An eleven-year-old girl sat in front of a Remington typewriter, laboriously pecking out the beginning words of a novel. She got ten pages into it, recognized she would never be able to finish, and quit.

Alex Matthews grew up in Portland, OR, where she received a bachelor's degree in English, which did not lead into any career path she wanted to follow. Fortunately, she was married and had a baby by the time she received her degree, which gave her an excuse to avoid working outside of the home until her second child was ready for preschool.

Having used up her excuses, Alex taught English for a couple of years, then was rescued from a job she wasn't very good at when her husband's career took them to the Chicago area. The family settled in Oak Park, a progressive suburb just west of the city. This change in geography was followed by the advent of a third child, which bought her another short reprieve, during which time she began to indulge in her lifelong passion for writing. Her first taste of publication came when she started working part time for a local newspaper. As satisfying as this was, it wasn't the kind of writing she really wanted to do. But her journalistic success gave her the courage to resurrect her childhood dream of writing mysteries.

However, just as she was beginning to spend hours at her typewriter (this is a clue to her age), she was plunged into divorce and forced to face the fact that, for the first time, she would have to earn enough money to support herself and her children. After several false starts, the light bulb went on and she realized that her true calling was to be a psychotherapist.

Fast forward ten years. Alex's children are grown, her practice is thriving, and she's happily married to Allen Matthews, a fellow therapist. The only thing missing is a new challenge. So Alex—who was never able to tolerate too much peace and quiet—begins to listen to the conversations that recently started up in her head. She is fairly certain the voices represent characters who want to be in a book, not signs of schizophrenia.

The first voice belongs to psychotherapist Cassidy McCabe, a recently divorced woman who is struggling to build a private practice, pay off her ex-husband's back taxes, maintain her independence, and overcome her insecurities with men. The second voice belongs to Zach Moran, a hard-drinking investigative reporter who thinks therapy is akin to voodoo. As these two characters come into focus, Alex notices a small calico cat sitting on Cass's shoulder and biting her hair to get attention.

Soon Alex is at work on Secret's Shadow, the first book in the series, set in her own richly diverse village of Oak Park. In this book, Cass lives out Alex's worst nightmare: one of Cass's clients appears to have committed suicide, and Cass is consumed with guilt that she failed to see the signals. Then Zach—the client's estranged brother—appears at her door and tells her that he doesn't believe his brother died by his own hand. Zach convinces Cass to join in his investigation, and Cass soon discovers that she has an aptitude for solving crimes.

Although Alex has a strong interest in character development, she also loves stories. She describes her mysteries as gritty and suspenseful, with a dash of humor and warmth provided by Starshine, the cat.

StarshinekittenCagneyGrady

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