By Jennifer Feals
October 19, 2007
An Exeter author's first novel is not only based on the idea of women
helping women, but is taking the concept literally.
"The Black Widow Agency," by Felicia Donovan , is the story of four
strong, sexy, smart and stealthy women who aim to bring justice to
wronged women like themselves, using a lethal blend of computer
forensics, surveillance technology and women's intuition.
For the most part, reviews for Donovan's debut novel are positive.
Publisher's Weekly called it a "sharp series debut" and Deadly Pleasures
Magazine said it was a "delightful book."
But an assessment by Kirkus Reviews dubbing the book a "bitch-a-thon"
inspired Donovan to take action.
"The review is not about the book, not about the writing, nothing about
the characters being flawed or any of those kinds of comments," Donovan
said. "I decided rather than make it a negative situation, to take the
concept of women working together to help others, and right away, I
thought of Womenade," Donovan said.
Womenade is a national nonprofit organization with chapters all over the
country that provides grassroots assistance to neighbors in crisis.
Donovan plans to donate a portion of her profits from book sales to the
"This is the perfect opportunity to say women working together to help
others is not a "bitch-a-thon," it's women helping others," Donovan
said. "That's what prompted me to raise funds and see Womenade could
benefit from that."
The Black Widow Agency, released Oct. 1, will be the first in a series,
The book is based on four women who have each been wronged by a man in
their life. As this is the case, Donovan said there is always the
question of whether the women do their work for justice or for revenge.
"The fun thing about the book is that it's four very different female
investigators from different backgrounds, different walks of life and
ages. The only things they have in common are a love of chocolate and
they love to help other women," Donovan said. "They have a raucously
good time when they are working on a case and sometimes don't get along,
so it's a lot of fun."
The field of computer forensics is nothing new to Donovan, who is the
information systems manager at the Portsmouth Police Department and is a
recognized expert in the field of law enforcement technology. She is
founder of Communications, Law Enforcement and Technology (CLEAT), a New
England-based organization that specializes in law enforcement
Donovan was introduced to computer forensics several years ago while
working as the Portsmouth Police Department's IT manager. She was asked
to recover files from a computer that was suspected to have been stolen
from a local business.
Despite the hard drive having been reformatted, Donovan recovered enough
evidence from it to prove it was, in fact, the stolen computer.
She has also assisted the FBI in a child pedophile case by using her
digital photography skills to enhance photos of child victims from
Writing all her life, Donovan said she always dreamed of publishing a
novel. The idea for the series came from a discussion with Detective
Kristyn Rogers-Bernier at the Portsmouth Police Department.
"She said something to the effect of what I am going to do is open a
private investigative agency with only women and call it the Black Widow
Agency," Donovan said. "It was as if something had just popped in my
head. It sent so many different visions of what that would be like and
how much fun that could be."
After asking permission to use the title, Donovan wrote the first 75
pages of "The Black Widow Agency" in one week and finished the entire
book in two months. The second book in the series will be out next July.
"It's exciting and I seem to have touched a nerve with a lot of people
with this book, both good and bad," Donovan said. "I think a lot of
women have been through similar situations. I also think the book levels
the playing field from a technical standpoint, it has some women who are
very technically savvy who can play with the same toys that were
traditionally in the male computer world."
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