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Between the Pages, Past
A Mystery Column

Red Leaves
by Paullina Simons
Interviewer: Elise Cooper

Red Leaves by Paullina Simons was first published in the 1990s. Re-published this April it is as relevant today as it was back then. The first half of the book explores the relationship between four Dartmouth college students whose friendship seems to be unraveling. In the second half the mystery unfolds. The nude body of the star basketball player is found frozen in the snow in the campus woods. Called in to investigate Detective Spencer Patrick O’Malley realizes this is the same girl he met and had asked out on a date. Recognizing the three friends are people of interest he must find the truth behind all the secrets in order to find the killer.


Elise Cooper: This book can be classified as a tragedy, did your Russian background influence you?

Paullina Simons: I think it was a combination of my Russian background and my American life. Anyone reading Russian books realizes the stories are more pessimistic and a person’s destiny plays a large role. But since coming to America I added some optimism to my stories. Although some of my readers might be disappointed because I make sure my characters end up where they need to be.


Elise: How did you get the idea for the story?

Paullina: When I was thinking about my next plot I envisioned a dead girl in the snow in a fictional setting. But after I saw the Dartmouth campus I new it was perfect. Then I started to put the pieces together: how did she get there, and what role would the


Elise Cooper: Interesting how you named Kristina’s dog Aristotle?

Paullina: Do you know he is the only dog in all of my twelve novels! I thought about the dog in the O. J. Simpson case. Both were watchful and probably saw something but were unable to say anything. What also made an impression on me was reading a book as a little girl about a dog that was so bonded to its owner he searched and found the body. When I was at Dartmouth I could not believe how many dogs were on the campus, including large dogs such as Shepherds, Labs, and Golden Retrievers. They are even allowed in the dorms. I found the canine life in New Hampshire fascinating and unusual.


Elise Cooper: Since sports plays a role in the plot, what is your favorite sport?

Paullina: Actually, I am a baseball and hockey fan. I like how hockey is a fast and thrilling sport when you watch it live. Regarding baseball, I will defend it to the death with my favorite team the New York Yankees. My dad used to say it was like the philosophy of life, with many intricate pieces. It is not just action and movement, but strategy and psychology.


Elise Cooper: Why did you make Kristina a basketball player?

Paullina: The reason I made Kristina a basketball player was that the Dartmouth team actually won several awards. I like the idea she was the best in a sport where the college excelled.


Elise Cooper: You have a quote that is so relevant today, “I wasn’t allowed to have another opinion in that damn school you sent me to.” Please explain.

Paullina: When I was in college I was so frustrated. I could not understand why it was not a bastion to getting at the truth. Every time I took a course on the Soviet Union professors were actually saying stuff I knew was not true. I was not allowed to question them in class because they did not want anything to interfere with their narrative. I was told ‘see me after class.’ I do think today it has gotten a lot worse and this is not a good thing.


Elise Cooper: What about your next book?

Paullina: It is also a re-published book that brings back Detective O’Malley in a new setting, New York, and with another mystery, trying to find a girl who disappeared. This book, The Girl In Times Square, has never been published in America. I have to say it is actually my daughter’s favorite book of mine. I know many people ask me if I will write a series with Detective O’Malley, but currently I have no plans for that, although I might explore him in a future book. As we speak I am writing an original book that has never ever been published, The End Of Forever.


Elise Cooper: What do you want readers to get out of the book?

Paullina: A good entertaining story. I hope they find it thought provoking and are engaged with the characters and their lives. and Elise want to thank Ms Simons for taking the time to give this interview.

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