Arts & Entertainment

Arlington Author Pens Murder-Mystery Novel Based in D.C.

toftoywgoodArlington native Dr. Charles Toftoy was so disturbed by the 1994 murder of his 24-year-old student that the former George Washington University (GWU) professor penned a murder-mystery novel released at the end of last year.

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Charles Toftoy (Courtesy Photo)

Arlington native Dr. Charles Toftoy was so disturbed by the 1994 murder of his 24-year-old student that the former George Washington University (GWU) professor penned a murder-mystery novel released at the end of last year.

GWU secretary and student Nicole Paul was found dead from apparent stab wounds in her apartment in the Mount Pleasant section of Washington, D.C. Toftoy notes she was also brutally raped prior to her death.

“I never got that out of my head. It stayed in the back of my mind and had a kind of haunting effect. I had to write a book in her memory,” Toftoy said.

Paul may not be involved with the story of “It’s In The Eyes,” but it did inspire Toftoy to delve into the world of homicide detectives and their investigations. The book follows Lars Neilson, a college professor and part-time sleuth, as he and his alpha team investigate a series of gruesome rapings and killings of university co-eds. The setting is Washington, D.C., with a Northern Virginia-centric sequel is already scheduled for release this Fall.

Toftoy did in-depth research into both the methods of police forces and the locations that are visited.

“I’ve gone to all of the places in my book. It was a lot of time-consuming research, but it was necessary for accuracy,” said Toftoy.

Toftoy also interviewed the chief of police and a number of homicide detectives and FBI agents from the Arlington County Police Department, in addition to visiting real-life settings to study the tiniest details.

 

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Official cover of “It’s In The Eyes” by Arlingtonian Charles Toftoy. (Courtesy Graphic)

“I wanted the general public to know what these detectives go through,” said Toftoy.

Though, he said, television and movies lead viewers to believe murder investigations are full of futuristic technology and investigative procedures with immediate results, Toftoy aims to bring realism to homicide investigations. But his desire to teach extends beyond the college classroom to his writing.

“My whole purpose in writing is to get messages of life’s lessons to people,” said Toftoy. “Before I begin to write, I make a list of things I want to include that I scratch off as I go.”

He drew from his personal experience as a Vietnam War veteran – from which Toftoy earned two purple hearts – and instilled it into Neilson, who served three tours in Vietnam in the book. Many events in the book were inspired by true occurrences, while Toftoy wove truth and fiction together. He teased that the reader is left to decide what’s fiction and what isn’t.

Toftoy lived and went to school in the Arlington area when he was young, attending elementary and middle school there, but that was not his only reasoning for using D.C. as the setting. Being one of the most visited places in the U.S., he hopes the book will draw national attention. The novel’s villain itself is said to be reminiscent of John Allen Muhammad, the sniper who plagued the D.C. area in 2002.

Real-life Northern Virginia landmarks make their cameos in “It’s in The Eyes” too. Toftoy, wanting to avoid fictitious locations, makes place like Falls Church’s own Anthony’s Restaurant and Pizza a hub for some of the book’s scenes.

The sequel, “Eyes Of Cold Case Killers” due out later this year, will leave D.C. and reposition itself in Northern Virginia where it will follow area police departments with the same team of sleuths investigating a cold case.

Toftoy said it’s dedicated to cold-case detectives for what they have to go through, as well as in memory of all those who died in the service of various police departments around Northern Virginia.

For more on Charles Toftoy, visit www.outskirtspress.com/itsintheeyes.