Thoft '86 Awarded for Private-Eye Novel

On September 16, the Private Eye Writers of America awarded Ingrid Thoft '86 their annual Shamus Award for Best Private Eye Novel for her book, Brutality, part of her acclaimed Fina Ludlow series. Thoft's fictional detective will be the subject of an ABC legal drama currently in development.

"It's an amazing honor to receive this award," Thoft said. "Just being nominated alongside private-eye fiction giants like Robert Crais, J.A. Jance, Sara Paretsky, and Robert Leininger was a prize in itself."

The mission of the Private Eye Writers of America is to support and further the private eye (P.I.) genre, elevating the P.I. story from a sub-genre of the mystery to a genre of its own.

On creating her character Fina Ludlow, a professional investigator, Thoft said, "I made a decision to create a character who is a professional investigator rather than an amateur detective, because I had encountered limitations in writing about an amateur sleuth. Over time, I found her amateur status becoming problematic; she could only stumble over so many bodies before it strained credulity! So I made Fina a professional investigator, which opened up a lot of possibilities and gave me options as the series progressed."

Brutality is the fourth installment in Thoft's Fina Ludlow series. In it, Ludlow is hired by the mother of a young soccer mom who was attacked in her kitchen. The victim, Liz, was in the process of suing her alma mater, "New England University"—a suit that could be a legal gold mine. 

From the book's description:

"Twenty years earlier, Liz had been a collegiate soccer star known for her physical toughness; however, a serious cognitive decline has soured her soccer memories. She’s convinced that her aggressive style of play—and the university’s willingness to ignore head injuries in favor of a win—has put her health and her future in jeopardy, and someone needs to be held responsible. 

"Was Liz attacked to stop her lawsuit, or were there other secrets in the seemingly innocent woman’s life? Fina discovers that wading into the financially lucrative and emotionally charged world of collegiate sports requires nerves of steel. As the list of suspects grows and hidden agendas are revealed, Fina wonders if any game is worth the price."

Thoft, who now lives in Seattle, was born in Boston, was raised in Marblehead, and is a graduate of Wellesley College. Growing up in Marblehead, Boston played a significant role in her family’s life. "Both of my parents worked in the city," she said, "and my older sisters went to school there. My parents were also proponents of exposing us to various cultural offerings, so it wasn’t unusual for us to spend a day in the city seeing the sights, eating at interesting restaurants, visiting a museum or attending a concert. I didn’t grow up in a seedy neighborhood—rather a picturesque seaside town—but I’ve done a lot of research, and I’m familiar with the places about which I write."

Her interest in the P.I. life and her desire to create a believable P.I. character led her to the certificate program in private investigation at the University of Washington.

"I wanted to learn the rules of private investigation before I created a character who broke them," Thoft said. "Fina needed to ring true and use tactics and procedures that P.I.s actually use. Fina takes liberties with the law, and some of her tactics might be frowned upon by other P.I.s, but her actions are purposeful, not the result of poor training. When creating the character I made conscious decisions about her choices based on what I learned in the certificate program."

The fifth installment in the Fina Ludlow series, Duplicity, is due out in January 2017. It centers around a hip, young pastor and his controversial church, which one mother believes has brainwashed her daughter. Fina's investigation uncovers a host of difficult questions about the woman's life.

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    • Ingrid Thoft. Photo: Doug Berrett.

    • The fourth Fina Ludlow novel, Brutality.

    • At the Shamus Award event, with author Sara Paretsky, creator of the V.I. Warshawski series.