Visiting us today is Antonia Bingham.
In August 1993, Long Island’s East End was shocked by the murder of 16- year-old Susie Whitaker at the oceanside mansion of one of its wealthiest residents: billionaire pharmaceutical heir Ambassador Gerald Framingham. Susie was found bludgeoned to death on the tennis court, her head pounded by a tennis racket, her body crumpled. The number one suspect? Susie’s best friend Pauline Framingham, the Ambassador’s daughter. Money, clout, power and prestige caused this case to disappear, and Susie’s murder to remain unsolved. Until now.
I’m Antonia Bingham, and I plan on finally bringing Susie’s killer to justice 24 years after her untimely demise. After two bouts of crime solving (DEATH ON WINDMILL WAY, DEATH ON LILY POND LANE) I thought my days dabbling in death were behind me. But how can I resist stepping back in time and uncovering the truth when the number one suspect in the case—Pauline Framingham—hires me to do just that? As I set out to investigate the case—with the help of my trio of friends: critically acclaimed novelist Joseph Fowler, crime beat reporter Larry Lipper, and store manager Genevieve Dwyer—I discover that life amongst the rich may not be all it’s cracked up to be. Working through the list of suspects, one keeps coming to the forefront as the leading one: Pauline Framingham. Did she only hire Antonia to amuse herself? Or is she innocent? Do rich people have to play by the rules? I’ve got to find out.
2. What made you decide to take on such a risky endeavor?
First and foremost I felt a lot of compassion for the victim, Susie Whitaker, who was killed when she was only sixteen years old and the crime was never solved. I felt for her family and her mother who is now dying and wishes to see her daughter’s killer brought to justice. Additionally, once I have been challenged to solve a puzzle it is very difficult for me to back down. I’m an inquisitive person (okay, some would say nosy) so I am pretty relentless in interviewing people until I receive the information I need. I like to think I have a soft touch, though. Just keep people talking and eventually they will tell you what you want to know. That’s how I investigated this crime.
3. Did you ever imagine yourself being involved in fighting crime?
Not at all! But then, my life has taken many twists and turns that I didn’t expect. I married a strong handsome police officer many years ago and had no idea that he was a violent and abusive person. I was confused and never thought I would have the strength to walk away but I did. I think sometimes you don’t know what grit you are made of but once you really test yourself to do something difficult and challenging you can do anything. And for me, attempting to solve crimes is totally based out of a naïve belief that I can do anything. I have no formal training, I’m not a cop, the closest I am is a fan of crime fiction, but what do you know, I already have a few solved cases under my apron.
4. Who would you say is the least pleased about your additional career choice of amateur sleuthing? Or is detective work your only career?
The least pleased are probably the local police who would like me to mind my business and stay out of theirs! I am an innkeeper and I also am the head chef of the restaurant in the inn, so sleuthing is a part time gig. I’d like to say that my kitchen staff would prefer to have me in the kitchen but they actually do pretty well without me!
5. What are your strengths and weaknesses?
I like to start with the positive so I will say I think I’m a good listener. I like to hear people’s stories; I like to chat with people and meet new people; that’s why I really enjoy owning an inn and running a restaurant. I’m an extrovert. I think I probably meddle too much in things that have little to do with me and I can be quite nosy sometimes so that is definitely a weakness. I also have no self-control when it comes to food, particularly sweets and carbs, and oh yes, a nice gooey cheese platter.
6. Describe what being a self-rescue princess (a strong, confident woman) means to you.
I would like to think of myself as a self-rescue princess! When I was in my bad marriage it really was up to me to pull myself out of it, and I finally did. Even though I had a great family and friends and a real support system, it was only me who could ultimately save myself. I guess when I hear the word ‘rescue’ I think of it as one person helping another, so I probably would be a self-save princess. And you don’t become a strong, confident woman overnight. I had to work on myself and believe in myself—that I was worthy of love and friendships; that I was a good enough cook to own a restaurant—before I became that woman.
7. What one advice/wisdom would you like to pass onto young women?
Be a mentor. It’s important to help other women—or men—rise up in the profession you have chosen. Sheila Widnall, who was the first female Secretary of the Air Force once said in a commencement address: “As you make your way up the corporate ladder, don’t pull it up behind you.” I find that to be very sound advice.
8. What was one lesson you learned during this challenging time in your life?
During my latest attempt at crime solving I realized that I had made some truly great friends in East Hampton, the town I moved to only three years ago. From my friend Joseph, the acclaimed historical novelist, to Larry Lipper, the annoying but dogged crime reporter for the local newspaper, to my staff at the inn, there are people I can rely on who really care about me.
9. If your story or life had a theme song, what would it be?
“I will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor. I have survived a bad man and some bad times so it has given me hope. It’s such a positive message, and with all the murder I’m getting mixed up in, it’s a good mantra.
10. Do you plan on dabbling in amateur sleuthing in the future, or have you hung up your detective hat?
I always say the next case is the last, but I know I’ll be solving crimes in the Hamptons until they stop happening.