Friday, January 21, 2011

Seasonal Mysteries by June Shaw

Lots of authors of mysteries set their stories during a certain season. Christmas seems the most popular. We can find single titles and anthologies that center around the Christmas holidays. The main reason is probably because that's when people buy gifts for each other and for themselves. During the holiday season, readers like to plunge into problems that will be solved.

The next most popular season seems to be winter. Why? I imaging it's because winter is a barren time--a period when leaves dry up and fall. Snow and blizzards blanket large parts of the earth. It's an easy time to plant dead bodies in drab nature.

Mysteries are often set in the summer when the sun and its heat saturate humankind, often making tempers flare and individuals miserable. It's pretty easy to imaging those with a violent instinct taking their miseries out on others.

But what about spring? Birth. New beginnings. The flowers and bushes and trees wanted to thrive again. Not a time for killing, although authors sometimes have the snow melting and withdrawing to reveal a dead body.

Do you ever write books involving a certain season? Or have you purchased books to read because of the season in which they take place?

It's been awhile since I did that. How about you?


Susan Santangelo said...

Hi June. I loved Jane Haddam's mysteries, most of which were set around holidays. Also Leslie Meier's cozy mysteries. My third Baby Boomer mystery, Marriage Can Be Murder, will have a destination wedding on Nantucket during Christmas stroll. The research is lots of fun.

Jean Henry Mead said...

I enjoyed Carolyn Hart's mystery, Merry Merry Ghost, which takes place at Christmas. My own three mysteries have been set during fall and winter with plenty of snow, rain and fog. Weather makes a great antagonist.

Carola said...

My Daisy mysteries started out with a plan of going through the months, Death in January, Death in February etc (because I was tired of thinking up titles after years of writing Regencies). Each murder would be connected with the month--so Death at Wentwater Court has a body in a frozen lake, The Winter Garden Mystery has flowers beginning to bloom in a walled garden. My editor nixed the idea, but it got stuck in my head, so the first 11 books are all set in 1923, month by month (for some reason I skipped June). The last of the 11, Mistletoe and Murder, is obviously a Christmas story. It's lucky I didn't stick with those titles, as there will very soon be 19 books and I'd have run out of months long ago.

But the seasons are always very present in my books, an important part of the setting and sometimes of the plot.

Shane Cashion said...

I like the idea of writing around a season, or a holiday, in the sense that it seems to provide temporal direction to the writing and perhaps in that way prevents drifting. In my writing I find it hard to determine how much time has passed and how to convey such info. By way of an example along the same lines, Richard Ford's Frank Bascombe Series (Independence Day, The Sportwriter)are written around holidays. The holidays do become an impt part of the setting and I think are actually assistive to both the writer and reader

June Shaw said...

It's so good to hear that so many of you plan your books around a season.

Susan, my series also features baby boomers.

Carola, please set on in June now:)

Jaden Terrell said...

I don't think I've ever picked up a book just BECAUSE it was set in a certain season or at a certain holiday, but I have enjoyed many a book in which the weather or season played a major role. William Kent Kreuger's IRON LAKE is the one that comes to mind. Reading it, you can almost feel the bitter Minnesota winter.

My first Jared McKean book begins on a sweltering Tennessee night near the end of June; he and his son go to watch fireworks on July 4th. The second book takes place around Christmas, but it's not a jolly, Christmas-y book. Rather, the events in the book are (I hope) a startling contrast to the holiday trappings.

Bill Kirton said...

I tend to find that the season chooses itself some way into the story, when the overall mood has established itself - I then go back and make the necessary alterations to accommodate weather, daylight and all those things. In summer in Aberdeen, the sun rises near 4 am and doesn't set until 10+ pm, and in winter you get corresponding hours of darkness.

I can see the attraction of Christmas because of all the heightened emotions that seem to be generated by it - expectations, disappointments, hangovers, regrets, false bonhomie - all splendid ingredients.

Carola said...

June--A Mourning Wedding is set in June, as is my second Cornish mystery, A Colourful Death.

And I forgot to mention Gunpowder Plot, which is, of course, set in November at a Guy Fawkes celebration.