Donna Huston Murray’s New Mystery Tackles a National Epidemic
In FOR BETTER OR WORSE Donna Huston Murray’s 11th novel, the mystery author complicates a frazzled young mother’s life with an angry, controlling husband. Astonished by the actual statistic—one in four women will be severely injured by an intimate partner in her lifetime—Murray challenged herself to work enlightening facts about domestic abuse into a cozy mystery.
“Cozies,” named for the British tea cozy, typically feature an amateur detective and very little violence or gore. “To give my readers what they expect—a mental puzzle solved by someone they’d like for a friend—I just did what Agatha Christie did. I kept the unpleasant bits offstage.”
Murray’s series character, Ginger Barnes, also asks what readers might want to know: Why do abused women so often stay? Lack of access to money is the main reason, but the relentless undermining of the woman’s confidence, isolation from her friends and family, fear of losing her children, and threats of retribution also contribute.
Whether instinctive or deliberate, the abuser’s goals may have been established even before marriage. Convinced that he’s better than everyone else, he believes he deserves a privileged life. Control of a vulnerable woman is his way of securing that life. Expert Lundy Bancroft’s condensed explanation: “He has a distorted sense of right and wrong.”
As Murray read through Bancroft’s list of warning signs, it occurred to her that, with the exception of violence, most of the behaviors described her father. “I can’t believe I never caught on!” Apparently, that, too, is typical. Abusers purposely keep their families confused to protect their private agenda. Although both her parents are gone, Murray said she’s grateful to have answers she never thought she would get.
The hope is that FOR BETTER OR WORSE will allow “some mystery reader somewhere” to grasp her situation early enough to make a difference. “When you’re sensitized to being demeaned and manipulated, you’re better equipped to do something about it.”
Publisher Weekly’s The BookLife Prize: “…a great story…sympathetic, empathetic, and entertaining.”
NOTE TO EDITORS: a downloadable copy of the novel is available for the media upon request.