About the city of Atlanta, Georgia, setting for the Joplin/Halloran mystery series

“All the Atlanta details, locations & names just add the extra touch.”
- Jan, Amazon reviewer
“Enough Rope is a must read by anyone who ever lived in Atlanta.”
- Kathryn, Amazon reviewer
“Loved the Atlanta landmarks.”
Mary Ann, Amazon reviewer
Goldberg's Challah French Toast

Goldberg's Challah French Toast

Readers and reviewers seem to agree: The Joplin/Halloran mysteries are as much about Atlanta as they are about Medical Examiner Investigator Hollis Joplin or attorney Tom Halloran. That's probably because I have so many personal ties to the city (known occasionally as Hotlanta or The ATL). I thought I'd share some of my favorite haunts, many of which crop up in my books.

Favorite bookstore: The Buckhead Barnes & Noble, at The Peach shopping center on Peachtree Road (It doesn’t get much more Atlanta than that!)

Favorite restaurant: Bistro Niko, a French restaurant on Peachtree, in the heart of Buckhead. Carrie Salinger loves their classic martini.

Favorite place to spend a Saturday morning: Goldberg’s Deli. Try the challah French toast.

Favorite place to take out-of-town guests: My dining room. I love to cook, especially Italian food. But if we want to go out, Atlanta has no shortage of amazing eateries, such as Tacqueria del SolRumi’s KitchenAnis, Horseradish Grill, PortofinoDavio’s, and Valenza.

Bistro Niko's Gougères

Bistro Niko's Gougères

How long have you lived in atlanta?

Since I was ten years old, except for college, one year at Parris Island before my father retired from the Marine Corps, and the time I lived in Rye, NY with my first husband. I keep coming back, and even though I live in Big Canoe now, my husband and I still spend a lot of time there.


You incorporate many identifiable Atlanta landscapes into your books, including Piedmont Park and One Atlantic Center. Yet it’s all set in the fictional Milton County. Why?

I wanted to have more creative control over the medical examiner’s office where Joplin, Jack Tyndall, and Carrie Salinger work, but also to differentiate it from the ME offices in both Dekalb and Fulton counties. And it was a way to introduce some political and socioeconomic issues that interest—and concern—me. There once was a Milton County, and there’s a drive to recreate it, using the more affluent upper half of Fulton County.


In your various types of criminal justice work, you’ve seen some of the darkest corners of Atlanta. Did that change the way you saw the city?

The short answer is yes, I saw some terrible things, but what bothered me the most was how the different parts of the CJ system almost sabotage each other. As one of my professors put it, “We (meaning the system) are the client, not the public.”


Is there any character in the books who is most like you?

I suppose that would be Carrie Salinger, in the sense that she is sometimes the “eyes and ears” of the reader and introduces/reports on what she is learning at the ME’s office. Her initial reactions are a lot like mine were when I saw my first autopsy. Also, as I mentioned above, I was raised in a very insular, protected environment, as she was, and I tended to live in my head. She also loves Giada De Laurentiis' cookbooks. That’s where the similarities end, unfortunately.


Do you use real events in your novels? For example, was there a real Bobby Greenleaf?

I do sometimes use actual events from around the country as the basis for some of the things that occur in my novels, but as most authors do, I take liberties to suit the story. Bobby Greenleaf was based on a boy named Etan Patz, who disappeared in New York City decades ago. His remains were found in 2013, and his murderer confessed.

While I was writing, the name Bobby Greenleaf resonated with me for some reason, so I asked my mother if there had been a kidnapped child with that name when I was young, and she told me about Bobby Greenlease, who was kidnapped in the fifties, I believe. 

I wanted a catalyst for the black community’s outrage over how long it took to investigate what would later be called the Atlanta Child Murders, when so much attention was paid to the kidnapping of an affluent white child. Because of Etan Patz, missing children began appearing on milk cartons, and states like Georgia began funding positions for analysts at law enforcement agencies, which is how I ended up at the GBI. But Edward Hope Smith, the first black child who disappeared when Wayne Williams began his killing spree, was virtually unnoticed at the time.


This isn't about Atlanta, but what does "Mortui Vivos Docent" mean?

Literally, "the dead teach the living," in Latin. It was used to justify the dissection of cadavers in the days when cutting up bodies was regarded as heretical by the Catholic Church, and has since become associated with the forensic investigation of death as practiced by medical examiners and coroners. In my fictional Milton County Medical Examiner's Office, MORTUI VIVOS DOCENT is on a sign above the door to remind those who work with the dead to be respectful and grateful.

downtown Atlanta panorama.jpg