MONDAY MYSTERY AND A FISH OUT OF WATER

FOUL PLAY AT THE FAIR

My New Mystery

This is the blog of Shelley Noble, women’s fiction author, but I’m also Shelley Freydont, amateur sleuth mystery author.  Next week (September 4th)  the first book in my new Celebration Bay mystery series will be on the shelves (real and virtual).

The title is Foul Play at the Fair and it’s about a Manhattan event planner, Liv Montgomery, who moves to a small upstate New York destination town to be its event coordinator.

Because according to the town slogan, Every Day’s a Holiday in Celebration Bay.

I love fish out of water stories.  Most of my heroines, women’s fiction and mystery-wise, are usually put into locations and situations that stretch their comfort zone.

I suspect murder anywhere would stretch your comfort zone, but there are even more opportunities to challenge your sleuth when they don’t know a grain silo from a water tower or a rototiller from an apple press.  Well, do you?

This is a . . .hmmm

Liv, in Foul Play,has just settled in Celebration Bay  and she’s gone all out for life in the country. No more Bloomies or Manolo Blahnik’s. She’s bought a new wardrobe  straight from the LL Bean catalogue: corduroys, and plaid jackets, pullover sweaters and hiking boots.  She even ordered country winter wear for her Westie terrier, Whiskey. Whiskey unfortunately is not nearly as excited about his sweater and booties as Liv is about hers. Even Liv, never slow on the uptake as they say in Celebration Bay, refuses to be the first person to put on her down parka—even with the threat of frost—especially when everyone else is walking around in shirt sleeves.

Whiskey, the debonair, crime solving Westie

Instead of rushing from Starbuck’s to a taxi on her way to work, Liv and Whiskey walk the two blocks to the town green where she picks up pastries and coffee from the local bakery and coffee bar.  She hasn’t stuffed her feet into four inch heels since she left Manhattan.

Life in Celebration Bay does have it challenges, though.  The people are friendly, but slightly suspicious of outsiders.  Liv’s best friend BeBe has lived there for over ten years and she’s still considered a newcomer. Fortunately she’s the dispenser of the best coffee in town so she gets a dispensation.

 

The locals are loyal . . .to their own, which Liv discovers in the first mystery where suspicion falls on a well-loved local farmer.  And they especially close ranks when the state bypasses the local sheriff and sends in its own investigators.

 

What’s an event planner to do? In Manhattan Liv had to deal with temperamental caterers who wanted to be actors, demanding mothers-of-the-bride, smarmy mad men, traffic jams and union hours.  But she never had to deal with Murder.  I mean it was Manhattan after all.

The same can’t be said for Celebration Bay.  In the midst of the Fall Harvest Festival and a record number of tourists, Liv knows she has to save her job and the town’s future and she won’t do it by waiting on someone else to solve the murder. And she won’t get much help.

So join Liv and Whiskey as they navigate the waters of country living and country neighbors In Foul Play at the Fair (Berkley Prime Crime, Sept. 4)

Join me next week, for  Murder-Why Amateurs Sleuth

Monday Mystery Movies- Miss Marple

Miss Marple Mysteries

Miss Jane Marple, that dear spinster from St. Mary Meade who solves murders by overhearing conversations as her knitting needles clack away.  Being kind to young lovers, seeing things she shouldn’t see as she takes a stroll down the street.  No wild chases, no mussed frocks, just clever endearing investigation based on a shrewd intelligence and things she’s gleaned from living in a small town. “There’s a great deal of wickedness in village life.”

Twelve novels by Dame Agatha Christie and twenty short stories, and brought to life on the screen both movie and television by a parade of fine actresses.

Gracie Fields was the first actress to portray  Miss Marple. Then came:

Margaret Rutherford

Angela Lansbury

Helen Hayes in two made for television movies

Joan Hickson, who was told by Dame Christie that she hoped she would one day play Miss Marple. And she did for 8 years from 1984 to 1992. (Coincidentally and according to Wikipedia, Hickson  played a housekeeper in Margaret Rutherford’s first movie as Miss Marple. Murder, She Said.)

Then there was Geraldine McEwan in an new BBC production, for three seasons.

Although I admire all of these actresses immensely, Joan Hickson will always be the consummate Miss Marple for me.

Why?  How did an older spinster from a small English town win our hearts and our allegiance?  Why do we love this gentle spoken sleuth?  Because she’s just that.  A quiet spoken lady of a certain age, a different time, who solves crimes without violence and being just a little annoyance to the constabulary,  and invariably correct in her deductions.  She’s like a favorite great aunt we wish we had.  And she gives us hope.  A quiet gentle woman who brings evil to justice without dropping a stitch and often in time for tea.

She may be considered by some as nosy, one of those annoying old ladies that you find in small town, minding everyone’s business but her own.  But the fact is, she is a soft spoken avenging angel. And makes us all feel that we might have the tools for turning wrong to right.

As writers, we are told to make sure to have our characters grow over the course of a book.  It’s called character arc.  Miss Marple doesn’t change.  She’s substantially, comfortingly the same. And when we sit down with a Christie book or in front of the TV or DVD, we know we can settle in for an understated story of good over evil with our favorite characters.

Rumors have it that Disney is planning a younger, American Miss Marple, starring Jennifer Garner.  Please Fellas, No! At least call it Nancy Drew.

Do you feel a special affinity with Miss Marple? Or is Poirot or Sherlock, or Jessica Fletcher, or Columbo or Magnum more your preference?

Monday Mystery Movies-Myrna Loy

Nick and Nora always get their man—or woman.

In three weeks, September 4, the first in a new mystery series written by me as Shelley Freydont will in the stores. Foul Play at The Fair (Berkley Prime Crime) follows Liv Montgomery, Manhattan event planner, and her Westie terrier Whiskey to a new job in upstate New York. Celebration Bay is small destination town on Lake Champlain, “Where every day’s a holiday.”Of course, where there are people  gathered, murder will out, and Liv has to learn how to juggle a Harvest Festival while attempting to catch a killer.

When I began to develop Liv, I wanted a character, not from the too-dumb-to-live list but who would embody my favorite mystery characters from film, television and literature.

So for the next few Mondays I’m going to talk about the women who turned me onto mystery fiction and influenced me as I built the  character of Liv Montgomery, part urban sophisticate part small town girl, strong willed, competent, fit in mind and body with a sense of humor and the ability to laugh.

Remember the Thin Man(1934) movies, starring William Powell and Myrna Loy?  Now there was a duo. Nick Charles, a debonair retired detective, his wife Nora, a witty mad cap rich girl.  They’re at home in the glittering world of social Manhattan and are just as happy when entertaining ex-cons that Nicky has put away.  They smoke and drink and banter their way through several films.  They’re about as un PC as a couple could be and they have so much fun.

Not what you’d expect from a Dashiell Hammett story.

My absolute  favorite scene of The Thin Man? When Nora , pulled along by their terrier  Asta, enters the bar only to fall head long into the room.  It’s one of the best pratfalls ever.

Publicity still from The Thin Man

Nora is portrayed as a little ditsy, okay a lot ditsy, and maybe not terribly bright, but she’s enthusiastic and undaunted.  Exuberant. Together they are charm itself.   And there is a murder and a few clues to follow, not to mention an interesting supporting cast,  if you can tear your eyes and ears from the two main characters.

You can see some clips here:

but you should really watch the entire film. Enjoy.