Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Crime for the Holidays: Carolyn Hart

Crime for the Holidays: Day III. This article by Carolyn Hart first appeared in the Mystery Readers Journal: Crime for the Holidays (Volume 25:1, Spring 2009). Mystery Readers Journal: Crime for the Holidays is available as hardcopy and as a .pdf download. Table of contents and ordering info.

Carolyn Hart is the author of 42 mysteries with the publication March 31, 2009 of DARE TO DIE, the 19th in her Death on Demand series. MERRY, MERRY GHOST, her 43rd mystery, was published in 2009 and is now available in paperback. She is a past president of Sisters in Crime.

Holidays, Holy Days, and Happy Days by Carolyn Hart

Until I saw Janet’s call for pieces on holiday mysteries, I’ve never paused to realize how many books I’ve written with holiday themes: Deadly Valentine (Valentine’s Day), Yankee Doodle Dead (Fourth of July), Sugarplum Dead (Christmas), Ghost at Work (Halloween), and, coming out in Fall 2009, Merry, Merry Ghost (Christmas).

I have particular memories about each book.

In Deadly Valentine, I created a character whom I first envisioned as a slut. By the end of the manuscript, I realized she was vulnerable and appealing. Her desperate hunger for love reflected the theme of the book: How love or its lack damages lives, including those of cats. Yankee Doodle Dead explored the impact of vengeance against a patriotic backdrop. Family stresses and strains formed the bedrock of Sugarplum Dead. Families gather at Christmas and the emotional trauma is often intense. Old hurts and disappointments and failures haunt the holiday table. The reappearance of Annie Darling’s long lost father brings to the surface all of her anguish at his disappearance form her life when she was small. Ghost at Work, the first in a new series with an impetuous red-headed ghost as the protagonist, seemed a natural to launch during the spooky time of Halloween. Bailey Ruth Raeburn returns to earth to help someone in trouble. Sometimes you see her and sometimes you don’t. Bailey Ruth’s first helpful act is to remove an unwanted body from a back porch to a nearby cemetery, surely sheer Halloween entertainment.

Of all my holiday themed books, the forthcoming Merry, Merry Ghost is my favorite. In the other books, the holidays form a backdrop. In Merry, Merry Ghost, the story is as much about the beauty and grace of Christmas as the family described.

I have a wonderful time picturing the bustle and eagerness of Christmas, the pleasure of shopping for loved ones and friends, the technicolor glories of yard displays, Christmas music from the majestic “It Came Upon the Midnight Clear” to the lively and beloved “Rudolph, the Red-nosed Reindeer,” holiday treats from Aunt Bill’s candy to Pfferneuse cookies, the delight of decorating a huge outdoor tree, indoor pine swags and mistletoe clumps, the ring of the Salvation Army kettle, and the ineffable grace of God’s love realized on earth.

Bailey Ruth (the late Bailey Ruth Raeburn) is dispatched from Heaven to her old hometown of Adelaide, OK. She arrives on a frosty evening shortly before Christmas at Pritchard house, the home of one of the town’s first families. On the front porch is a four-year-old boy with a battered suitcase. A woman gives him an envelope and tells him to hand the note to whomever answers the door. The woman rings the bell and disappears into the night. Gathered inside the house are the heirs of Susan Pritchard Flynn. Susan is unaware that she has an orphaned grandson, Keith. When Susan realizes Keith is her dead son’s child, she plans to change her will. A previous heir plans the perfect murder but Bailey Ruth is on the case. Despite car chases, a fatal encounter for a blackmailer at an open mining pit, and a handwritten will that disappear, Bailey Ruth brings a clever killer to justice and assures Keith’s inheritance.

I hope readers will enjoy reading Merry, Merry Ghost as much as I enjoyed writing it. And as Tiny Tim said, “God Bless us, every one!”

1 comment:

Becky said...

Sounds like an amazing book! I have been on a mystery book frenzy the past little bit, in fact just finished one about the Hearst castle, 1920’s and the dazzling lives of Hollywood’s legendary movie stars titled, "Blood, Money, Power" by Michele Marie Tate. I can't wait to check out another one. Thanks for the great book suggestion!