A Georgia B&B Mystery
by Anna Gerard
About the Book
Peach Clobbered: A Georgia B&B Mystery
1st in Series
Crooked Lane Books (July 9, 2019)
Digital ASIN: B07JMK2JRD
What’s black and white and dead all over? Georgia bed and breakfast proprietor Nina Fleet finds out when she comes across a corpse in a penguin costume.
Nina Fleet’s life ought to be as sweet as a Georgia peach. Awarded a tidy sum in her divorce, Nina retired at 41 to a historic Queen Anne house in quaint Cymbeline, GA. But Nina’s barely settled into her new B&B-to-be when a penguin shows up on her porch. Or, at least, a man wearing a penguin suit.
Harry Westcott is making ends meet as an ice cream shop’s mascot and has a letter from his great-aunt, pledging to leave him the house. Too bad that’s not what her will says. Meanwhile, the Sisters of Perpetual Poverty have lost their lease. Real estate developer Gregory Bainbridge intends to turn the convent into a golfing community, so Cymbeline’s mayor persuades Nina to take in the elderly nuns. And then Nina finds the “penguin” again, this time lying in an alley with a kitchen knife in his chest.
A peek under the beak tells Nina it’s not Harry inside the costume, but Bainbridge. What was he doing in Harry’s penguin suit? Was the developer really the intended victim, or did the culprit mean to kill Harry? Whoever is out to stop Harry from contesting the sale of his great-aunt’s house may also be after Nina, so she teams up with him to cage the killer before someone clips her wings in Peach Clobbered, Anna Gerard’s charming first Georgia B&B mystery.
Killing Me Slowly…
Conventional wisdom for mystery authors is that they should introduce their murder victims in the first chapter of their books. It’s even better if that corpse shows up on Page 1. And if you can manage to have your sleuth stumble over the dead guy (or gal) in the novel’s opening paragraph, you have a winning mystery novel, indeed. Or do you?
While this “quick kill” is probably a legitimate tactic for those writing thrillers or traditional mysteries, cozy mysteries are literally a different story. With its use of amateur sleuths and (usually) bucolic settings, the cozy’s emphasis is less on crime-fighting and more on characters. In fact, in my opinion cozies are more respectful of death than any suspense or thriller novel. Why?
For one thing, the murder victim is rarely a faceless, random character. Good guy or bad guy, we know him or her and are either shocked by the death, or know that the victim had it coming. As for the actual murder, it isn’t gratuitous – the killer always has a reason for why they kill, even if it may seem strange or petty in the end. Beyond all that, in a cozy there’s no escalating body count that qualifies for serial murder status. The cozy pretty much concentrates on one victim (though sometimes there’s a related second killing).
But here’s the most significant thing about murder in the cozy mystery. The killing always emotionally affects the book’s other characters…not just the victim’s immediate family, but the surrounding fictional community. The solving of the crime is an attempt to put things and lives back to normal. Unlike a thriller which can end on a downer of a note, your cozy mystery concludes with life for the sleuth returning somewhat back to the status quo.
So back to that whole first chapter/page/paragraph thing with the murder victim. Since my new Georgia B&B Mystery series is told in first person, I’ve gotten into the habit of opening my novels with my amateur sleuth explaining that a murder has been committed. From there, my story narrative backtracks in time so that we see what led up to the death.
To my mind, that’s important. Remember that I said the cozy murder victim is rarely a nameless, faceless character. For the sleuth—and the reader—to care about the victim’s death and want to see the murder solved, they have to know the victim first. And so I let the reader see the eventual corpse as a living, breathing character for a few chapters. Then, when the hammer (or knitting needle or poison or whatever) drops, the reader has a similar stake in seeing justice served.
And here’s why this slow burn to the cozy murder works…at least, in my opinion. If you’re an avid reader of blogs and reviews, you likely have heard of John Sutherland, Chairman of the 2005 Booker Prize Committee, and his Page 69 Test. The idea is to flip open any novel to page 69 and begin reading. According to Mr. Sutherland, if you find yourself drawn in by that sample, you’re bound to enjoy the book.
Since I’m the curious sort, a couple of years ago I applied this test to my own backlist of mystery novels. I was surprised to find that in all but one of the books, the murder victim was discovered anywhere from page 68 to page 73 in the story…right about at Mr. Sutherland’s “sweet spot”. Which, for readers using this test, does indeed make my murder happen within the first couple of pages read. Score one for me!
So don’t look for my sleuth to stumble over any bodies in the opening chapters of my future books. She’ll discover the victim in due time…probably on Page 69.
About the Author
DIANE A.S. STUCKART is the New York Times bestselling author of the Black Cat Bookshop Mystery series (writing as Ali Brandon). She’s also the author of the award-winning Leonardo da Vinci historical mysteries, as well as several historical romances and numerous mystery, fantasy, and romance short stories. The first book in her Tarot Cats Mystery series is FOOL’S MOON, available in trade, large print, and Kindle versions. Her Georgia B&B Mystery series from Crooked Lane Books launched July 2019 with PEACH CLOBBERED, written as Anna Gerard.
Diane is a member of Mystery Writers of America and has served as the 2018 and 2019 Chapter President of the MWA Florida chapter. In addition to her mystery writing affiliations, she’s a member of the Cat Writers’ Association and belongs to the Palm Beach County Beekeepers Association. She’s a native Texan with a degree in Journalism from the University of Oklahoma, but has been living in the West Palm Beach FL area since 2006. She shares her “almost in the Everglades” home with her husband, dogs, cats, and a few beehives. Learn more about her books at www.dianestuckart.com
Facebook – www.facebook.com/blackcatmysteries
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