Tuesday, October 24, 2017

A Cozy Mystery Tackles a National Epidemic: Guest Post by Donna Huston Murray

Donna Huston Murray's eight cozy mysteries feature a woman much like herself, a DIY headmaster's wife with a troubling interest in crime. FINAL ARRANGEMENTS, set at Philadelphia’s world famous flower show, achieved #1 on the Kindle store lists for Mysteries and Female Sleuths. Murray’s mystery/crime debut, WHAT DOESN’T KILL YOU, won Honorable Mention in the 23rd Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards.

Donna Huston Murray:
A Cozy Mystery Tackles a National Epidemic: FOR BETTER OR WORSE

It seemed simple enough. Just give my cozy series character, Ginger Barnes, a couple of her daughter’s neighbors to adopt—perhaps an unemployed singer living with his slightly dotty grandmother, whom he may or may not push down the stairs. Practical sort that she is, Gin will ask Eric to help move a dresser for the woman two doors down, a young mother with an abusive husband. Sparks will fly, followed by fists…

The idea required me to research spousal abuse, and what I learned astonished me. The Huffington Post’s 2015 article “30 Shocking Domestic Violence Statistics” labeled the problem “a national epidemic,” stating that 1 in 4 women will be severely injured by an intimate partner in their lifetime. That statistic hasn’t budged. For women, domestic violence remains the leading cause of injury.

The topic is also rife with myths. Who would guess that alcohol and drugs don’t prompt the loss of control? They may make the violence worse, but mostly they serve as an excuse to do what the abuser intended to do all along. Turns out most abusive behavior is deliberate, designed to secure the privileged life the perpetrator believes he deserves.

Why does any woman stay? Long-term undermining of her confidence, threat of physical retribution, and fear of losing her children are common reasons, but financial abuse is reported to be the most effective. With no access to money the victim simply can’t afford to leave.

“It’s a cozy mystery,” I reminded myself, but I kept looking for a way to sneak in some of those illuminating facts. If I could bring that off, FOR BETTER OR WORSE might stand a chance of making a difference to someone.

In the end my goal wasn’t so difficult. I channeled Agatha Christie and kept the unpleasant bits offstage. I gave Gin a women’s shelter manager to quiz and the same reference books I read myself. Then I sent her to Kentucky Fried Chicken to have lunch with a psychologist.

Beta reader Elissa Strati assured me I brought off the mystery, but her review’s final remark? “Plan on exercising those gray cells with this one.”

Today is FOR BETTER OR WORSE’s pre-order launch day. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B076DCGPWZ  (Pub date: January, 2018)


Elissa Strati said...

Light and fluffy topic? No--but then neither is murder! Nonetheless the tone of the book remains friendly as, while not sugar-coated, the message seeps through gently: We do NOT deserve violence of any kind whatsoever at anyone's hands whosoever. PERIOD. A friend reminded me that all caps is shouting. Well, yes, I am shouting. This is important information for you and everyone you know, male or female.

Oh, and it is a darned good mystery, too!

Dixie P. said...

I only recently found Donna Huston-Murray's work. I really love her new book! It is not only keeping up with a major problem we have in the U.S., and I suppose many other places as well, but it should, hopefully, open more eyes to this problem of spousal abuse.

It's hard to imagine seeing a spouse as "property" and, therefore, anything could be done to them. We need it understood, it's NOT acceptable to hurt because of a flash of anger or because they believe they have the right. There are even those who take pride and/or enjoy in hurting "their" wife or significant other.

We should all make an effort to let it be known: Hurting others in any capacity, be it husband or wife, boyfriend or girlfriend, adult or child -- is NOT acceptable and it's not going to be tolerated!

In her new book, For Better or Worse, Donna has written about some very typical couples of today. She has shown how, through abuse, even the wife, who really is a "victim", begins to believe it's their fault!

Well done, Donna, I will continue to be in your corner and I will keep on reading!