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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Vacation Bloodbath! Murder and Mayhem Abound!

Murder most foul! Evil among us! What can it be but the season’s new murder mysteries, and why is it that relaxing vacation reading so often goes in this direction? Why would scaring ourselves to death be “escape”? I have a few tentative answers, but I’m interested in what others think. You? If you are a reader of murder mysteries, why do you think they are so appealing to so many people—especially on vacation?

Mystery writer hopeful and amateur sleuth Emily Kincaid, as she hopes for a sale of her latest manuscript, ventures into darker waters in Elizabeth Kane Buzzelli’s fourth book in the Kincaid series, Dead Dogs and Englishmen, out this summer. Bad things were done by not-so-nice people in previous books, but his time Emily comes face to face with pure evil. The knotty question is whether the evil is only in the mind (and whose mind), or has it been acted out? Someone is responsible for the corpse at the beginning of the book, the dead dogs, the family who has disappeared, but is it the creepy Englishman? And how much of his manuscript (yes, another aspiring writer!) is based on his own past?

There are new developments in Deputy Dolly’s life, too, and in the sometimes thorny friendship between Dolly and Elizabeth.
I went on to Leetsville where I drove by the police station. Dolly’s car wasn’t there. There were lots of other places I should have gone—like home to Sorrow [Emily’s dog]. I could use the rest of the day to write, begin the new mystery about dead skeletons Dolly and I found out in Sandy Lake. I liked what happened in that investigation. I liked that we could bring a family together. I liked the way I came out looking. Still, I didn’t know if I had a whole book there or not. What I needed to do was get started, make notes, fill out an outline as best I could, start gathering details, maybe even dare to ask Dolly how she remembered things—but probably not. She was still mad that I’d included her in my first book. I’d fight that battle when I got there. And if she was mad at me about the books, she was going to get a whole lot madder when I did what I’d decided to do—about her and her ‘problem.’

Doesn’t that make you curious about Dolly’s ‘problem,’ and don’t you want to go back and read the earlier books, too, if you haven’t already?

Aaron Stander’s newest offering looks backward and is a “prequel” (can you tell I haven’t yet fully accepted that neologism?) to the four previous novels. In Medieval Murders, we meet a younger Sheriff Ray Elkins. Back before he moved north to Cedar County, We see Ray him teaching criminal justice at a large (unnamed) Midwestern state university, when three members of the English Department are murdered, who else to solve the crimes but the future Up North sheriff?
“So explain this to me, you get a Ph.D. and get an entry level salary for seven years. Then what?” asked Pascoe as they made the final survey of the living room.

“You might get tenured if...”

“If what?” asked Pascoe.

“If you’ve done the right things professionally. If you haven’t screwed up politically, and if your department has the funding for a tenure position.”

“And what happens if you don’t? What was Sheila’s future?”

“Don’t know enough about Sheila to tell you. But, generally speakng, you might get lucky and find another tenure track position, usually at a smaller school. And the money would be less.”

“And if you’re not lucky?”

“People get one-year gigs for someone on sabbatical. Others do adjunct work. The pay is lousy, so they teach lots of sections at three or four different schools, live in their cars. A few get jobs at community colleges. And some, probably the smart ones, get out of academe and do something else....”

Like writing mystery novels? Or opening a bookstore? Think of the possibilities!


Gerry said...

I like mysteries because I like finding things out. I like murder mysteries because I wish to believe that there can be justice. Also, in my secret heart of hearts I imagine myself a World Famous Detective.

P. J. Grath said...

Wow, Gerry, you've pretty much covered the bases there! How about regional mysteries for giving us a sense of place. And then sometimes (not always) there is the courtroom aspect, in which the reader can imagine herself a World Famous Trial Lawyer.