Leslie here, pleased as punch to welcome the marvelous Lucy Burdette to the Chicks today. And not only does she give us an inside peek at her holiday-themed mysteries, but she’s also giving away a copy of DEATH WITH ALL THE TRIMMINGS to one lucky commenter! Take it away, Lucy!
EDITED TO ADD: And the lucky winner of Death With All the Trimmings is qnofdnilesblog (aka Paula Adams)! Congrats, Paula, I know you’ll enjoy Lucy’s terrific book!
Thanks for having me as a guest Chick today! My 20th book came out earlier this month, a thriller called UNSAFE HAVEN. As I was thinking about what to write for this blog, I realized I might have a little holiday problem, possibly an obsession. Out of those twenty books, five take place in the period leading up through Christmas and into the week after—that’s 25% of them! Why? I find this season to be a wonderful palate for showing character, and setting, of course. As is true with all of us, some characters adore the Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Year’s holiday season and others find it depressing and cannot wait to slide home to January. Plus, every town has its own holiday character. In suburban Connecticut, for example, small white lights are de rigueur. In Key West, absolutely anything goes, the wilder and more colorful the better!
PREACHING TO THE CORPSE, my second advice column mystery written as Roberta Isleib and featuring psychologist Rebecca Butterman, provides an example of a character struggling with the season. Even Dr. Butterman, the supposed expert on human behavior, feels the psychological weight of Christmas. I loved showing her navigate the holidays with her therapy patients, while at the same time struggling with her own feelings about a recent divorce and a complicated family history. Here’s a little snippet:
After meeting with my first three patients, I felt even worse than when I’d started, sick and glum. And it wasn’t just the head cold. The holidays bring a special kind of lament to therapy—parents who split on Christmas Eve, gifts of clothes instead of toys or a puppy, families who will never travel over the river and through the woods because Grandmother is psycho. I have to remind myself that while the specific content might change, the work doesn’t. People who feel deprived at the holidays, often feel the same way the rest of the year. I help them explore the historical meaning, look for ripples into the present, and work on lifting some of the old weight up and leaving it behind.
Three of my Key West mysteries are also set at Christmas, but as cozies, they take a cheerier approach. In DEATH WITH ALL THE TRIMMINGS, for example, the quirky holiday traditions of Key West make their way front and center—the hometown holiday parade, the extravagant light displays in Old Town, and the lighted boat parade.
In THE KEY LIME CRIME, set between Christmas and New Year’s, the decorations and lights are still up if perhaps a little faded. In one drunken Santa display, I found the perfect spot to hide a body…
This in-between time is also the setting for the new book, UNSAFE HAVEN. Homeless, pregnant, and desperate runaway Addy couldn’t feel less like celebrating. She has a killer on her heels and can only think about getting away. The bucolic lights of suburban Connecticut (where she’s run) serve to remind her that she isn’t—and will never be—like these people. The other main character, Elizabeth, medical student and newly jilted bride, also has no love for the holidays. Her fiancé dumped her two days before what was to be a glorious New Year’s Eve wedding. Her parents’ home in Connecticut is chockablock with Christmas decorations, wedding presents, and the discarded remnants of her wedding reception. Ugh.
So that’s a window into one writer’s obsession with the holidays. I’ll revisit them for sure in the future, though maybe after a few books set in spring, summer, or fall. I hope you’ll enjoy Unsafe Haven; I wish you a very happy holiday season, and hope you don’t discover any bodies among your own ornaments.
And now for the GIVEAWAY! For a chance to win a copy of Death With All the Trimmings, tell us in the comments: Do you enjoy reading books set at the holidays? Why or why not?
Bio: Lucy Burdette aka clinical psychologist Roberta Isleib is the author of the popular Key West Food Critic mystery series, including the latest, A SCONE OF CONTENTION. Lucy’s first novel of suspense, UNSAFE HAVEN, has been published by Severn House. Her books and stories have been shortlisted for Agatha, Anthony, and Macavity awards. THE KEY LIME CRIME won the bronze medal for popular fiction from the Florida Book Awards in 2020. She’s a member of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime, and a past president of Sisters in Crime. She currently serves as president of the Friends of the Key West Library.
About UNSAFE HAVEN: After giving birth in a subway bathroom and thrusting her newborn into a newly jilted bride’s arms, a teenage runaway teams up with that stranger to save herself and her baby from the ruthless sex trafficker in pursuit.
Read the first chapter and buy the book on Lucy’s website: https://lucyburdette.com/books/unsafe-haven/
Follow Lucy on Facebook, Instagram, Bookbub, Twitter, and two group blogs, Jungle Red Writers and Mystery Lovers Kitchen!