We’re thrilled to welcome our very dear friend to Chicks today! You loved her Lobster Shack mysteries, and if you haven’t read her Ice Cream Mysteries you’re in for a delicious treat. (Doesn’t that cover make you want to race to your local ice cream place?)
A Castle in Connecticut? Sure!
I was recently on a writers’ panel called Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes (yes, they did play the David Bowie song as we took the stage.) It was all about how the pandemic has changed our writing, both our approach and our work.
All the authors agreed that even with all the changes we’ve been through, one thing remains the same. Reading is a treasured escape, and one aspect of that escape is that we readers like to escape TO a particular place or setting.
Think the settings of your favorite books. The American Southwest of Tony Hillerman’s books. Cara Black’s Paris. The setting doesn’t have to be real: Cabot Cove. Carseley. (Any British village works for me!) 221 Baker Street. Even more specifically, I love Jen Chow’s L.A. night market, a seat by the fire at Olivier’s Bistro in Three Pines, and Ellen Byron/Maria DiRico’s Belle View Catering Hall.
I write the Ice Cream Shop Mysteries, set in the northeastern corner of Connecticut. It’s definitely Hallmark movie country, as shown by the number of movies they film here. My completely fictitious town, Penniman, has all the things a dream village should have: a covered bridge, rolling hills dotted by red barns and blanketed with autumn color in the fall, and the charming Udderly Delicious Ice Cream shop. That’s where my main character, Riley Rhodes, whips up small batches of the freshest, creamiest ice cream you can imagine. Penniman’s town green is surrounded by shops, including The Penniless Reader Used Bookstore and a teashop in a painted lady Victorian with a resident Highland terrier named Lily. It seemed that my setting had it all, but, dear readers, something was missing. I’ve been wanting Riley to solve a locked room mystery, and I wanted a castle for her to do it in. So I didn’t quite build one in Penniman. I simply relocated one.
The power we writers have!
As a Connecticut native, I’ve always loved Gillette’s Castle. William Gillette, an actor who portrayed Sherlock Holmes in the early years of the twentieth century, built his craggy pile (as one character in Mint Chocolate Murder describes it, with “more fortification than Disneyfication”) on the evocatively named Seventh Sister overlooking the Connecticut River in a tiny town called East Haddam. An influential actor, he coined the term “Elementary” (which doesn’t occur in the books) and embodied the lean look of Holmes along with the pipe and deerstalker hat.
With a few keystrokes, I moved Gillette’s Castle to northeastern Connecticut and renamed it Moy Mull.
I conjured a Gilded Age millionaire who loved Scotland so much he built his own castle in Penniman’s rolling hills and brought home a bonny Scottish wife to live there. According to Penniman old timers, he also brought a ghost when he had the stones of the castle shipped across the Atlantic. The castle grounds are now the site of an art colony and gallery, and the castle itself is home of the reclusive super model Maud Monaco. When Maud asks Riley to create unique treats for a fantasy ice cream social, Riley jumps at the chance to stretch her creative muscles and meet the intriguing recluse.
The most important part of the castle? The dungeon. What better place for a locked room mystery?
What’s your favorite book setting to escape to? Chicks, have you played fast and loose with local geography to make your setting work?
For more information on Gillette’s Castle, click here.
Want to know a bit more about Mint Chocolate Murder? Here’s the scoop!
PAST CIA LIBRARIAN AND AMATEUR SLEUTH RILEY RHODES FINDS HERSELF ONCE AGAIN IN THE MIX…
When Udderly Delicious Ice Cream shop manager Riley Rhodes is summoned to Penniman, Connecticut’s Moy Mull Castle, it’s the cherry on top of a successful summer season. The gothic pile built by an eccentric Gilded Age millionaire has been transformed into a premiere arts colony by Maud Monaco, a reclusive former supermodel. As part of Moy Mull’s Fall Arts Festival, Maud is throwing a fantasy ice cream social and hires Riley to whip up unique treats to celebrate the opening of an exhibit by Adam Blasco, a photographer as obnoxious as he is talented.
As Penniman fills with Maud’s art-world friends arriving for the festival, gossip swirls around Blasco, who has a dark history of obsession with his models. Riley’s curiosity and instincts for sleuthing are piqued, and she wonders at the hold the cold-hearted photographer has over the mistress of Moy Mull. But when Adam is found dead behind the locked door of Moy Mull’s dungeon, Riley realizes there’s more than one suspect who’d wanted put the malicious photographer on ice.
You can preorder now!
Meri Allen is the pen name of Shari Randall, author of the beloved Lobster Shack Mystery series. A former librarian, she loves books, travel, and all things mermaid. You can sign up for The Scoop newsletter to keep up with book news, fun giveaways, delicious recipes, and images of cozy New England.