Asylum, a dark suspense saga, takes readers on a tense ride through Connecticut history.

Set in Hartford and Meriden, Asylum takes the reader on a wild ride between creepy and fun around Connecticut’s countryside and its industrial transformation from 1899 to the mid-1970s.

Connecticut – June 2017 — On a pleasant evening in the mid-1980s, six women executives from Hartford’s business community met in a cozy Farmington Avenue apartment. Public relations and marketing directors, a banker, and ad agency art director Kathryn Orzech (aka: Kathy O. Marcantonio), gathered around a candlelit table for dinner. By the time the hostess served dessert, laughter had subsided and conversation had turned from career aspirations and challenges (think Mad Men) to all things spooky. One woman claimed to have seen a ghost outside an upper floor office of the Institute of Living, sparking the idea for Asylum’s story and Orzech drew on Connecticut’s history to tell it.

“I wrote what I knew, my hometown and first job.” Orzech designed costume jewelry at The Napier Company’s Meriden headquarters, on which she modeled Asylum’s fictional Delito family business. Meriden’s developing industry and landscape are featured, and the Connecticut River from Hartford to Long Island Sound, plays a pivotal role in Asylum’s plot.

Before her advertising career began at Hartford’s Constitution Plaza office of Wilson, Haight & Welch, she designed costume jewelry for the iconic Napier Co. headquartered in Meriden, on which she modeled Asylum’s fictional Delito business and protagonist Laura “Del” Delito. Renamed Barrows, Meriden’s landscape and the Silver City’s transformation to an industrial economy is featured.

Connecticut history adds authenticity to Asylum’s characters and plot.

“I wrote what I knew—my hometown and first design job at Napier. Later, when I commuted to Hartford on I-91, every year in early spring, the Connecticut River flooded lowlands to meet the highway. The River plays a pivotal role in Asylum’s plot. Everything else needed investigation.” Research of the Hartford Retreat and daily life in Connecticut in 1900 meant long hours spent in a quiet corner of the Meriden Public Library checking microfilm files, pulling reference books, studying photos and etchings, and taking notes. “I expected to remember the seventies, but that time period required just as much scrutiny. What was Bradley Airport’s name? Were fax machines in common use? Small details like train schedules to New York City and popular product brands had to be accurate or the story wouldn’t feel authentic to the reader.”

Though Connecticut was an early leader in the treatment of mental illness, the fictional Brookhaven Asylum and retreat, true to history, served as a refuge for vulnerable women and children, orphans, and unfortunate citizens in need of care. “Anyone might be confined,” said Orzech. “Most of my research was done almost thirty years ago so my recall is fuzzy, but I recall reading that inmates often ate fresh eggs and dairy products, and fruits and vegetables grown in the asylum’s gardens. One story related that some poor and desperate women actually tried to break into the place.” A cautious smile crosses Orzech’s face when she adds, “Not my asylum. In 1899, it was possible for an affluent twelve-year-old to one day live a privileged existence on a lovely estate (think Downton Abbey) and the next day find herself locked away and longing for home.”

The dinner party host Geri, and the author’s best friend of fifty years Marcia, on whom the book’s best-friend character is based, have both passed on. “Their unexpected deaths lit a fire. I pulled the manuscript off the shelf and published it with new urgency.” Drawing on her graphics experience, Orzech also designed the cover depicting a young girl in a bad place about to get worse. “It draws people, their eyes widen, arms shiver. It triggers an emotional response before they read page one.”

Asylum is available in print and e-book where books are sold.


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#mystery #suspense #thriller #mustread