Cynthia Hamilton’s ‘Houses of Deception’
Mystery Writer of Madeline Dawkins Series Sets Stories in Santa Barbara
By Matt Kettmann
“I have a terrible illness to thank for my writing career,” said Cynthia Hamilton, who released the sixth book of her Madeline Dawkins mystery series on July 20. While enduring nine years of diagnosing what was eventually labeled late-stage Lyme disease, Hamilton left the mortgage industry to focus on writing. “[That] allowed me to get out of my body for periods of time and up into my head, away from the constant pain,” she explained.
Setting her novels in Santa Barbara, which is where the latest book, Houses of Deception, takes place, makes it fun for resident readers to enjoy. “Local readers tell me how much they enjoy reading about fictional events that take place in settings they are familiar with,” she explained. “The fact that the stories are set in Santa Barbara will interest readers who haven’t already been introduced to the series.” She’s also been fascinated with the “charlatans” who pass through town and is focusing on a few of them in her next Madeline Dawkins book, Other People’s Money. She tells us more below.
When did you come to Santa Barbara?
Santa Barbara’s been my home since 1979. Coming here was the most important move of my life. Everything came together for me from the first day on. I immediately starting working at a restaurant on Coast Village Road, a job that was pivotal to my future. In 1984, I married the former owner of Chanticleer Restaurant. I eventually followed him into the mortgage industry, managing his company until 2008.
How did you get into writing mystery novels?
I have a terrible illness to thank for my writing career. Because it took nine years to get the correct diagnosis, I have what’s called late-stage Lyme disease, which is virtually incurable. After two frustrating years of trying to find out what was wrong with me, I gave up. I started writing, which allowed me to get out of my body for periods of time and up into my head, away from the constant pain.
Since leaving the mortgage business, I’ve been able to focus on writing. To date, I have written 13 books, six of them in the Madeline Dawkins Mystery Series. I now have a total of 11 published titles available on Amazon.
Not a bad outcome, all things considered! Writing became the blessing inside a curse.
Tell us about Houses of Deception.
Madeline and her team are dealing with two missing person cases, one of which comes to them from the event-planning side of her dual enterprises. The other case comes via shifty P.I. Russell Barnett, the man Madeline blackmailed into training her and Mike after she discovered his role in her ex-husband’s plan to divorce her without a cent in Spouse Trap, the prequel to the series.
Why should Santa Barbara readers be especially interested?
Local readers tell me how much they enjoy reading about fictional events that take place in settings they are familiar with. It adds an extra visual component that makes the stories more vivid and fun for them. I think the fact that the stories are set in Santa Barbara will interest readers who haven’t already been introduced to the series.
In addition to the setting, Santa Barbarans have seen a number of charlatans pass through our county who couldn’t resist the lure of other people’s money. I can think of four high-profile cases off the top of my head, and in each case, those men eventually served prison time. I used that theme to create new schemes for embezzling money in book seven in the series, Other People’s Money.
Do you have more books planned?
I’m deep into book seven, and there will definitely be a book eight. I could see the series going on indefinitely. Madeline is a gift that keeps giving. Her character is stimulating enough to inspire many more adventures. She brings so much to the table, as do her partner-slash-husband, Mike, and their associate, Samir.