small towns and cozy mysteries
Small towns lend themselves well to cozy mysteries, with their quirky casts of characters and the local gossips who delve into everyone else’s business. It’s conceivable that a large number of people would know each other well, perhaps even their darkest secrets. It certainly helps our amateur sleuth gain a wealth of information quickly!
Small towns are interesting. I live in one now myself, and even though I’ve been here for fifteen years, I’m still something of a newcomer. People will say they saw me at such-and-such a location walking my dogs, and I didn’t even realize I was being observed. Of course, that might be because I’m trailing along in a daze, plotting my next book, but it can be disconcerting. Even slightly claustrophobic at times.
By the same token, it’s also very convivial to know so many neighbors. No robber could carry a TV out of my house without someone challenging them on the street!
Perhaps that’s why the murder is such a shock. How could it happen right under the noses of the residents of a sleepy little village? Especially when the crime is committed not by a serial killer or a vagrant psychopath, but by a member of that close-knit community.
The setting for my Deadly Notions Mystery series is a fictional village called Millbury in Bucks County, PA. I’ve taken liberties with geography, but it’s near New Hope, just off River Road. I picked that location because I wanted it to be close enough to Philadelphia and New Jersey to be a viable destination for interior designers, collectors, and antique dealers who visit my heroine’s shop, but still have that small-town country feel. It’s also loosely based on Skippack, PA, a historic village in Montgomery County. Like Millbury, there are art galleries, gift shops, restaurants housed in nineteenth-century buildings that were homes at one time, and families who have lived in the area for generations.
Daisy Buchanan is a retired schoolteacher who owns a wonderful store called Sometimes a Great Notion. It’s full of vintage sewing notions, antique children’s toys, jewelry, fabrics, quilts, linens, and anything else that catches her fancy at an auction or yard sale. Everyone seems to congregate there for coffee in the mornings, and it’s how Daisy stumbles across a lot of her clues.
People have long memories in a small town, and can hold grudges for years, which may result in murders rooted in past events. Like the detective in my story says, “In a small town like this, everything’s connected. It’s like a giant spider web touching everyone, and it’s easy to get on each other’s nerves.” The proverbial six degrees of separation is pared down to two or three, and I think a small town is an intimate setting that’s perfectly ripe for secrets and intrigue.
Do you agree? And what’s your favorite setting for a mystery?
Cate Price is the author of The Deadly Notions Mystery series for Berkley Prime Crime. GOING THROUGH THE NOTIONS was published in September 2013, and the second in the series, A DOLLHOUSE TO DIE FOR will coming out on May 6, 2014.
It was a pleasure having you here with us today Cate!