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Writing a Historical Mystery
If you choose to write a historical mystery, you then have a hundred choices for what kind of history to write about. What culture, what geography, what time frame do you want? Ice Age, ancient Egypt, Middle Ages of Europe? You’d better choose something you know about, or want to learn about. Or you can make something up. Science fiction and fantasy can emerge from a historical setting created by your imagination.
For my first novel, Cemetery Whites, I chose to write a cozy mystery set in current times but with clues leading to the past. So many questions to ask about settings, characters, and plots! What would happen and who would do what? I chose to set the story in small towns and rural areas that I was familiar with and found intriguing. My father’s scattered family lived in DeWitt County near San Antonio, Texas; they had settled the area as early as 1825 when it was DeWitt Colony. Its history offered ways for my amateur sleuth to go back and forth in time to find information. Records, deeds, letters, and oral history provided information.
Today’s characters were inspired by people I met when I visited the country as a child, but they are sketched and drawn as their own character—not identical to someone who really existed. I’ve heard that comment from other authors, such as Muriel Spark. On a train one day, she noticed someone with delicate hands, and years later, she gave them to a character in one of her books.
My major character, my amateur sleuth, just moved from Houston to Yorktown after her husband died in a car accident. Caroline Hargrove Hamilton chose to live in a small-town cottage rather than a country farm, because she wouldn’t know how to run a farm and couldn’t buy one anyway. Some choices about your character are necessary. Caroline likes being in the country, though, and her cousin Janet, her childhood friend, drives her around the dusty roads to see wildflowers, old houses, grazing cattle, and cemeteries. Caroline has taken up genealogy, and cemeteries provide names, dates, and acquaintance with ancient aunts and uncles to include in her charts. Cemetery Whites begins in the Hargrove graveyard when Caroline and Janet find the body of a history professor. He had his own interest in Texas history and it cost him his life for digging up a patch of old white irises.
His death in Caroline’s family cemetery, her acquaintance with Constable Bob Bennett, and the assistance of cousin Janet start the plot of the mystery. The Hargrove family wants to solve what happened to Professor Harrison, and Caroline volunteered to find out. She and Janet visited people and places in the country, and the professor’s family in San Antonio. They attended his funeral as well, and found his ancestor’s grave in the national cemetery; they found out about the small house where she lived after the Civil War along with her son and grandson.
Caroline uncovers her own family’s history, including oral history from Great-Aunt Hettie who told her things nobody else knew. Caroline and Janet uncovered family secrets that eventually disclosed the answer to Professor Harrison’s homicide—and another one, too. Another man was shot and buried in the family cemetery in 1875, underneath somebody else.
So that’s how I put my first cozy mystery together with a historical background. Writing about Caroline and her Hargrove family will always be a historical mystery of some kind. It’s the nature of the setting, the characters, and something about the plots. They’re related to generations of the past, even if the main mystery is current—committed today.
Thank you for stopping by and visiting with us and our readers today!
Connie Knight’s interest in Texas history is reflected in Cemetery Whites. Murders in 1875 and 2010 are solved, with the detective’s family history unraveling to reveal information. Knight’s hobby of gardening produced the title Cemetery Whites. The victim’s body is found sprawled in a patch of white irises in an old family cemetery. The flowers with that name still exist today, at old homesteads and in current gardens, including Connie Knight’s.
Connie Knight now lives in Houston and has just finished a second mystery, Chances Choices Changes Death, a sequel to Cemetery Whites. She is now working on her third mystery novel in the Caroline Hargrove Hamilton Mystery series.
Chances Choices Changes Death
- Print Length: 189 pages
- Publisher: Maple Creek Media (March 30, 2014)
- Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
- Language: English
- ASIN: B00JDPX9II
Chances Choices Changes a Death
A nice Cozy Mystery! Nice follow up to “Cemetery Whites” novel. #2 in the “A Caroline Hargrove Hamilton Mystery”. While, can be read as a stand alone, I would suggest reading “Cemetery Whites” first.
Fast paced, tale of a missing boy, a murder, with twists and turns abound. Nice horse background. The author is surely a horsewoman. The mystery is well written and carried though. The characters are interesting and endearing. I enjoyed the setting as well as the characters and the storyline. The ending was somewhat a shocked. An enjoyable and engaging read with a satisfying ending. I would definitely read another story by this author. I would recommend to any fan of the Cozy Mystery genre. Well done!
*Received for an honest review*
Heat rating: Mild
Reviewed by: AprilR, courtesy of My Book Addiction and More