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Astorian gumshoe returns in fourth mystery novel

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Husband-and-wife writer team Lori and Tony Karayianni, who write under the pen name Tori Carrington, have just churned out their fourth novel in the Sopie Metropolis series, entitled "Working Stiff" and starring the pert and fiercely independent Greek-American gumshoe from Astoria, where the books are set.

The Greek inspiration for the novels comes mainly from Tony, who is originally from Athens and moved to New York when he was 18. Shortly thereafter, he moved to Toledo, Ohio, to look for work. It proved a fateful move for Karyianni, as he soon met his future wife and writing partner, Lori.

When the book begins, it's been seven months since Sophie caught her groom messing around with the bridesmaid and Sophie is faced with some major life choices. "She decides to change her entire life and instead of going back to waitressing, she decides to go work for her uncle's detective agency," Lori said. "She basically goes from being a small-time pet detective to master sleuth. So things get a little darker, a little grittier for Sophie in this book."

After a body turns up missing at her Aunt Soteria's funeral home, Sophie soon meets the sister of Johnny Laughton, who begs her to investigate a murder that she believes her brother is wrongly accused of committing. "She kind of trips on to all kinds of things she's never dealt with before and has to have her wits about her," Lori said of the plot shifts in this fourth book.

Lori and Tony have written more than 40 novels to date and have been writing together for 25 years, though the couple only started publishing in 2000. The idea to work as a writing team began when Lori was unsatisfied with the way a book she was reading ended. The couple discussed what could have made the story better and then Tony suggested that they write a book of their own.

"We don't regret it at all. We never run out of things to talk about, it's always fresh," Lori said of her longstanding working relationship with her husband. "He's very left-brain oriented and I'm very right-brain oriented, so together we have a full brain," she quipped.

She calls Tony a "master plotter," as he devises the outline for all of the books they write and Lori then writes them out. The Sophie Metropolis series has already been plotted out for 10 books.

One of Tony's favorite dramatic elements is romantic suspense. "I love romance," he said. "It's about relationships and the relationship comes from romance." The writing duo also pens novels for Harlequin's racy imprint, Blaze.

And the Sophie Metropolis series is certainly not lacking for romance, as Sophie is conflicted about her two recurring beaus: Jake Porter, a dashing Australian bounty hunter, and Dino, the sweet and solid baker her parents would love to see her marry.

"In each book she kind of goes back and forth. Is she going to choose the bad boy? Or is she going to choose the guy her parents would really like to see her with?" Lori said. Tony and Lori each have their own opinion of who she will end up with. "It's only the fourth book, so we have plenty of time to work through that disagreement," Lori joked.

The couple dreams of one day moving to Astoria, where the Sophie Metropolis novels are set. "We'd love to live on Ditmars, but it's monstrously expensive, so we live vicariously through Sophie," Lori said. They visit the neighborhood twice a year, however, to research their novels, taking copious notes on Astoria's businesses, people and landmarks. "We're huge people-watchers and everyone inspires a thought," she said. "It's great to visit. We go to Astoria and we're in Greece."

"Working Stiff" is published by St. Martin's Press. For more visit sophiemetro.com.

Posted 6:37 pm, October 10, 2011
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