Sisters in Crime: UC Retiree Takes Team Approach to Whodunit

Phyllis Eveleigh, UC’s former controller who retired in 1996 after 30 years in finance on campus, likes to pen mysteries, but finds that writing can be a very lonely activity. Her first published work, Killing is Murder, presented the perfect solution to creating a novel in isolation – she co-wrote the book with six other Cincinnati-area writers.

Officially the byline on this new whodunit is listed as “Pleiades,” a name taken from the constellation of stars known as the Seven Sisters. Behind that pseudonym are Eveleigh, former ad copy writer Cay Benadum, former teacher Debbie Groen, UC alumnus and banking consultant Jane Lewin, retired business executive Bruce Martin, former employment counselor and well-known author Phyllis Martin, and writer Krista Welsh. Technically, they’re not all even sisters, but they


all members of the Cincinnati chapter of Sisters in Crime, an organization that promotes writing by females. Yes, clearly Bruce is not even a woman, but Eveleigh says he doesn’t mind working with a group of all-women co-authors.

All seven are scheduled to take part in a  book-signing from  3 to 5 p.m. Sunday, July 20, at the Kenwood Barnes & Noble.

Writing with six collaborators definitely provided Eveleigh’s social side with a source of fun and camaraderie. But it wasn’t all fun – getting seven wordsmiths to work together can be somewhat complicated.

First, the seven-member team sampled earlier and more famous attempts at group-authorship in the mystery genre. “We read a couple, and we thought they were awful. They were so hard to follow,” Eveleigh critiques. “Each author put in different clues because each had their own ideas about who did it.”

Book cover for

Book cover for

To keep

Killing is Murder

from falling into the same trap, the seven-member team took an organized approach. Each author wrote out possible characters and background on each. As a group, the authors decided on a final list of characters, hashed out details about the plot, setting and the most important detail – who did it. The writing team concluded that the best way to bring their characters together was to have them attend a writing workshop at Bromwell House in Cincinnati. The murder would occur during the conference, and the victim would be one of the workshop participants.

“It was pretty structured,” says Eveleigh. “We even had a picture of Bromwell House, a drawing of its floor plan and the landscaping outside. We had menus and seating arrangements at the tables at the conference, so we would be consistent about who sat where and said what to someone sitting next to them.”

Their finished product contains 42 chapters, each written by separate authors and told from the individual characters’ points of view.

“I’m very happy with it,” sums up Eveleigh now, although she does admit she likes some of the characters better than others. 

Acquaintances also seem to like the book, too. A long-time mentor to Eveleigh told her she thinks the mystery would make a great movie. “I also got high praise from my sister. She said, ‘Hey, it’s pretty good,’” Eveleigh laughs.

With one book now published, Eveleigh is considering finishing a UC-based mystery she started years ago. Her social side, however, keeps her working, even though she’s retired. She stays connected to UC by serving as director of the Women’s Institute for Leadership Development and part-time accountant for the Faculty Club. She confesses that she spends less time writing now in retirement than she did while working full time.

Killing is Murder is published by iUniverse ($15.95 paperback).

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