Darien\u2019s own Tessa Wegert will see her debut mystery novel \u201cDeath in the Family\u201d hitting bookshelves on Feb. 18. The first-time author\u2019s novel follow\u2019s former NYPD detective Shana Merchant who relocated to a sleepy town in upstate New York only to find herself sucked into a dramatic case after responding to a call about a missing man on a private island. Only to discover a mattress soaked in blood when she and her partner arrive on the scene. \u201cDeath in the Family\u201d is inspired by Agatha Christie, it\u2019s in some ways a classic murder mystery whodunit story but it has a contemporary twist to it,\u201d Wegert said. \u201cWithout giving too much away I\u2019ll say that many of the family members have motive to have potentially harmed the man.\u201d She will be celebrating the publication of her book with a book launch at Barrett Bookstore in Darien on Feb. 18 at 7 p.m. During the launch Wegert will read an excerpt from her book and have a Q&A with guests. Ten years ago, while working in corporate marketing with two young children, Wegert decided to try her hand at writing a novel. \u201cI had always written fiction, I had always been interested in it, as a kid I did a lot of poetry writing, short stories, [and later] submitted some for awards and workshop opportunities. I had never tried to write a novel, I was at this point in my life where I wanted to try something different and new and I thought \u2018well I\u2019ll just give it a shot.\u2019\u201d While \u201cDeath in the Family\u201d is her first published novel, it\u2019s actually the fifth one she\u2019s written and it took three and a half years to complete from inception to publication. Previously, she had focused more on writing thrillers. \u201cThis was my first attempt at actually writing a mystery and it did take a long time to get it right because there is so much complexity involved in plotting a mystery,\u201d she said. \u201cI wasn\u2019t much of a plotter, I kinda did the fly by the seat of my pants approach to writing and then I got to this point where I wanted to write a mystery and I realized pretty quickly that was not going to work for me. I had to do a ton of revisions to plant the red herrings, to make sure the clues were where I wanted them to be, have the story unfold at the pace I wanted it to unfold while also keeping the reader engaged. All of that took a lot of time but I\u2019m happy with the outcome and I hope that people love it.\u201d She said at times she found it challenging to make sure all the moving parts of her story came across clearly, especially when she had eight or more characters moving through the same scene. \u201cThere were many times where I sat back from my laptop and went \u2018wow is this going to be too complicated?\u2019 There are so many people on the island, so many potential suspects, so many backstories, so many connections between the characters,\u201d Wegert said. When asked about why she chose to set her mystery novel in the Thousand Islands, a collection of 1,800 islands along the St. Lawrence River along the U.S.\/Candadian border, she said it was partially because of her husband. Wegert, originally from Canada, met her husband while he was in Montreal for work. She visited the Thousand Islands when she first met her husband\u2019s family who have a home on one of the small islands. Wegert actually incorporated the anxiety she had about meeting her husband\u2019s family for the first time into the book, by having her character Abella meet Jasper\u2019s family for the first time at the island when he suddenly goes missing. \u201cMy first experience meeting his family, this was 17 or so years ago, was on one of these islands, very much like the character Abella\u2019s first experience meeting Jasper\u2019s family on the island. Luckily, there was no missing man or potential murder involved,\u201d she joked. While meeting the parents worked out for the author, she said that the islands themselves stuck with her. \u201cI had always thought the Thousand Islands would be the perfect place to set a mystery, it has a lot of interesting history, it\u2019s very picturesque but there\u2019s also this kind of underlying threat.\u201d Wegert, a self-proclaimed mystery fan, said the best mystery features a slow burn. \u201cI love a mystery that unfolds over time. I think that\u2019s something that\u2019s inherent to a lot of mystery novels: you want the experience of not only uncovering bits and pieces of the plot as you read and the characters\u2019 individual motives and trying to decipher what actually happened with the crime, but also understanding aspects of the characters in different ways as the story progresses.\u201d In addition to working and raising two middle schoolers and a puppy with her husband, Wegert said she\u2019s an active member at the Darien Arts Center where she takes dance lessons and martial arts classes. And if she\u2019s not doing any of that or writing, then she\u2019s reading. \u201cI could talk about the mysteries I like to read all day,\u201d she said. \u201cI\u2019m never not reading a mystery.\u201d She said Louise Penny, Wendy Walker, Ruth Ware, Jane Harper, Lucy Foley and Tana French are among her favorite authors and inspirations. For those wondering what\u2019s next for Wegert, she said the next Shana Merchant book in her series is slated to come out in 2021 and that readers can expect to learn more about Shana\u2019s backstory. For more information about her book launch, visit barrettbookstore.com\/event\/tessa-wegert-death-family.