The signs were favorable for my call to debut author and astrologer Mitchell Scott Lewis at his Manhattan home. Consulting the stars for any matter of events—even a phone interview—is run of the mill for Lewis, who has been a practicing astrologer in New York City for more than 20 years. Well in advance, Lewis successfully predicted the exact top of the housing market, the deterioration of the mortgage business and the 2008 market crash. He has appeared on 20/20 and been quoted in Barron’s, the New York Post and other leading publications.
“You can use astrology for anything,” Lewis says, “and I’ve always wanted to write a mystery. Many of my clients have asked me why I didn’t write an astrology book. The effort that goes into that would be the same as a novel and, quite frankly,” he admits, “the only people that would read it would be astrologers.” Lewis hopes to appeal to a wider audience. “I wanted to fit the astrology into the mystery genre, not to shove it down people’s throats, but to show them what can be done.”
In Murder in the 11th House, the first book in Lewis’ Starlight Detective Agency series, birth chart, street-smart savvy astrology detective David Lowell takes on the investigation of a pro bono murder case to help out his young defense attorney daughter, Melinda.
“I wanted to fit the astrology into the mystery genre."
When asked if he had ever assisted in a murder case investigation, Lewis was at first hesitant to reply. “I’ve been consulted by private families—not by the police—to do some work on a murder case. It was a pretty sordid affair. To tell you the truth, it’s a little bit scary when you’re dealing with murder and you’re not David Lowell with a bulletproof car, a bodyguard and all the money in the world.”
Lewis says he conjured up a wealthy private investigator for a reason. “I got so tired of all those poor schleps, like Rockford—although I love the guy, I wanted someone with power so I could see how he uses it, someone who has money in a society that has been corrupted by it. All around him is a society that is crumbling . . . hopefully it will pull itself together, but as of now, we’re in a dark time of the history of mankind.”
In Murder in the 11th House, darkness comes in the form of a car bomb explosion in the parking garage of the courthouse that kills Judge Farrah Winston, a beautiful, much loved, paragon of virtue. The accused is Joanna (Johnny) Colbert—a foul-mouthed bartender with a gambling problem and a hair trigger temper.
“In the case of the judge,” Lewis says, “I developed the character first, then fit the astrology to her. With Johnny, her chart came to me first, very quickly, because I wanted certain personality traits. Then I wound up changing it right before publication because the moon was within a few minutes of the sun, which makes it more powerful and brings up the father figure more, an area where Johnny has a big problem.”
The astrology used in the book is researched and authentic. “I’m going to put the charts up on my website so anyone who’s studying astrology can see what I’m talking about. But I’m keeping Lowell’s chart a secret for a reason. I’m giving clues, and at some point, I’ll probably ask my readers what kind of chart they think he has and why.”
As the story progresses, all the evidence—celestial and otherwise—points to Johnny. Determined to find out who killed Judge Farrah even if it turns out to be their client, Lowell meticulously examines the charts of the judge’s clerk, a self-important senior partner in a prestigious law firm, the judge’s sister; a pathologically shy, mousy woman who stands to inherit her dead sibling’s fortune; and even the judge herself. As time grows short, Lowell enlists the aid of his feisty secretary Sarah, a smart cookie with a penchant for expensive shoes, and his trusty sidekick, Mort, an accomplished hacker and sometime psychic.
When someone tries to kill Johnny, Lowell knows he’s on the right track. But there’s a bad moon rising, and they’re all endangered as the action heats up.
Although you may not believe in signs, by the time you reach the end of Lewis’ Murder in the 11th House, you might be wondering if it’s possible to determine the identity of a murderer with a little help from the stars.
In spite of all the darkness he sees around him, Lewis has a well-developed sense of humor that shines through in his quirky characters, resulting in a fun, entertaining, socially insightful and informative read.