Montclair author Nancy Burke pens female-sleuth driven mystery novel

When Montclair native Nancy Burke decided to prioritize herself and her passions, she knew that meant completing her MFA at age 56, and finally creating the work that she needed to create– for herself.

In Nancy Burke’s latest novel “Only the Women are Burning” (Apprentice House Press, October 1, 2020) three women are eclipsed by flames in a single morning, one at a commuter train, one at a school, one while walking her dog in the woods. The authorities decide the burning women are members of a cult, but when Cassandra learns her former best friend died in the fiery phenomenon she refuses to accept that explanation. A mom and former anthropologist, Cassandra finds herself wrapped up in the mystery of these deaths, searching for a solution. As she delves into this strange episode in her once safe suburban New Jersey town, she must also face some buried truths of her own.

Photo credit: Apprentice House Press

Burke studied anthropology as an undergrad, and she explains how her experiences strongly influenced Cassandra’s character, and the course of the book as a whole. “Mythology and religion were the first science,” Burke says. “Cassandra is acutely aware that people process life and death and hardship in particular religious ways. She has an arcane collection of scientific knowledge accumulated over a lifetime of exploration and inquiry, relationships that succeed or fail; she’s made choices for better or for worse. All of these allow her to know things in ways the authorities investigating the fires couldn’t possibly know.”

Praised by Foreword Clarion Reviews as “a compelling mystery with an engaging look at suburban womanhood,” Burke’s novel tactfully blends genres, incorporating aspects of mystery, science fiction, and domestic women’s fiction.

From left: Marne Benson, David Holmberg, Nancy Burke, Karin Abarbanel, David Popiel, and Priscilla Mainardi at Watchung Booksellers. Photo credit: Watchung Booksellers

Nancy Burke will celebrate the launch of “Only the Women are Burning” with a virtual event hosted by Watchung Booksellers on Wednesday, October 7th at 7:30 pm ET. Burke will be in conversation with fellow Montclair writer, Jenny Milchman, whose latest novel “The Second Mother” is available now.

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