Our crime writing family is mourning the death of Lynne Raimondo, who died on November 12. The author of three acclaimed novels, Lynne had colleagues, friends and admirers across the country and around the world. We in Maine were fortunate that Lynne—who had a home on Mount Desert Island as well as in Evanston, Illinois—was a member of our particular crime writing community.
Lynne was a driving force behind Murder by the Book, the crime writing conference held each fall at the Jesup Memorial Library in Bar Harbor, and she often returned to Maine in time to take part in the Crime Wave conference in the spring. A standout talent, she was engaging and helpful, happy not only to chat over lunch, but to do what she could to help others advance their careers.
Lynne was a lawyer as well as a writer, having been a partner at a prominent Chicago law firm, general counsel for a big-five accounting firm and of the Illinois Department of Revenue. As her good friend Lori Rader-Day said in a Facebook post at the time of Lynne’s death, she did not take it lightly if a writer mischaracterized some aspect of Illinois law.
Make that law generally. I’m also a lawyer, but don’t practice criminal law. When Lynne beta-read a manuscript for me last fall she set me straight on several matters of criminal practice and procedure, including how criminal defense lawyers deal with clients who are obvious liars. I tackled revisions with her advice in the very front of my mind.
Lynne worked hard to get the details right in her three acclaimed novels—Dante’s Wood, Dante’s Poison and Dante’s Dilemma—which had as their protagonist Mark Angelotti, a blind psychiatrist.
In a piece published in the August 2015 edition of The Big Thrill, Lynne told interviewer Stephanie Gayle that while creating Mark’s character she read autobiographies, academic papers and blogs, “whatever I could find that would give me insight into the physical, emotional and social challenges faced by people with disabilities.” She read medical literature about Leber’s Hereditary Optic Neuropathy, the condition that caused Mark’s blindness, and she incorporated into her stories real-world high-tech tools like screen readers and smartphone apps, which Mark uses to investigate crimes. “I don’t make any of this stuff up,” she said. “I think it adds something special and different to the books.”
Lynne’s life involved so much more than her work as a lawyer and a writer. She and her beloved husband Stanley Parzen were the parents of three children, and boy, did her face light up when she spoke of Kendra, Jacob and Tamsin.
She loved to cook, and often posted photographs online of dishes she’d prepared. Lobster Pad Thai. Lamb Shanks with Oranges and Olives. Ratatouille, which she noted “takes some of the sting out of the end of summer.”
She loved to travel (Antarctica last year, Croatia in 2018) and hike the trails of Acadia National Park. She was immensely proud of her Italian heritage and a fan of the Chicago Cubs. She was a skilled gardener and a talented watercolorist.
I wish I’d known her better and longer, because every interaction with Lynne Raimondo was wonderful.
Last week I reached out to several friends who were close to Lynne and invited them to comment here. The aforesaid Lori Rader-Day, an award-winning author who just finished up a term as President of Sisters in Crime, sent the following:
“When I first heard of Lynne Raimondo, on the website of the publisher of her first book, Dante’s Wood, I knew we were meant to be friends. The same publisher had just offered to publish my first book. In that first rush of excitement, received at my day job, I visited the publisher’s website to check them out, and there was Lynne—who lived just down the street from where I sat. Fate. We met for Indian food and did that meet-cute thing where two strangers, not knowing what the other looked like, sat at two separate tables, waiting for the other to show up.
“We built a quick friendship based on books, good food, wine, laughter, and gossip. I think every friendship of Lynne’s must have been built from those same layers: good food, a Negroni, two Negronis, heartfelt conversation, honesty, laughter. None of us were ready for it to end.
“As a writer, Lynne Raimondo was a fierce professional. Getting the details right meant everything. For her novels, in which the main character solves crime despite going blind, Lynne reached out to people living with eyesight deterioration and made sure that the real issues and prejudices they faced (and the active lives they lived) were included in her stories.
“Long before those of us in the mystery community knew her, Lynne had already proven herself a powerful figure for justice as an attorney and a passionate protector of her family, a loving wife to Stanley, a loving mother to Kendra, Jacob, and Tamsin, an attentive daughter, an adventurous traveler, a talented cook, a loyal friend. She was uncompromising when it came to the quality of her work but also to the quality of her life. It was too short—Lynne had many more stories to tell, so many more of life’s adventures ahead of her. But Lynne Raimondo lived the hell out of the years she had. That feeling of loss I have, that so many people have now, like we are all sitting alone at our table waiting for Lynne to show up and make sure we order the best thing on the menu—that’s simply the lull after the life of the party has gone home.”
Ron Beard, board chair at the Jesup Memorial Library, where Lynne sat for many years on the Board of Directors, posted the following remembrance on the library’s website:
“It’s no mystery what it takes to make a good board member and we at the Jesup Library are still in shock as we come to terms with the loss of our good friend Lynne Raimondo. Lynne came to the Jesup Board of Directors through her popular Dante novels, featuring a resourceful consulting psychiatrist solving intricately woven cases in Chicago. Those cases and knowledge of that locale were the result of Lynne’s career as a trial lawyer. The authenticity of her writing made her a very popular contributor to Jesup’s writer panels and talks.
“We were fortunate that Lynne brought her intellect, keen wit and straightforward manner to the work of our board of directors. Her savvy questions and experience were of great value in our deliberations. She loved the library. She loved Mount Desert Island. Her place at our table will always be like the beloved book that is missing from its accustomed place on the shelf.”
And writer James Ziskin, author of the marvelous Ellie Stone series, who shares Lynne’s love of Italy and its culture, said:
“When my writing career was just getting started, Lynne was the first writer I met. Our editor put us in touch via e-mail, and we hit it off immediately. She read my first book and provided me with my very first blurb. I read her wonderful books with great enthusiasm and attention. She was my great pal.
“I spoke to her about three weeks before she passed away. Just chatting over the phone. We were making plans to get together in Maine with Stanley and my wife, who thought the world of Lynne. When I heard the news of Lynne’s death, I was crushed. I still can’t quite get myself to believe it’s true. It seems impossible.
“Lynne was incredibly talented. A great writer, lawyer, and painter, she was smart as hell and wickedly funny, too. In her third novel, Dante’s Dilemma, she named a doddering professor after me. So I returned the favor, calling a screeching soprano “La Raimondo” in my next book, Heart Of Stone.
From Dante’s Dilemma:
“I should warn you about our host,” Candace said while we waited for someone to answer. “Dean Oliver Armstrong, usually referred to around campus by the initials DOA. We’ll want to avoid getting stuck with him. Simply deadly. And then there’s Professor Ziskin, the retired head of the Italian Department. Poor old dear is nearly deaf and refuses to wear a hearing aid.”
Meaning we’d make a fine pair. I suddenly had doubts about what I was getting into, walking into a houseful of tedious academics. As it turned out, I needn’t have worried about the party being dull.”
From Heart of Stone:
“Mi chiamano Mimi,” sang Max from his armchair, but that was all he could manage. “I confess that I only know the first line.” He sipped his port. “Ellie, my dear, surely you know the whole thing. What comes next?”
“I’m tired Max,” I said. “I don’t feel like singing Puccini right now.”
“Fair enough,” he said. “One must be in the mood for opera, after all. As a matter of fact, I can’t stomach it in the main. The music is all right, but all that caterwauling gets under my skin. Disliked it since I was a boy. Since the first time I heard that soprano sing. What was her name? La Raimondo. That was it. Screeched like a barn owl and put me off opera forever.”
“I adore Puccini,” said Aunt Lena. “And La Raimondo was one of the great sopranos.”
“But more than the laughs we shared, I will always be grateful to Lynne for helping me find my moral compass. I was faced with a difficult ethical choice in the promotion of my writing career. I felt uncomfortable participating in a certain event, and Lynne talked me through it. She helped me realize that no publicity was worth sacrificing my principles, even a small measure of my principles. She did it without preaching or arguing. She was a terrific person, and I will always miss her.
My deepest sympathies to Stanley, Kendra, Jacob, and Tamsin, and all those who knew and loved Lynne. Addio, carissima. – James W. Ziskin, December 1, 2020.”
I welcome the other Maine Crime Writers and readers of this post who knew Lynne or read any of her books to leave a remembrance in the comments. Memorial donations in her name should be directed to the Jesup Memorial Library in Bar Harbor, http://jesuplibrary.org.
Addio amico mio, e grazie.