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Our blog is meant to evoke fun with the magic of myths, folklore, movies and the mayhem of murder and madness. We have to keep it interesting so if you like different genres of movies and books then you're at the right blog. Our authors are a wide range of experts and our readers know what is top of the line in their favorite genres. Sometimes we post recipes that might be fun to try if a culinary author has one in her book that we think is especially yummy or one that Terri and I have created and want to share with you. Enjoy Guest Blogger Alice Duncan's monthly muse on her books and writing mysteries.
Plus you won't want to miss our book reviews, author interviews or our guest bloggers. So grab your favorite beverage then join us for some magic and mayhem! The good news is that you don't have to leave the house or your comfy chair. We have something for everyone's taste and every month we have a different topic for our bloggers: ones we feel that might be useful in your own writing and reader points of view. Not to mention, life in general. So join us and be sure to have a notebook handy as your to-be-read pile will grow as you add books, recipes, movies and t.v. series you won't want to miss. Not to mention folktales, myths or ideas you may wish to explore. Be careful what you wish for because on mayhemandmagic2 you just might find it.
Thursday, April 29, 2010
Guest Blog - Stalking the English Village by Maria Hudgins
I’ve been thinking about this for a long time: Why can’t cozy mysteries set in today’s America evoke the same charm we find in those of the Golden Age? I’m talking about the murder in a little English village where everybody knows everybody else. Where the village idiot is as much a part of the community as the doctor but is never referred to as challenged, special, or any other modern euphemism. Where curtains shift when a car drives past. American mysteries seem to be either urban with lots of blood and action, or suburban with everyone on the block the same age, upper-middle class, and flashing impossibly white teeth.
Our failure is certainly not for lack of trying. A quick scan of the mystery section at Barnes and Noble reveals dozens of new cozy titles every month. But (okay, here’s where someone throws a heavy object at me) many of them are silly. Some insult the reader’s intelligence. Some feature towns where the smartest residents are either feline or canine.
Essential features of the cozy plot include an isolated or limited group of suspects, a victim that everyone knew but no one will miss very much, and a murder committed under baffling circumstances. Usually we have an amateur sleuth but not always. Usually the body is discovered near the beginning of the story and the solution is revealed near the end. Usually the clues needed to solve the mystery are right there, in black and white, but still somehow concealed.
Readers of cozies are intelligent people who love a mental challenge. The only thing they like more than figuring out “whodunit” before the author tells them is NOT figuring it out and slapping themselves on the forehead with “Oh, no! How did I miss it?”
Back to my original question: Whatever happened to the little English village? Do they still exist? On a recent trip to the English Cotswolds, I rented a car (big mistake) and drove around looking for that quiet, charming place where a good murder or two would upset the local applecart and bring out the nosy Parkers. They do still exist! They are as pretty as ever, but they’re not the same. The photo is one I took on my ramble through the countryside west of Oxford. What’s different? Under the thatched roofs they now have computers and TVs and microwaves. The man and the woman of the house are both wage-earners, employed in jobs that didn’t exist twenty years ago. Their children have tattoos and wear T-shirts with strange messages. A Beamer sits in the driveway.
On the other hand, I did find one sign that told me the quaint little village hasn’t changed all that much. A chalkboard menu outside a tiny tearoom announced the arrival of Samantha’s four boys and two girls. I suspect Samantha is neither human, cow, nor horse, but is a valued member of the community anyway. Samantha and offspring were all doing well.
Maybe I’m looking at this the wrong way. Maybe I should quit looking for the modern equivalent of the little English village and content myself, as I have been doing, with settings that isolate a small group of suspects. So far I’ve used a Scottish castle, a tour bus, and a cruise ship. The story I’m working on now takes place in a Swiss chateau high in the Alps.
What do you think? Where can I go to find a great setting for a mystery?
Many thanks to Pamela and Terri for inviting me in today. Please check out my website, www.mariahudgins.com.