Hart, Ellen 1949-
Hart, Ellen 1949-
Born Patricia Ellen Boehnhardt, August 10, 1949, in Minneapolis, MN; daughter of Herman C. and Marjory Boehnhardt; partner of Kathleen Kruger; children: Shawna Kruger Gibson, Bethany Kruger. Education: Ambassador College, Pasadena, CA, B.A., 1971.
Writer, educator, and chef. Ambassador College, Pasadena, CA, teaching assistant, c. 1972-75; The Loft (independent writing community), mystery writing teacher.
Lambda Literary Award, 1994, for A Small Sacrifice, 1997, for Robber's Wine, 2000, for Hunting the Witch, 2002, for Merchant of Venus, 2003, for Immaculate Midnight; Minnesota Book Award for fiction, 1995, for A Small Sacrifice, 1996, for Faint Praise, and 2005, for The Iron Girl; Golden Crown Literary Award, 2005, for An Intimate Ghost.
"JANE LAWLESS" MYSTERY SERIES
Hallowed Murder, Seal Press (Seattle, WA), 1989, reprinted, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 2006.
Vital Lies, Seal Press (Seattle, WA), 1990, reprinted, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 2004.
Stage Fright, Seal Press (Seattle, WA), 1992, reprinted, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 2004.
A Killing Cure, Seal Press (Seattle, WA), 1993, reprinted, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 2004.
A Small Sacrifice, Seal Press (Seattle, WA), 1994.
Faint Praise, Seal Press (Seattle, WA), 1995.
Robber's Wine, Seal Press (Seattle, WA), 1996.
Wicked Games, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 1998.
Hunting the Witch, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 1999.
Merchant of Venus, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 2001.
Immaculate Midnight, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 2002.
An Intimate Ghost, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 2004.
The Iron Girl, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 2005.
Also author of Night Vision.
"SOPHIE GREENWAY" MYSTERY SERIES
This Little Piggy Went to Murder, Ballantine (New York, NY), 1994.
For Every Evil, Ballantine (New York, NY), 1995.
The Oldest Sin, Ballantine (New York, NY), 1996.
Murder in the Air, Ballantine (New York, NY), 1997.
Slice and Dice, Fawcett Books (New York, NY), 2000.
Dial M for Meat Loaf, Fawcett Books (New York, NY), 2001.
Death on a Silver Platter, Fawcett Books (New York, NY), 2003.
No Reservations Required, Fawcett Books (New York, NY), 2005.
Ellen Hart writes of two amateur detectives in her mystery novels; some books feature the smart, savvy restaurateur and lesbian amateur detective Jane Lawless, while others revolve around Sophie Greenway, a newspaper restaurant critic. Hart's own background in the restaurant business in Minnesota is drawn upon in both series.
Speaking of the Jane Lawless mystery Vital Lies, in which the fictional Fothergill Inn and its associated Minnesota residents form the nucleus of the plot, a Publishers Weekly reviewer commented: "This compelling whodunit has the psychological maze of a Barbara Vine mystery and the feel of Agatha Christie." This combination, according to some critics, could describe most of Hart's novels. She invariably has Lawless unraveling the complicated relationships among a host of characters. In Stage Fright, for example, Lawless investigates a theatrical family when the young heir is found murdered on stage and an actor claims to be a long-lost grandson of the family's founder. In A Killing Cure, Lawless looks into the machinations at a Minneapolis women's club after two prominent members are found murdered. A Library Journal contributor noted that the latter book contained "strong characters, setting, and investigation." Maria Kuda, writing in Booklist, called A Killing Cure a "top-notch" mystery upholding "the venerable whodunit tradition of maximal suspense and character development but minimal gore."
A Small Sacrifice concerns a reunion among a group of college friends who band together to help another member of their group, an alcoholic actress. The appearance of a male classmate causes tension among members of the group, and his subsequent mysterious demise prompts Lawless's friend Cordelia to request her help. A Publishers Weekly reviewer described the "absorbing" action as "driven by romantic and competitive connections that convincingly cross genders."
Faint Praise, Hart's sixth Lawless mystery, "is the best caper yet for the lesbian restaurateur and amateur sleuth," according to Whitney Scott in Booklist. The events focus on the unexplained death of a television personality and an apparently coincidental series of security breaches, assaults, and murders at his apartment house. Writing in Publishers Weekly, Sybil Steinberg described the residents of Linden Lofts as "an appealing hodge-podge of eccentrics, lost souls, closeted gays, homophobes, cross-dressers and yuppies brought convincingly to life."
Wicked Games finds Lawless investigating odd goings-on in her own household. After renting a room to a psychic, Lawless finds that the man's sister has also moved into the neighborhood and is being questioned about the supposed suicide of her former fiance. Then she discovers that the house she lives in was once owned by the siblings' family, and was the location where their brother fell from the roof in a crippling accident. Meanwhile, the bones of a young girl are unearthed in Lawless's backyard. Whitney Scott, writing in Booklist, described the plot as containing "eerie games of deceit, half-truths, secret pasts, and hidden bodies." "Hart adeptly wraps up the puzzles," noted a contributor to Publishers Weekly, "and she also keeps questions about Lawless's private life sufficiently unresolved to lure fans back for the next installment." Scott concluded: "This jewel of a lesbian detective series continues to flourish."
Hart's This Little Piggy Went to Murder introduces amateur detective Sophie Greenway, a food critic, who, unlike Lawless, is heterosexual. Sophie's old friend Amanda faces a crisis when mysterious events, including murder, suddenly affect her and members of her family. Maria Simson commented in Publishers Weekly that "there are some good, nail-bitingly tense scenes and lots of red herrings."
Over the years Hart has continued to write novels for both of her mystery series. In Immaculate Midnight, Jane Lawless finds that she and her father, Ray Lawless, are targets for murder after a suspected arsonist and murderer whom Ray Lawless was defending commits suicide in jail. When Jane starts investigating, she soon discovers that the man may have been innocent and that the notorious Midnight Man may still be committing murder. Lynne Maxwell, writing in the Lambda Book Report, commented: "With numerous twists of plot, Immaculate Midnight chronicles Jane Lawless's clever unveiling of the Midnight Man's true identity."
Lawless returns in An Immaculate Ghost, this time trying to find out who spiked the food and drinks at a wedding party she catered. Not only did the drugs cause the guests to hallucinate and behave shabbily, the groom dived into an empty pool and died from his injuries. Booklist contributor Whitney Scott wrote: "Hart keeps us turning the pages as she cleverly shows past sins contaminating current lives."
The Iron Girl sets Lawless off on a new case when she discovers a gun among the belongings of her late partner, Christine. Lawless recalls that the night before her partner died, three people were murdered in a house that Christine was selling as a real estate agent. Suspicious, Lawless decides to look into the matter and soon is haunted by her dead lover: her investigation leads her to a woman who looks exactly like Christine. Although warned by her friend Cordelia not to hire the woman to work for her, Lawless ignores the advice "much to the gladdening of established and new Lawless fans everywhere," as noted by Whitney Scott in Booklist.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, September 15, 1993, Maria Kuda, review of A Killing Cure, p. 131; October 15, 1995, Whitney Scott, review of Faint Praise, p. 388; September 1, 1996, p. 67; August, 1998, Whitney Scott, review of Wicked Games, p. 1974; July, 2002, Whitney Scott, review of Immaculate Midnight, p. 1826; March 1, 2004, Whitney Scott, review of An Intimate Ghost, p. 1133; August, 2005, Whitney Scott, review of The Iron Girl, p. 1999.
Kirkus Reviews, January 15, 2004, review of An Intimate Ghost, p. 63.
Lambda Book Report, March, 2001, R.D. Zimmerman, interview with the author, p. 11; November-December, 2002, Lynne Maxwell, review of Immaculate Midnight, p. 31.
Library Journal, September 1, 1993, review of A Killing Cure, p. 225; August, 1996, p. 118; August, 1998, Rex E. Klett, review of Wicked Games, p. 139; July, 2002, Rex E. Klett, review of Immaculate Midnight, p. 126; March 1, 2004, Rex E. Klett, review of An Intimate Ghost, p. 112; August 1, 2005, Rex E. Klett, review of The Iron Girl, p. 59.
Publishers Weekly, February 22, 1991, review of Vital Lies, p. 214; September 7, 1992, review of Stage Fright, pp. 91-92; August 9, 1993, review of A Killing Cure, p. 468; August 1, 1994, review of A Small Sacrifice, p. 73; November 7, 1994, Maria Simson, review of This Little Piggy Went to Murder, p. 70; October 16, 1995, Sybil Steinberg, review of Faint Praise, p. 45; August 5, 1996, review of Robber's Wine, p. 434; November 18, 1996, review of The Oldest Sin, p. 70; June 15, 1998, review of Wicked Games, p. 46.
Ellen Hart Home Page,http://www.ellenhart.com (May 25, 2006).
GLBTQ,http://www.glbtq.com/ (May 25, 2006), brief profile of the author.
Mystery Guide, http://www.mysteryguide.com/ (May 25, 2006), review of Hallowed Murder.