We are delighted to welcome Dianne Freeman, author of the award-winning Countess of Harleigh Mystery series! A Lady’s Guide to Gossip and Murder is out this week, and Dianne will give away one hardcover copy to a lucky commenter.
I Wrote a What?
There was never any question that when I wrote a novel, it would be historical fiction. I love history. There’s something magical about taking a trip to the past to mingle with people from a bygone era. What did they believe? What did they care about? How did they live? I should be clear that this trip takes place only in my head and I travel via books and old newspapers. I don’t have any actual magical powers, darn it.
It was also a given that I’d write mystery. I love following the clues and cracking the case. Crime novels are like a social commentary about a particular time and place. What could make a person feel so cornered that murder, a bad idea under any circumstances, seems to be the only escape?
What I didn’t know about my novel, was that I’d written a cozy, probably because I’d never heard the term before. When my agent mentioned it, I just agreed. Who was I to question her? She was an experienced agent and I was a brand-new author. I didn’t want her to think I was a complete idiot. As soon as the conversation was over, I Googled “cozy mystery.” Here’s what I learned:
“The detectives in a cozy are nearly always amateurs, and are frequently women.“
So far, so good. My protagonist is Frances, Countess of Harleigh. She’s an American heiress and widow to the philandering Earl of Harleigh. Though she can run a large household staff, the only kind of training she’s had was in the social graces. She’s amusing at parties, can whip up a seating chart or flower arrangement in no time, and has a finely tuned ear for gossip. Amateur status—check.
“The crime and detection take place in a small, socially intimate community.”
No one would call London a small town, even in 1899, but the upper echelon of society at that time was definitely a socially intimate community. Each member had to know one another’s business or risk hosting a dinner party with a husband and wife, and one of their lovers. That could be uncomfortable.
“Sex and violence are downplayed, or treated humorously.”
I’ve been known to have nightmares after reading violent or psychological thrillers, so writing details of violence would keep me up all night wondering, what’s that noise? In my books, violence takes place off the page. As for sex, my characters are very discreet.
All in all, this makes the cozy my favorite kind of mystery so I’m glad to hear that’s what I wrote. One element Google didn’t mention, but I learned later, was that the victim and the villain know each other. The victim could be murdered by a colleague, someone he thought was a friend, or worse, a family member, which puts a completely different slant on the term “cozy” doesn’t it? I’d better not consider that too closely or cozies may have me losing sleep too.
Chicks and readers, what are your favorite types of mysteries? Do they keep you up at night or help you to rest easy?
Dianne Freeman is the acclaimed author of the Countess of Harleigh Mystery series. She is an Agatha Award and Lefty Award winner, as well as a finalist for the prestigious Mary Higgins Clark Award from Mystery Writers of America.
She spent thirty years working in corporate accounting and finance and now writes full-time. Born and raised in Michigan, she and her husband split their time between Michigan and Arizona.
Visit her at www.DiFreeman.com.
Though American by birth, Frances Wynn, the now-widowed Countess of Harleigh, has adapted admirably to the quirks and traditions of the British aristocracy. On August twelfth each year, otherwise known as the Glorious Twelfth, most members of the upper class retire to their country estates for grouse-shooting season. Frances has little interest in hunting—for birds or a second husband—and is expecting to spend a quiet few months in London with her almost-engaged sister, Lily, until the throng returns.
Instead, she’s immersed in a shocking mystery when a friend, Mary Archer, is found murdered. Frances had hoped Mary might make a suitable bride for her cousin, Charles, but their courtship recently fizzled out. Unfortunately, this puts Charles in the spotlight—along with dozens of others. It seems Mary had countless notes hidden in her home, detailing the private indiscretions of society’s elite. Frances can hardly believe that the genteel and genial Mary was a blackmailer, yet why else would she horde such juicy tidbits?
Aided by her gallant friend and neighbor, George Hazelton, Frances begins assisting the police in this highly sensitive case, learning more about her peers than she ever wished to know. Too many suspects may be worse than none at all—but even more worrying is that the number of victims is increasing too. And unless Frances takes care, she’ll soon find herself among them . . .