It is my pleasure to share a guest post by author Jo A. Hiestand, who shares the answer to my question...
ELF: What do you think is the strongest attraction about the genre you like to write in?
I write classic mysteries. I add a strong dose of the cozy element to them—a closed group of people who know each other, all in a small location like a village, and the focus of the story is to solve the identity of the murderer.
For me, and probably many readers, one attraction of reading this type of book is the puzzle, solving the killer’s identity along with—or before—the sleuth does. It’s a race, pitting our observations and reasoning against those of the experienced detective. It’s grand fun, attempting to solve the riddle, figuring out clues. It’s a grand workout for the brain.
Another allure this book exerts is escape. While reading, cares and problems of everyday life are left behind. We’re plunged into another world, perhaps a different location from where we live. We get to experience people, sights, customs, and cultures unlike our own, and that’s tremendously interesting. We’re learning, too, about these places. Reading a mystery, involving us in the characters’ problems, is a great release from the familiarity (and at times what we may consider boredom) of our routines. Nothing spices up our lives like escaping to Scotland along with McLaren, for example, and keeping out of a killer’s clutches!
Mysteries also offer a dose of justice. In our present, crazy world we’re bombarded with news of terrorist strikes, mass shootings, civil unrest, and suicide bombers. The mystery shows us that this crime, at least, has been dealt with according to Law. The guilty person has been arrested, possibly about to stand trial and conviction. Right has triumphed; no one got away with anything. The system works.
Control might be another attraction to mysteries. We may have little control over many things in our lives: bad weather, bad drivers, house repairs, co-workers or the boss, family members, rising prices, taxes… These things can produce frustration, anger, or dejection. But when we read that the killer is behind bars and all is well in that fictional world, that sense of everything returning to normal assures us that one place, at least, has gained control of the madness that claimed it for a while.
In addition to all this, the genre awards the desire for safety. No matter the fear produced by the murder, blackmail or assaults, we sense this will end peacefully with the criminal’s apprehension. There will be no more murders, the blackmail has ended, the physical abuse or threats are over. The victims and community can relax, stop looking over their shoulders and avoiding shadows. We are safe.
McLaren isn’t looking to be lied to, insulted, or physically assaulted in Related By Murder. But those things find him, and his world spirals out of his control. He loses his sense of safety. During his hunt for the killer and the person behind the assaults heaped upon him he is pursing an outcome of fairness for himself and the victims. He, too, puzzles through the clues with which he’s presented, and he triumphs in the end. There’s more than satisfaction in stopping a killer. He’s also brought peace to his own life. It seems to fit right in with the reason we read mysteries.
Jo A. Hiestand
GENRE: British mystery
From the moment ex-police detective Michael McLaren arrives at his friend’s house, he’s plunged into a nightmare of a case. Two men, hanged a year apart, each killed on a Good Friday. A barrister. A solicitor. Related careers. Related by murder. Related motives?
Pottery shards, a torn newspaper article, and biscuits are found in each man’s pocket. What do they signify? And the blackmail letters Melanie receives… Are they related to the murders, or are they separate, terrifying in their own way?
Professions, calendar date, McLaren’s attack. Could it all be entwined? Or is the motive for murder something else, something so secret that keeping it is worth attempting a third one?
NOTE: The book is temporarily on sale for $0.99.
(please check price before purchasing)
McLaren sat up and leaned against the remnant of a broken-off column. How long had he been there? Forty-five minutes, his wristwatch announced. It was time to end this farce.
He didn’t, though. A beam of light near the river changed his plan. He crouched down, hugging the column, and watched.
The torchlight moved up the riverbank, a slow and steady progress that implied the walker was picking his way over rocky ground. The light bobbed several times as the person holding it evidently lost his footing. But it remained focused ahead, toward the main grounds of the Abbey. The progress was now more sure, signifying the rocks and sand had been left behind and the walker was now on firm soil. The light never flicked from side to side, as it would if the person was unsure of the land and was looking for obstacles. Several times the light slid behind a portion of the stone wall or a taller column remainder, but it always appeared again within seconds, still moving straight ahead.
Who the hell would be here at this hour?
Suggestions whispered to him, and he moved quickly to the cemetery section of the Abbey. Hoping to blend in and look like another pile of rocky foundation, he crouched beside a stone coffin. He turned his head and held his breath, not wanting any sound to give away his location.
When he looked up, the light had vanished.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
I grew up reading Dumas, Twain, duMaurier, Dickens and the Brontes. I loved the atmosphere of those books. Add the Basil Rathbone-Nigel Bruce movies and the moods of 1940s/50s movies like Brief Encounter, Night Must Fall, and The Thirty-Nine Steps, and I knew I wanted to write mysteries, and the books had to be set in Britain. That was a must even though I knew only what I’d seen in the movies and read in the novels. But the British pull was tenacious. Three years ago I discovered that I have literally centuries and centuries of English, Scottish and Welsh ancestry. Do genes mean anything
My first visit to England was during my college years and that cemented my joy of Things British. Since then, I’ve been lured back nearly a dozen times, and lived there for a year during my professional folksinging stint.
What do I write? Well, at the moment, I write two British mystery series: the McLaren Mysteries and the Peak District Mysteries. The McLaren novels feature ex-police detective Michael McLaren, who investigates cold case murders on his own. The Peak District books feature a different British custom/tradition that is the backbone of each book’s plot. These are a combo cozy/police procedural, and members of the Derbyshire Constabulary CID Murder team work these cases.
I combined my love of writing, mysteries, music, and board games by co-inventing a mystery-solving treasure-hunting game, P.I.R.A.T.E.S.
I founded the Greater St. Louis Chapter of the international mystery writers/readers organization Sisters in Crime, serving as its first president.
In 2001, I graduated from Webster University with a BA degree in English and departmental honors. I live in the St. Louis, MO area with my cat, Tennyson, and way too many kilts.
The tour dates can be found here