Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Crime for the Holidays: Kathy Lynn Emerson aka Kaitlyn Dunnett

Crime for the Holidays: Day II. This article by Kathy Lynn Emerson 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.

Kathy Lynn Emerson is the author of ten Face Down Mysteries featuring Susanna, Lady Appleton, sixteenth-century gentlewoman, herbalist, and sleuth, and of the Diana Spaulding Mystery Quartet, set in the U.S. in 1888. As Kaitlyn Dunnett, she writes the Liss MacCrimmon Mysteries. Her most recent Face Down Mystery is Face Down O'er the Border. Her most recent Liss MacCrimmon Mystery is The Corpse Wore Tartan.

The Twelve Shopping Days of Christmas by Kathy Lynn Emerson (aka Kaitlyn Dunnett)

I live in rural Maine, only a couple of hours away from the Canadian border. Many years ago, back when the only mysteries I'd had published were for young readers, I had an idea for a story that would involve smuggling toys into the U.S. This was inspired by incidents during the Beanie Babies craze in the late 1990s. Trucks full of these adorable little dolls were stopped at the border and the contents destroyed as illegal contraband.

Then I sold mysteries to the adult market, but what I was writing didn't lend itself to using the Beanie Babies. Sixteenth-century England and 1888 U.S. settings just wouldn't work. It wasn't until I started to write the Scottish-American-heritage-themed Liss MacCrimmon Mysteries, under the pseudonym Kaitlyn Dunnett, novels set in the present day in the mountains of western Maine, that I was finally able to use the clippings I'd kept on smuggling Beanie Babies. I turned them into "Tiny Teddies" and started plotting. It didn't take me long to realize that Christmas was the perfect holiday to use in connection with these toys.

In A WEE CHRISTMAS HOMICIDE, Liss MacCrimmon, former professional Scottish dancer and now the proprietor of Moosetookalook Scottish Emporium in Moosetookalook, Maine, discovers that she and two other businesses in town have the only remaining supply of Tiny Teddies in the Northeast. Since that's the toy every child wants for Christmas and is also an object highly prized by collectors (the tiny teddy bears come in a variety of costumes, including Scottish attire), Liss decides to make the most of the situation. She talks the local small business association into sponsoring the "twelve shopping days of Christmas," celebrating one line of the song for each of twelve days and culminating in a parade, a festival, and an auction of some of the Tiny Teddies on the twelfth day. The idea is that shoppers will flock to Moosetookalook in droves, stay at the newly renovated historic hotel, The Spruces, and buy! buy! buy! from all the merchants in town.

Because the previous novels in this series, KILT DEAD and SCONE COLD DEAD, are in the cozy subgenre and are written with a dash of humor, the partridge, turtle doves, French hens, calling birds, and other gifts in "The Twelve Days of Christmas" provided me with ample opportunity to use comic relief. At one point Liss's storeroom is quite overrun with poultry! There are also more traditional Christmas activities taking place throughout the novel and these are coupled with Liss's growing concern that one or both of the men she's been dating during the past year may be planning to propose to her on Christmas morning.

As this is a mystery, murder soon interferes with Liss's carefully laid plans to bring prosperity to Moosetookalook. Because the series features an amateur sleuth, the State Police detective on the case-one of those two men she's been dating-is missing a key piece of evidence. When it falls into Liss's hands, she investigates on her own-constantly reminding herself that she mustn't do anything that will place her in the TSTL (too stupid to live) category. Did I mention that Liss is a big fan of mystery novels? When she starts to put it all together, however, she's happy to bring her detective in on the chase. In this case that chase involves snowmobiles and leads to a few last minute surprises.


Kathy Emerson/Kaitlyn Dunnett said...

Kathy/Kaitlyn here to add a bit of trivia. Months after A WEE CHRISTMAS HOMICIDE was published, I discovered that I had committed a major blooper. I'd reversed two of the "twelve days." After a bit of thought, I decided to have a little fun with that mistake and so SCOTCHED, Liss's next adventure (November 2011), will begin with Liss's embarrassment over HER mix up with the verses.

Janet Rudolph said...

Love it.. Making lemonade from lemons!