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Riggs, Cynthia 1931–

Riggs, Cynthia 1931–

PERSONAL: Born June 15, 1931, Martha's Vineyard, MA; daughter of Sidney Noyes (high school principal and printmaker) and Dionis (author and poet) Riggs; married George E. Stoertz, August 10, 1952; children: William S., James C., Mary W., Ann C., Robert R. Education: Antioch College, B.A., 1953; Vermont College, M.F.A., 2000.

ADDRESSES: Home—West Tisbury, MA. E-mail[email protected]

CAREER: Writer. Freelance writer, 1953–64; Smithsonian Oceanographic Sorting Center, museum aide, 1964–65; Ocean Science News, associate editor, 1965–67; U.S. Congress, press secretary for congressman Hastings Keith, 1967; Marine Tech. Society Journal, managing editor, 1967–71; MTS Memo, editor, 1967–71; National Geographic Society, freelance writer, editor, and researcher, 1971–; Petroleum Today, editor, 1972–84; AAA Tour Books, managing editor, 1984–86; Cleaveland House, West Tisbury, MA, proprietor. Also host of the television show On Island Writing, MVTV.

MEMBER: Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime.

AWARDS, HONORS: Antarctic Service medal, U.S. Department of Defense, 1965; School Betterment Award, DC Public School System, 1968–69; Outstanding Women in Marine Science, New England section Marine Technology Society, 1971.

WRITINGS:

"VICTORIA TRUMBULL" MYSTERIES

Deadly Nightshade, Thomas Dunne Books (New York, NY), 2001.

The Cranefly Orchid Murders, Thomas Dunne Books (New York, NY), 2002.

The Cemetery Yew, Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Minotaur (New York, NY), 2003.

Jack in the Pulpit, Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Minotaur (New York, NY), 2004.

The Paperwhite Narcissus, Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Minotaur (New York, NY), 2005.

Indian Pipes, Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Minotaur (New York, NY), 2006.

SIDELIGHTS: Cynthia Riggs lived much of her married life in Washington, DC, where she raised her five children and did various jobs, such as a museum aide at the Smithsonian, Ocean Science News associate editor, press secretary for a congressman, a freelance writer, editor and researcher for the National Geographic Society, and other positions. She returned to Martha's Vineyard, where she was born and raised, in the early 1980s. There she and her mother turned the family home into a bed and breakfast, catering to poets and writers, called The Cleaveland House, which she still runs. Riggs returned to college at the age of sixty-eight, and two years later she earned her degree in creative writing from Vermont College.

Her first book, Deadly Nightshade, is the story of ninety-two-year-old poet Victoria Trumbull. While waiting for her granddaughter Elizabeth to return from her harbor patrolling job, Victoria hears a scream across the water. Elizabeth, Victoria, and her boss investigate the scream and find a dead body. Soon another body turns up at the harbor, and it appears that Victoria may be next since she is a witness to murder. That does not scare Victoria, however, as she investigates the crimes. Jenny McLarin, writing in Booklist, stated, "Despite her advanced age, here's hoping Victoria Trumbull is solving crimes for many years to come."

Riggs's The Cranefly Orchid Murders, another "Victoria Trumbull" mystery, is again set on Martha's Vineyard. A reviewer in Publishers Weekly wrote that Riggs's "prodigious fund of natural lore … complements her authentic portrait of the Vineyard's human community." The reviewer also commended Riggs for her "bits of sly humor and wordplay [that] add to the fun."

Riggs continued her series with The Cemetery Yew, which finds Victoria Trumbull involved in the case of stolen gems, murder, and the missing casket of a ten-year-old suicide victim who is finally going to be reburied on Martha's Vineyard. Writing in the Library Journal, Rex Klett called the mystery "appealing and unusual." Victoria is involved in a battle between a new and retiring minister while investigating the death of four parishioners from the same church in Jack in the Pulpit. Meanwhile, gossip about the four dead women is spreading through town, and Victoria's granddaughter shows up on the run from her abusive husband. A Publishers Weekly reviewer commented: "A sensitive observer of the scene, Riggs writes with warmth and humor about all-too-human characters with whom readers can readily identify."

The Paperwhite Narcissus finds Victoria looking into a series of murders in which written obituaries are anonymously sent to the Island Enquirer after the victims' deaths. Victoria has been fired from her column writing for the paper but is rehired by the publisher, whose wife ends up a murder victim, to find out who is writing the obits. Victoria eventually finds the writer but believes someone else is really the murderer. An MBR Bookwatch contributor called the mystery "a delightful cozy starring a likable protagonist." In her sixth "Martha's Vineyard" mystery, Indian Pipes, Riggs sets Victoria on the case of Jube Burkhardt, an engineer whose body she finds at the bottom of a cliff. Suspecting that Jube did not commit suicide but was murdered, Victoria starts to investigate, leading her to a dispute over building an Indian casino and a run-in with a motorcycle gang. A Publishers Weekly contributor noted the novel's "lovely descriptions of the Vineyard … and a cast of eccentric supporting characters."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, April 1, 2001, Jenny McLarin, review of Deadly Nightshade, p. 1450.

Kirkus Reviews, March 15, 2001, review of Deadly Nightshade, p. 369; August 1, 2003, review of The Cemetery Yew, p. 996; March 15, 2006, review of Indian Pipes, p. 265.

Library Journal, May 1, 2001, Rex Klett, review of Deadly Nightshade, p. 129; August, 2003, Rex Klett, review of The Cemetery Yew, p. 140; May 1, 2004, Rex E. Klett, review of Jack in the Pulpit, p. 144; May 1, 2005, Rex E. Klett, review of The Paperwhite Narcissus, p. 66.

MBR Bookwatch, April, 2005, review of The Paper-white Narcissus.

Publishers Weekly, April 23, 2001, review of Deadly Nightshade, p. 53; April 29, 2002, review of The Cranefly Orchid Murders, pp. 45-46; April 19, 2004, review of Jack in the Pulpit, p. 43; March 6, 2006, review of Indian Pipes, p. 49.

ONLINE

Cynthia Riggs Home Page, http://www.cynthiariggs.com (October 11, 2006).

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