‘Twas the week before Christmas and all through the village, the night settled in over swirling-smoke chimneys; the air was alive with pine and holly, with sugar and cinnamon and cider, by golly!
Along snowy lanes and through shadows it crept, past windows behind which each villager slept, where sleeping dogs lie and cats rest a’purring—
Tonight, in Christmas Village, a killer is stirring.
Welcome to Christmas Village, a magical hamlet where even in December the roses hold their luster and bees buzz among the bluebells. You’re just in time for the week-long Christmas Festival, and nowhere is Christmas celebrated with such unrestrained merriment as the village which bears its name. Mayor Cobblestone and Sheriff Fell will be somewhere nearby, doing all they can to make sure you’re safe during your stay.
Provided you haven’t booked a room at Plum Cottage.
Nestled betwixt an opulent garden with meandering footpaths and an ancient grove of plum trees, Rose Willoughby’s boarding house is plum-full with lodgers. There are no vacancies, but just wait. Soon there will be one…and another…and another.
Presently lodging at the cottage are: the juggler, the acrobat, the magician, the psychic, the strongman, the manager, and the pretty assistant. In town as festival entertainment they’ve each brought their own bag of tricks. And a closetful of skeletons.
When the entertainers begin dying in inexplicable ways, some villagers believe a beast from old village lore is the culprit. The sheriff knows better, but he’s just as helpless to catch the invisible killer as are the town folk with their eyes to the sky in search of a flying creature. But our mysterious murderer hasn’t counted on yet another lodger coming to the cottage: Maribel Claus.
Short as a stump, round as a wheel, sweet as a candy cane, and a sharp as a whip, Maribel loves a good puzzle. But has she finally met her match at Plum Cottage?
Can you figure out whodunit before Maribel does? If you’re up to the challenge, here’s your first clue—the key to unlocking the secret of the murderer’s identity lies in figuring out how the murders were committed. Good luck!
Christmas and murder – two such different things but they go so well together in the hands of a talented writer. Slay Bells certainly delivers the best of both and has the feel of a golden age classic mystery while still having a thoroughly modern setting and sleuth. I really enjoyed this story, and I’m thrilled to have the author, T.C. Wescott, here today.
Murder More Cozy, or How to Write a Cozy Mystery – by T.C. Wescott
I love mysteries. I love reading them and I love writing them. I can’t and won’t speak for other writers, but I’d wager most write the kind of books they like to read…or would read if they existed. When it comes to mysteries there are more subgenres than you can shake a spyglass at, but for me I’m mostly attracted to classic mysteries of the golden age and cozy mysteries of more recent vintage. They are not the same thing! Classic mysteries placed the emphasis on the puzzle and the solution, whereas the modern cozy places the emphasis more on the character and the setting. Both are great in their own ways, but different. For years I’ve read and participated in discussions between readers and many have talked about how they often love the idea of a particular cozy mystery – the title, the cover, the world it’s set in – than the book itself, because the mystery is thin and the culprit is obvious on page 18. Other readers don’t mind this. That’s what makes the world go ‘round, right?
When I decided to try my hand at writing cozy mysteries I thought it fun and only natural that I should combine my love of both the cozy genre and the classic genre, because if I felt that way, surely others would as well, right? My first mystery book, published July 2018, was Running from Scissors, the first in the Running Store Mystery series. There are so many cozy series out there and most hobbies are covered three times over. But I searched and found there was not one devoted to the ever-popular hobby of running. The town I describe in the book is basically the town in which I live (though with names changed to protect the innocent). As a challenge to myself I began writing the book without an outline. I didn’t even know the names of my main character yet! I only knew how the murder was committed and roughly how the book would end. The murder mystery was intentionally the centerpiece and had been my first challenge to myself. I wanted a runner to disappear in broad daylight, in the middle of a run, in front of other runners. Just POOF! disappear. And not be found when looked for. Of course, she turns up later—and in another location—as a corpse. This is a murder mystery, after all!
Once I had the idea of what I wanted I had to devise the mechanics of making it real. In an impossible or ‘locked room’ murder, it doesn’t have to be plausible or likely that someone would commit it, it just has to be possible. Once I had that in place I started writing. I wrote my first three chapters, discovered my characters, and from then on would outline three or so chapters ahead of where I was writing. Is this the normal way to write? I don’t think so. You always hear writers are either plotters or panters—that is, they either plot everything out in advance or write by the seat of their pants. In the mystery game it’s a must to do some plotting in advance if you want a strong or even ingenious murder. But it’s not necessary to plot everything. It’ll come to you when you get there. Once you’ve started the ball rolling, it will keep going. If you hit a snag, kill another character and that gets the ball rolling again. Or create friction between two of your characters. It works and it’s fun!
For my second book, Slay Bells, I’d had the idea for Christmas Village in mind for many years and even published a successful short story set in that world. I wanted this series to represent cozy AND mystery to the max! Christmas Village is and always has been the coziest place I could ever imagine. We’ve all seen the village sets or the wonderful paintings of Christmases past. I thought it would be a wonderful thing to create that world in book form and populate it with fun, quirky characters (as well as the occasional rogue villain). I also decided that many of the books in the series would feature an impossible murder or ‘locked room’ evocative of some the classic books of the 1930s and 40s. By elevating the cozy and the mystery elements of my books I hoped readers might be as entertained by reading them as I am writing them.
For Slay Bells, before I knew anything beyond the village and a few of the main characters (particularly our heroine, Maribel Claus), I had the idea for the mysterious murders themselves – both perpetrated in snow. I also knew I wanted the action to take place in a cozy Christmas Inn. So, who to populate the Inn with? Well, this being the first book in a series called Christmas Village Mysteries, it had to take place at Christmas, and it stands to reason that this village would celebrate Christmas to the hilt, so I decided the action would take place during the week of the annual grand Christmas Festival. That gave me the idea to populate Plum Cottage with a circus troupe in town to entertain the villagers. This, in turn, inspired a lot of rip-roarious fun when the sheriff, mayor, doctor, and other town leaders speculate on how the murders were committed and by whom. Each of the circus performers possessed an ability that might have explained the inexplicable murder! But, in the end, it was Maribel Claus (with the help of her ferrets, Dancer and Prancer) who solved the riddle and felled the foe.
Although the village and series are named ‘Christmas Village’, future books in the series will take place during other holidays and times of year, but each will be filled with fun, humor, suspense, and plenty of mystery. Give Slay Bells and Running from Scissors a read and let me know what you think and would like to see in the future adventures of both Maribel Claus and the ladies of Run For It!
About the Author
T.C. Wescott was born in Missouri but has lived in Oklahoma most of his life. Like pretty much every author who has ever breathed, he is an avid reader. His favorites are classic mysteries from the Golden Age, as well as just before or just after that period (which is widely considered the period between the two World Wars). His first mystery novel, Running from Scissors, was published in July 2018 and will be the first of at least three books in the Running Store Mystery series.
The Christmas Village Mystery series will launch in November of the same year with the debut title Slay Bells. The formula for his books is simple – mixing the classic, traditional detective fiction standards with all the trappings of the modern cozy mystery.
Wescott is also (under another name) the author of two award-winning non-fiction books as well as a slew of essays and articles.
Follow on GoodReads – https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/18176277.T_C_Wescott
Purchase Link – Amazon
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