Guest Chick Katherine Bolger Hyde: Whither the Weather?

Today the Chicks are pleased to welcome Katherine Bolger Hyde, whose newest book in the Crime with the Classics series, Cynanide with Christie, was just released. Katherine is a member of the Santa Cruz Women of Mystery, along with Chick Leslie Karst—who wholeheartedly agrees that it’s about time for summer to finally come to Northern California.

The weather has been odd this spring in my little corner of the California coast. Where normally at this time of year we’d be cavorting on the beach in tank tops and flip-flops, it’s been so cool and rainy that we’ve had to choose between bundling up in our winter togs to stay warm and dry or defying the elements to dress as if it really were the time of year the calendar says it is. I’d almost come to the conclusion that aliens—perhaps the Jedoon from Doctor Who—had kidnapped the whole state and transported it to the southern hemisphere.

All this concern with weather has led me to think about how weather gets used in fiction. Throughout the history of the novel, weather has been used for everything from adding atmosphere (think Wuthering Heights or To Kill a Mockingbird) to justifying characters’ bad behavior (think White Oleander or Rain) to influencing the plot in significant ways.

Agatha Christie was especially fond of using weather as a plot element in her stories. In And Then There Were None, a storm isolates the characters on an island from which there is no escape, so that they can be picked off one by one. In Appointment with Death, the victim is given a paralyzing drug and left to nearly die of sunstroke in the ovenlike Syrian heat. And in Murder on the Orient Express, snowdrifts stop the train on the tracks, providing both a vital clue—the lack of footprints in the snow—and the delay that allows Poirot to solve the crime and make his decision to conceal the truth of it from the police.

So when I came to write my own mystery that plays off of Christie’s oeuvre—Cyanide with Christie—it seemed only natural to make the weather a motive force. The main series setting is a relatively isolated country house on the Oregon coast, so to cut the house off completely by means of an ice storm was child’s play. Throw in an old-fashioned Christmas celebration, some festering family secrets, and a handful of characters who hate each other but can’t escape, and you have all the ingredients for a nice little Christie-esque murder.

Meanwhile in Santa Cruz County, the frustration caused by all the recent clouds and fog and chilly days may have fostered lurking murderous tendencies in some of the residents. But today the sun is out, the sky is smiling, and the weather mavens tell us we may expect some more seasonal weather in the coming week. Maybe we can finally unpack our flip-flops and take out all our aggressions by playing volleyball on the beach.

Readers: What effect does the weather have on your day or your mood? Do you like novels where the weather plays an important part in the plot?

About Cynanide with Christie:



Emily Cavanaugh is planning to celebrate a traditional Dickensian Christmas with the first batch of writer guests in her newly opened retreat center. But with the arrival of an unexpected guest and an ice storm that traps everyone together, Emily’s holiday turns into a Christie Christmas instead—complete with murder.




About Katherine:



Katherine Bolger Hyde has devoted her life to books as a reader, editor, and writer. Since none of those things pays very well, in middle life she turned to crime—writing, that is. Katherine is the author of the Crime with the Classics traditional mystery series. She lives in Santa Cruz County with her husband, youngest son, and two obstreperous cats.

Learn more about Katherine here.

31 thoughts on “Guest Chick Katherine Bolger Hyde: Whither the Weather?

  1. Congrats on your new book! I live in a hot climate, and we’re approaching my least favorite time of year. I’ll be staying inside as much as possible from now until September. As for what weather I like in fiction, I’ll read anything, but dark and stormy always seems fitting for a good mystery.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. That’s a great idea, Tom–kind of like having a back-story for every character, even if you don’t use it, because it helps you understand their motivations better. I might have to try it!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Rainy days make me grumble. That’s probably a good reason to continue living in my little desert. But I love how weather is something that we can’t control in this modern era of comfort. Being trapped in an ice storm is such a perfect set up. Sounds like a great read. Best wishes for your new book!

    Liked by 5 people

  3. Weather definitely effects my mood–I get that SAD (seasonal affective disorder) thing when the sky is gray for too many days in a row. I need me my sun!! (Maybe that would be a good plot idea….)

    Thanks so much for visiting the Chicks today, Katherine, and congrats on the new book!

    Liked by 4 people

  4. It’s not just your corner of CA. I’m in Southern California, and I’ve been complaining last month that we were having wonderful weather – for February. Fortunately, it’s warming up for us now. I’m ready for summer!

    Congrats on the new book!

    As much as I love AND THEN THERE WERE NONE, I’ve often thought that the entire book would fall apart if that storm hadn’t happened and they could have communicated with the mainland to get rescued. Well, the first couple of murdered would have happened, but that would have been all.

    Liked by 5 people

  5. Welcome, Katherine! Your book sounds great. I write a series set in Louisiana, so I’m always looking for new ways to describe humidity.

    Wuthering Heights is my all-time favorite book. I looked up the definition of “wuthering” and it’s a no-longer-used North England term for strong winds. How appropriate to the psychology of that story.

    Liked by 5 people

  6. I love the layering of weather into a scene, and wish I did it better. I’m going to try that trick of Tom’s. At least that will make me think about it more.

    I’m one of those people who loves rainy days, probably because in uber-sunny Colorado we don’t get too many of them. But I also love days like today, a cobalt blue sky with no clouds, about 75°, all the windows open so I can hear the sounds of the neighborhood. On perfect days like this I often think, “What kind of horror lurks out there in complete juxtaposition to the weather?”

    Liked by 4 people

  7. Thanks for visiting, Katherine! Your book sounds fantastic!

    Weather plays a big part in my mood. I’m a blue-skies-and-sunshine gal. Fortunately, my hometown accommodates me with 300 days of sunshine every year. (Of course some of that sun is post-snow, so we get plenty of cold, too.) I love books where weather plays a role. I enjoyed Shutter Island’s take on storm-as-character.

    Best of luck with the new release!

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Katherine, I’m reading your book right now and enjoying it immensely! (Now will pay more attention to the weather! Am just at the arrival of the professors right now.) Thanks so much for visiting us today!

    Two other extreme-weather stories that made me FEEL it in my bones are Jack London’s “To Build a Fire” and Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer. *shivers*

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Congrats on the new book! I like to see weather used in a story because it adds something the characters can’t just change, they must adapt. Up here in Antioch, after complaining about the chilly weather and almost needing to turn the heat on, the warm weather seems to have arrived with a vengeance – 96 yesterday, 97 today. . . at least we still have something to complain about.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I wonder if there’s anywhere in the world that people don’t complain about the weather? As Mark Twain said (I think this one’s for real), “Everybody complains about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.”

      Liked by 3 people

  10. We New Englanders are always prepared for any kind of weather–at any time. When visiting my husband’s family in Washington Sate, they laugh at me because I bring 1. an umbrella and 2. a bright yellow slicker. (I mean, rain, right?) Weather is always the first point of chit-chat here, whether it’s at the post office, the gas pumps, or the coffee shop. People here love to speculate how “off” the forecasters will be–a very fun game. In my opinion, nothing creates atmosphere like a wicked nor’east-ah! Thanks for visiting Chicks, Katherine, and great to meet you and your books. I’m definitely going to read this!

    Liked by 2 people

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