I’ve always loved classic mystery fiction. I’ve been a huge fan of women classic mystery authors like Agatha Christie, Anna Katharine Green, Mary Roberts Rinehart, and Dorothy L. Sayers. As for the men… all I can say is Sherlock Holmes sort of annoys me, but that’s another story…
In 2003, I was going through a period of self-doubt and imposterism about writing literary fiction. November of that year, as it is every year, was National Novel Writing Month and since NaNoWriMo has always been an opportunity for me to experiment and get creatively outside of my comfort zone, I thought, “Why not try my hand at writing a mystery?” My love of classic fiction and history was stirring then, so the choice to write a historical mystery was a no-brainer.
I started with an idea for The Paper Chase Mysteries that November and I haven’t stopped getting ideas for books for the series since then (last count, my series “Book Ideas” notes are 35 pages long!) The series incorporates everything I love: a dynamic time in history, a resilient female protagonist, an equally resilient if mysterious “sidekick”, supportive (and progressive-thinking) male characters, and a host of eccentric, loveable people in a small town setting. And a touch of romance? Well, maybe…
Here are a few more details about this series:
A historical mystery series featuring a turn-of-the-century New Woman, who, along with her spiritualist friend and ex-detective-turned-deputy-sheriff brother, helps the local police solve crimes in a small Northern California town.
The first book is set in the first years of the 20th century, and the series progresses from there. What year will it end? Who can say!
The series takes place primarily in the fictional town of Arrojo, located in Northern California. This is not a seaside resort town like Waxwood, but more inland. Arrojo is one of those small, dusty towns that isn’t completely a stereotypical “Wild West” town, but not too far from it. However, unlike many Wild West towns, Arrojo shuns progress and hangs on to the Victorian values of the past century for dear life. That includes their ideas of how women should behave.
As the seat of Arrojo County, the town also includes a small population of upper-class families in conflict with a middle class majority because they consider themselves superior and entitled to make all civic decisions. The small working class population is its “dirty little secret” and regulated to the other side of the river. It’s a sort of mini Barbary Coast.
The Who (i.e., the main players)
Adele Gossling, a product of the Progressive Era. Although not exactly an aristocratic, she is well-to-do, thanks to an inheritance from her deceased father, a successful San Francisco criminal lawyer. As a New Woman, she is hardly one to rest on her laurels, preoccupying herself with flirtations and marriage proposals. Her father’s death left her desolate as well as highly pressured by a certain young man of her acquaintance who pursues her. Her solution is to hide herself away in a small town.
Although a firm believer in human rights, reforms, and philanthropic endeavors, she also has her faults, not the least of which is her stubbornness and putting her nose in where it isn’t wanted. Her interest in crime wins the disapproval of many of Arrojo’s prominent citizens, especially those ladies who have antiquated notions of a “woman’s place”.
Jackson Gossling, Adele’s older brother. He’s a former detective with the vigilante Seton Agency (similar to the Pinkertons) with a rather shady past. His father’s death also hit him hard, though not as hard as it did his sister, and he’s trying to pick up the pieces of his life so he can become something more than a wastrel. His devotion to his sister brings him to Arrojo and his keen eye for detail and fearless ability to ask the hard questions make him an invaluable aid to the police.
Anita (Nin) Branch, a citizen of Arrojo who befriends Adele. Considered the town “witch” because of her spiritual abilities and her knowledge of healing herbs, she’s an outcast and tolerated only because her roots are as worthy as those of the town’s prominent citizens. She loathes the term “mesmerizer” and calls herself a “vibrationist”, someone who can interpret vibrations given off by people, places, and things. Her friendship with Adele and her vibration readings lend support to police investigations.
Sheriff Horatio Hatfield, an ex-sea captain and elected sheriff of Arrojo. In contrast to Jackson’s more formal and direct interrogative tactics, he is friendly, relaxed, and, despite his massive physical size, always congenial. He is meticulous in his job and broaches the unsavory, uncomfortable, and abhorrent with finesse and understanding. Around women, he is shy and a little flustered and his regard for Adele is apparent to everyone but her.
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