KILLINGWORTH — Karen Perry recalls shelving books, working at an independent bookstore at age 18, and imagining having a book of her own in the mystery section.
That dream came true with the publication of “The Green Beach File,” written under the pen name K.A. Perry.
The PermutedPress paperback ($16.99), released in July, is a legal mystery with an environmental twist, peppered with murder, family drama and a love interest. And it’s based in Connecticut.
“When I ended up practicing environmental law, I thought, ‘There’s a little bit of room on the shelf for this,’” Perry said.
“I tried to pick something that hadn’t been done, but that people would have enough interest in,” she said.
This first-time author explained why mysteries appeal to her.
“I like logical reasoning,” she said. “So, I like the puzzle part of it and the layering of ideas, stacking them up and then trying to develop clues.”
Local author and editor Chris Jennings Penders edited the book.
“Holy cow, it was really well done,” the Madison resident said.
Perry is married and has four children. She practices law in Killingworth, focusing on real estate, wills and trust with an occasional environmental case.
She previously worked at large Hartford law firm focusing on environmental law and spent two years as a math interventionist at Madison’s Walter C. Polson Middle School.
It was her background in environmental law that gave her the expertise to write the mystery, which features a controversy between conservationists and developers. Shoreline readers will recognize local landmarks featured in the novel, such as the largest beach in the state, a renowned bookseller and a popular bagel shop, to name a few.
“Land (conservationists) fought the development, as they had hoped to preserve the property as open space,” Perry wrote. “It was, after all, immediately adjacent to the 130-acre Hammonasset State Park, which was hugely popular and the crown jewel of Connecticut State Park system.”
Perry hopes that readers will finish this book and realize how important it is to take advantage of the beauty of nature.
“Some people really get something from time spent in nature,” she said. “They really get respite. They call it forest bathing in Japan.
“I think that a lot of people really get that, they go out in the woods and they center themselves and they feel better about the world,” she said.
“I feel like in this year, with all that’s going on and social distancing, a lot more people did that,” she noted. “They took some time and spent some time in nature. There’s something about that, there’s a relationship between people and nature that we don’t want to lose.”
The whole book takes place in the fictitious shoreline town of Mayfield, which bears a striking resemblance to Madison.
“Mayfield was a town that still had a quaint town center, with stores lining both sides and an island down the middle, decorated with pots and flowers for the summer tourists,” wrote Perry.
Penders said being able to pinpoint locales was the most exciting part of the book.
“I recognized a lot of the area,” Penders said. “I like reading about places that I know because I can say, ‘I know where that is.’ It’s so much fun.”
Nonetheless, the author insists the whole book is a work of fiction.
“There’s nothing in it that’s real,” she said. “It’s the idea of preserving land for public use. I think that’s very important. That’s the underlying, pro-environmental social message.”
With myriad characters, Perry said her favorite is Mayfield police Officer Matt, a lead investigator in the murders, but also a love interest for the main character, Jenn.
“He’s what people want in a love interest,” she said. “Charming, handsome, funny, all those good things and he’s always there.”
Perry stresses that the sparks do fly in the book, but there is nothing that would prohibit a youthful reader from enjoying the read.
“I purposefully just left it so adolescents could read it and enjoy it,” she said. “And learn from it, too. It’s also meant to have a little bit of an educational, fun spin to it.”
Perry is already working on another book — a sequel to “The Green Beach File.”
“I feel accomplished that I did something that I wanted to,” she said. “I really want to write a series because…a lot of people have written to me and asked, ‘What happens now for the main character or characters? What happens next?’ ”
Her advice to other wannabe authors.
“I think you have to pursue your dreams,” she says. "I think you have to follow your heart.”