Excerpt: 'The Killing Club'

"The Killing Club" is a little mystery novel with a real twist. The book is "co-written" by "One Life to Live" soap opera character Marcie Walsh, played by actress Kathy Brier. On the soap opera, the book is part of the plotline, as the Marcie Walsh character -- a receptionist at a police station -- is penning her own mystery novel.

"The Killing Club" is co-authored by Michael Malone, a former "One Life to Live" head writer and now a crime and mystery novelist. The book follows a spunky young detective named Jamie Ferrara, who investigates the murders of several of her high school friends, who, years earlier, formed a club in which they planned the fictional murders of people who made their lives miserable.

Chapter One: Jamie

Here's the idea, Christmas comes but once a year. In Gloria, New Jersey, it comes for five months. Red-nosed reindeer are running across the roofs as soon as the ghosts come off the porches. Christmas trees get dragged out to the curb, dumping a trail of tinsel and needles, after the Valentine candy goes on display at Solly's Drugs. In Gloria, the good parents hide Santa's loot in the crawlspace by late September and they're still paying for it in July.

I'm Jamie Ferrara, Jovanna Lucia Ferrara. No kids, not married, less than a year to go before I'm 30. People don't think my family's Italian, both sides, because I have blue eyes and strawberry blonde hair. But my family's stayed 100 percent Italian since they first came to this harbor town. They were here when the mayor changed its name from Deep Port back in 1927. Gloria was the mayor's wife's name. The high school where we all went was named after her too, Gloria Hart High School. We figured the mayor must have really loved his wife, although from her picture in the hallway it was hard to tell why.

A lot of us who went to Hart still live in Gloria, even if we're always saying that someday we're going to leave. I'm one of that any-day-now set. For me, there're not many strangers here. So driving along River Street, I knew Pudge Salerno was headed back from the Planning Board meeting when I saw him park his new Lexus in front of his family restaurant. I knew the Virgin Mary and Joseph had gone to Dockside Tavern to warm up when I passed the gazebo on Etten Town Green. They'd left a sign hanging on the manger wall: "BACK IN TEN MINUTES." There was no one left guarding the wooden Jesus in the crèche but two plywood shepherds, a plastic camel and a cow. No one was going to steal him either; he had a bicycle chain around his belly.

It was a Friday, early December, bone-cold, dirty snow frozen in lumps in the gutters. A nasty wind was flapping through that one crack, right at the back of my neck, in the canvas top of my Mustang. I admit it, a 1968 Ford Mustang Shelby GT-500 is not a practical car. But I like my convertible, and life is short. I was about to be reminded of that lousy fact.

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