Leslie Karst here. Frankie Bow and I first met at the California Crime Writers’ Convention in Los Angeles about six years ago, when we sat at the same table at lunch, only to realize we both lived in Hilo, Hawai’i (me only half time). We immediately hit it off, and the rest–as they say–is history. She’s one of the funniest gals I know, so you’re in for a treat today:
Murder hornets: 2020’s surprise mystery trend, because why not?
The year 2020 has given mystery writers a lot of story material: The fleeting clue in someone’s Zoom background. The masked stranger and the case of mistaken identity. The death of a key witness in an overcrowded hospital.
And then there’s the Murder Hornet.
The Murder Hornet, aka the Asian giant hornet (Vespa mandarinia), is the largest hornet in the world, about the size of a cocktail sausage (if cocktail sausages had wings). It’s native to Asia but has recently been spotted in the U.S. Pacific Northwest.
With the news full of a relentless global pandemic, deadly weather events, and cracks in the fragile global supply chain upon which our entire way of life depends, the Murder Hornet is the villain we need now.
Despite its fearsome (actually awesome) name, the Murder Hornet doesn’t generally kill people. Murder Hornets attack and eat other social insects such as honeybees. (Read more about them here.)
The important question is: How do we get Murder Hornets into murder mysteries? I am still working out the details. Here are my notes. Feel free to use them. As we say in academic publishing, don’t thank me; cite me.
1) The story begins with the newly-single protagonist returning to her backwater hometown to start over. Instead of opening a bookstore, a bakery, or a wedding-planning business, she dusts off her master’s degree in entomology and sets up shop as an exterminator. But on the day of her grand opening…Murder Hornets.
2) Instead of a sassy cat sidekick, a Murder Hornet.
3) Love triangle? One of the suitors (the dashing “bad boy”) is stung to death by Murder Hornets. The heroine ends up with the boring one. Problem solved.
4) Instead of bumbling police, make them bumblebee police. They are understandably terrified of Murder Hornets. They call on the amateur sleuth to save the day (because they don’t want their heads snipped off and their thoraxes eaten by Murder Hornets). How the tables have turned!
5a) The detective’s crooked boss tells him he’s off the case because his investigation Got Too Close to a Powerful Person. The crooked boss is subsequently revealed to be a bunch of Murder Hornets in a human suit when a rookie cop “accidentally” slices open his latex skin and lets all the hornets fly out. (Probably not suitable for a cozy mystery).
5b) (Different POV) A veteran cop has to get a new partner after the death of his old one. The partners are at each other’s throats until the rookie proves herself by revealing their crooked boss to be a bunch of live hornets inside a latex human-like skin. There is a lot of paperwork afterwards.
Frankie Bow writes The Professor Molly mysteries and licensed novellas in Jana DeLeon’s Miss Fortune universe. As “Patience Fairweather,” she is also the author of No, You Can’t be an Astronaut, a realistic career guide.
Like Professor Molly, Frankie teaches at a public university. Unlike her protagonist, she is blessed with delightful students, sane colleagues, and a perfectly nice office chair.
In addition to writing murder mysteries and self-help books, Frankie publishes in scholarly journals under her real name. Her experience with academic publishing has taught her to take nothing personally. She believes if life isn’t fair, at least it can be entertaining.
About TRUST FALL: Meetings can be murder. Literally.
It’s going to be another boring faculty retreat at Mahina State University, “Where Your Future Begins Tomorrow.”
But then the Trust Fall exercise goes horribly wrong…
Get TRUST FALL, a free Professor Molly short story, in all formats, here.
Explore the Professor Molly series here.