Several years ago, while doing research on Gothic murder mysteries set in the English countryside (late 1800s to 1940s), I discovered the genre originated in the Christian west. You had your vicar as a prominent character and many times the body was found in the belfry of a small country church or in some secret passageway in a large city cathedral. There was author Isabelle Holland (1920-1999) who created two female sleuths: Rev. Claire Aldington and Sister Mary Theresa Dempsey. Charles Merrill Smith (1919-1985) created the Rev. Randolph mystery series who also wrote HOW THE BIBLE WAS BUILT. Agatha Christie (1890-1976) often had pastors and church ladies in her novels…and there are many more examples if one looks.
From the very beginning murder mysteries, who-dun-its, and detective stories have been about the fight between good and evil. The history of the murder mystery has been that of solving a moral dilemma (a deadly crime) — and the guilty party, no matter how smart or cunning, is caught and punished. I think that’s why I’m so drawn to suspense and thrillers.
Mostly I read hard-boiled mysteries, where the villains are indeed vile. Many call this gritty or noir fiction because of it’s darkness. I think an author can go over the top with darkness and it can get, as my daughter would say, creepy. There has to be a balance.
I try to make my heroines and heroes into capable, three-dimensional characters, who are not dummies. I want my main characters to show some brainpower and have the ability to deal with different situations. They need a worthy opponent for a bad guy who’s really bad. Otherwise, Barney Fife could solve the crime. My villains are serious contenders, often demented, always shrewd.
In my historical romantic suspense debut novel, BURNING HEARTS, the most difficult character to craft was Erica Brogna, my heroine. I had to make her spunky, capable, smart, obstinate, and determined enough to have her go after a truly demented killer. She’s the youngest of my three heroines in the Sanctuary Point series, so she also had to be cute, vulnerable, and sweet. She also had to be independent enough to get into trouble, yet be able to love and depend on others, especially that hunk of a hero I created for her, Lorne Kincade.
I present pretty heinous crimes in my novels, but what I’m trying to get across is that Love, with a capital “L” always wins. There is a love imbued in the human soul that comes from God. It makes people better than what they are, makes them capable of doing greater things than they can do. It’s this Love that triumphs over evil. All people are capable of feeling and acting on this type of love, but the closer in relationship we come to God, the more we are able to Love as He does.
(arson/murder, action, and romance in equal measure)
Can a sheltered young seamstress, disillusioned by the horrors of WWII, escape an arsonist/murderer who has killed her employer and mentor, while trying to decide if she can trust the dashing war hero who’s ridden into town on his Harley—who some say is the murderer?
Erica Brogna’s parents doted on her and taught her to think for herself. Many boys she grew up with had fallen in the WWII, shaking her childhood faith. In rides a handsome stranger, at the hour of her most desperate need. A woman who is her close friend and mentor is trapped in a burning house. After making an unsuccessful rescue attempt, Erica stands by as this man rushes into the inferno and carries her friend’s lifeless body out.
Lorne Kincade can’t out run his past on his Harley Davidson WLA, the civilian model of the motorcycle he rode in the war. He’s tried. He’s been a vagabond biker in the year since the war ended. His Uncle Ivar bequeathed him a ramshackle cottage in Sanctuary Point, on the Great South Bay of Long Island, NY and now he’d like to hope for a future again, repair the miniscule place, and settle down. The only problem is, a young woman with hair the color of mink is starting to get under his skin and that’s the last thing he needs.
GOODBYE NOEL, the second in the series will be released on December 15, 2011. It’s a Christmas/New Years (1946/47) themed romantic suspense in which bodies keep droping and a young pediatric nurse finds she literally has to protect an orphaned infant from harms way, while she’s trying to decide if she can trust the detective who seems to want to hand the baby over to a distant relative. A subtheme of the novel is how universally Christmas was observed in America at that time.