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‘Anonymous’: Private investigator’s debut novel sets thriller in La Jolla

"Anonymous," by private investigator and one-time La Jolla resident Elizabeth Breck, goes on sale Tuesday, Nov. 10.
(Courtesy)

As the country was reintroduced to the real-life crime drama involving the Golden State Killer in 2016, when law enforcement announced a renewed effort to find him, author and one-time La Jolla resident Elizabeth Breck got caught up in the spectacle.

Breck, a private investigator by profession, started tweeting with her theory as to whom the Golden State Killer might be. It ended up being former police officer Joseph James DeAngelo, who pleaded guilty this year to 13 murders and other crimes committed across California in the 1970s and ‘80s.

“I was lying in bed by myself one night and thought, ‘What if he figures out who I am by following me on Twitter and gets mad and finds me?’” Breck said. “I jumped out of bed and deleted all my tweets.”

Her mind still racing, she wondered what would happen if a killer tracked down an investigator who was closing in. Her debut novel, “Anonymous: A Madison Kelly Mystery,” was born.

"Anonymous" author and one-time La Jollan Elizabeth Breck says, “I consider the book to be a love letter to La Jolla."
(Courtesy)

The novel, centering on fictional PI and Windansea resident Madison Kelly, will be released Tuesday, Nov. 10, with events over the days that follow.

In the opening pages of “Anonymous,” Kelly comes home from a run and finds an unsigned note that reads, “Stop investigating me or I will hunt you down and kill you.” The problem is, Kelly is not investigating anyone.

“In order to find out who sent the note, she has to do what the note tells her not to do,” Breck said.

In looking at who might have sent the note, Kelly looks back on her social media and realizes she has been posting about two girls who went missing from downtown San Diego exactly two years apart.

“The person that left the note follows her on Twitter and realizes she was getting too close,” Breck said. “In order to find who left the note, she has to solve the case of the missing girls. It’s like a classic mystery, but also a thriller.”

The book draws from Breck’s experience as a PI and includes references to La Jolla.

“In the 1990s, I lived in Windansea in the exact spot I put Madison Kelly, in an apartment I wanted that was nicer than the one I had,” she said. “I consider the book to be a love letter to La Jolla — Warwick’s, the Pannikin, Su Casa, Bernini’s, Windansea, other places are mentioned. It was important because when I read mysteries, I love reading about new places and going to a journey to a new city. I want them to be real places. I love being absorbed into a locale.”

She also wanted professional accuracy.

“I put in the book actual things that have happened in the line of my work. One time, a guy tried to steal my car while I was in the back seat doing surveillance. It was so scary that I had to include it,” Breck said. “Every time I had Madison do something, it’s what I would have done. She gets information by pretending to be someone else, which I do all the time. I’ve read about 10,000 mysteries, and it always frustrates me when the PI does something they would never actually do.”

She also wanted the book to reflect her experiences as a female PI.

“Women in the field are rare, so including woman’s issues and a woman’s perspective were important,” Breck said. “I’ve been told my whole career, ‘You don’t look like a PI,’ and I always reply, ‘Isn’t that the point?’ I can do all kinds of stuff a male PI can’t. So including that element was important.”

“Anonymous” will be available at Warwick’s at 7812 Girard Ave., and a socially distant book signing will be held from 3 to 6 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 14, at Pannikin Coffee & Tea, 7467 Girard Ave.

Warwick’s also will hold a virtual launch on its Facebook page at 4 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 19, with a live Q&A. Learn more at warwicks.com and elizabethbreck.com. ◆