It’s my pleasure to welcome Canadian author Vicki Delany as the special guest blogger here at Thoughts in Progress today.
Vicki’s latest work, NEGATIVE IMAGE, is due to be released on Nov. 2. She stopped by today to talk about ‘the village mystery.’
“The lowest and vilest alleys in London do not present a more dreadful record of sin than does the smiling and beautiful countryside.” Sherlock Holmes, ADVENTURE OF THE COPPER BEECHES.
“Do you know what Sherlock Holmes said about the countryside?”
“’The lowest and vilest alleys in London do not present a more dreadful record of sin than does the smiling and beautiful countryside.’ The Adventure of the Copper Beeches.”
“The great detective never came to Trafalgar, sir. I think he’d find it peaceful here. Most of the time.”
“I’m not interested in what happens here most of the time.” Sergeant Dick Madison and Constable Molly Smith, NEGATIVE IMAGE.
Since the time of Conan-Doyle and Agatha Christie the village setting has been a staple of a certain type of mystery novel. A novel that is as much about the personal and family life of the protagonists as their jobs, that is more about human relationships and love and loss than international terrorism or guns-for-hire, thrives in the small town environment.
And, as Sherlock Holmes pointed out, countryside does not always mean peaceful.
After writing two standalone novels I wanted to begin a series. There was never much doubt in my mind as to where the series would be set – it needed to be someplace I wanted to spend a lot of time in, even if only metaphysically speaking. In real life, the town of Nelson (pop 9,000) is nestled in the mountains of the British Columbia Interior. Using Nelson as a guide, I created the town of Trafalgar.
Like its inspiration, Trafalgar is surrounded by mountains, and very isolated. It is eight hours drive to Vancouver or to Calgary, and the nearest city is in another country – Spokane, Washington. It is a place of long-time residents, who were born and raised in the valleys and mountainsides. It is also a place of transients and newcomers, attracted by the beauty, the isolation, the artistic community, and the area’s reputation for independence. Neo-hippies - dreadlocks, girls with long colorful skirts, boys with wild beards - mix with the comfortably-early-retired, owners of big houses and expensive hiking equipment; with artists, who’ve moved there to paint or write; and with the spiritual, attracted by the ‘ley lines’ or ‘vibes’. All of these people come together in the village setting where they create a vibrant and active citizenship, full of strong opinions. And the potential for conflict, which is the key to any crime novel.
A reader in Arizona told me that Trafalgar reminded her a great deal of Sedona. It’s hard to imagine two places that look more different, but the sense of both places is the same – the supposedly mystic qualities attracting a variety of people, the conflict between the traditionalists, fighting to keep the town as it is, and new money, wanting more and more development, pushing up the cost of housing, sometimes beyond what locals can afford.
In strictly practical terms, the small town setting allowed me to give the main protagonist of the series, a young, keen, probationary constable by the name of Molly Smith, a role in criminal investigation. In a big city she would be directing traffic, but a small town force does with what it has. The 20-member police department allows her to become more involved in major crimes, plus the fact that she is a local and the detective sergeant is a newcomer, means he sometimes has to rely on her for local knowledge.
It isn’t always easy for Constable Smith, trying to be a police officer in a town where, as she thinks in the first book in the series, IN THE SHADOW OF THE GLACIER: It was hard, sometimes, to be a cop in a town where a substantial number of the residents had seen you performing as Number Two Wise Man in the Grade Three Christmas pageant.
The small town setting also allows the characters’ families and friends – and enemies – to be involved in the drama without too much of a stretch. The plot of NEGATIVE IMAGE, the fourth book in the series, revolves around what happens when Sergeant John Winters’s wife’s former fiancé arrives in town. And ends up dead with a rather incriminating piece of old memorabilia in his possession.
NEGATIVE IMAGE will be released by Poisoned Pen Press on November 2nd. If you’d like to read the first two chapters, please go to: www.vickidelany.com.
Vicki, thanks so much for blogging here today. I think a small town setting is perfect for a murder mystery for all the reasons you mentioned. It gives the story a more personal feel.
For a bit of background on Vicki, she writes everything from standalone novels of psychological suspense such as SCARE THE LIGHT AWAY, and BURDEN OF MEMORY, to the Constable Molly Smith books, a traditional village/police procedural series set in the B.C. Interior, including IN THE SHADOW OF THE GLACIER and NEGATIVE IMAGE, to a light-hearted historical series, GOLD DIGGER and GOLD FEVER, set in the raucous heyday of the Klondike Gold Rush.
Having taken early retirement from her job as a systems analyst in the high-pressure financial world, Vicki is settling down to the rural life in bucolic, Prince Edward County, Ontario where she rarely wears a watch.
Here’s a blurb from NEGATIVE IMAGE: What would you do if you suspect the person you trust most in the world has betrayed you? What would you do if the person you trust most in the world believes you capable of betrayal? When his wife’s former fiancé is found dead of a single shot to the back of the head, Trafalgar police Sergeant John Winters is forced to make the most difficult decision of his life: loyalty to his job or to his wife. Meanwhile, tragedy strikes the heart of Constable Molly Smith’s family. Fourth in the critically acclaimed series.
What's next for Vicki: The fifth book in the Constable Molly Smith series, AMONG THE DEPARTED, will be released by Poisoned Pen Press in May, 2011. The third Klondike Gold Rush book, GOLD MOUNTAIN, will be available in fall 2011. After that Vicki's taking a break from Molly Smith to write a standalone novel of suspense with historical overtones.
Vicki's books are available at your favorite independent mystery bookstore and major chain stores, as well as BN.com, Amazon.com, Amazon.ca, Chapters.ca