sister, turns to a child rescue group for help, while Rachel relies on a seemingly psychic connection with David to discover his whereabouts. A Kirkus Reviews contributor wrote that "though many twists, turns, and nailbiting moments remain as David's danger increases, Rachel's intuition will finally come to the rescue. A fine addition to the genre, and a promising debut." In a Booklist review, David Pitt noted that "fans of family-crisis novels featuring realistic characters in tough situations … should be well pleased." Library Journal contributor Alice DiNizo called Steal Away a "first-rate thriller. Readers will look forward to more from first novelist Clark."

Flora returns to her series featuring Thea Kozak with Liberty or Death, which finds her protagonist almost at the altar, prepared to marry Andre Lemieux, a state policeman. However, when terrorists kidnap her fiancé, hoping to attain the release of a political prisoner, Kozak goes undercover in a redneck community (even though she is now pregnant) in a desperate attempt to rescue Lemieux. Klett, writing in Library Journal, praised the "believable characters, solid prose, and nerve-wracking plot" of this sixth novel in the series. A Kirkus Reviews critic noted that "Thea's believable combination of anger, fear, and physical suffering makes her a natural role for Sylvester Stallone's kid sister," while a reviewer for Publishers Weekly felt the novel would "please old Thea fans and make plenty of new ones."

With her 2006 novel, Playing God, Flora created a new protagonist. The work features the Portland, Maine, policeman Joe Burgess, who is on the search for the killer of a local doctor. The circumstances of the man's death point to a sexual motive, and it was well known that the doctor had a predilection for prostitutes. However, the doctor's powerful father-in-law, as well as his colleagues, wish to keep that part of the dead man's life a closed book, so Burgess has to use all the grit at his disposal (and there is an abundance of it) to keep the investigation headed in the right direction in this "dazzling debut police procedural," as a Publishers Weekly contributor termed it. The same critic felt this would make a "promising new series." Further praise came from Booklist writer David Pitt, who thought Burgess is "one of the more intriguing protagonists to come along in a few seasons." Pitt likewise broached the idea of a series featuring Joe Burgess, "and that looks to be a very good thing," he observed.

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Bangor Daily News (Bangor, ME), June 12, 2006, "Book Tells Gripping Tale of True Crime Story."

Booklist, October 15, 1995, Emily Melton, review of Death in a Funhouse Mirror, p. 387; October 15, 1996, Emily Melton, review of Death at the Wheel, p. 406; October 1, 1997, Emily Melton, review of An Educated Death, p. 310; September 15, 1998, John Rowen, review of Death in Paradise, p. 202; October 15, 1998, David Pitt, review of Steal Away, pp. 405-406; September 15, 2006, David Pitt, review of Playing God, p. 31.

Kirkus Reviews, September 15, 1998, review of Steal Away, p. 1304; October 15, 2002, review of Liberty or Death, p. 1507; July 15, 2006, review of Playing God, p. 704.

Library Journal, October 1, 1994, Rex E. Klett, review of Chosen for Death, p. 118; October 1, 1996, Rex E. Klett, review of Death at the Wheel, p. 131; October 1, 1997, Rex E. Klett, review of AnEducated Death, p. 130; September 1, 1998, Rex E. Klett, review of Death in Paradise, p. 220; October 15, 1998, Alice DiNizo, review of Steal Away, p. 95; December 1, 2002, Rex E. Klett, review of Liberty or Death, p. 183.

Publishers Weekly, November 14, 1994, review of Chosen for Death, p. 56; September 18, 1995, review of Death in a Funhouse Mirror, p. 117; September 23, 1996, review of Death at the Wheel, p. 59; July 21, 1997, review of An Educated Death, p. 187; July 20, 1998, review of Death in Paradise, p. 211; September 28, 1998, review of Steal Away, p. 71; December 9, 2002, review of Liberty or Death, p. 66; July 17, 2006, review of Playing God, p. 139.

South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, FL), March 17, 2003, review of Liberty or Death.

ONLINE

Kate Clark Flora Home Page,http://www.kateflora.com (June 7, 2007).

Mystery One Bookstore Web site,http://www.mysteryone.com/ (October 17, 2001), Jon Jordan, "Interview with Kate Flora."

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