Tag Archives: Mystery

Virtual Tour around the main settings for my latest novel ~ real and imaginary

MISSING Past and Present is unlike my previous novels because two of the main settings are imaginary. Why go to all that trouble?

  • It challenges the imagination of the writer and the reader
  • It will not offend a reader ~ in my murder mystery, set on my doorstep at the time in a village down in Bedfordshire, some folks loved it that way but others were a bit disturbed by it ~ well, it was murder after all!

Strangely enough this did not deter my ability to see the scenes as vividly as ever in my mind’s eye, maybe more so. I suppose writing fantasy is like that.

Tour 1 in the imaginary Town of Drumford

Here’s my sketch of the main town of Drumford in my novel, or at least the centre, where a lot of the action took place. It was the birth place of Dot, my protagonist, and the focus of a life of memories.

The main scenes were set in The Ark, a centre for the homeless, but there were also scenes in the community police station in the old bank building, in the cafe, in both churches and in the Women’s Refuge.

Belmont Park featured both in the past and the present; as a park to enjoy in today’s world it was a place of reflection, even secret assignations. The ruins of the old manor house, still visible among the gardens, brought to life its past for Millie, my trainee nun, nearly two hundred years before.

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Diana’s January Book Review ~ The Strawberry Thief by Joanna Harris

Diana’s January Book Review ~ The Strawberry Thief by Joanna Harris. I must be the last person to read Chocolat, so when I spotted this paperback in Waterstones before Christmas, I was drawn to it. I think it is the fourth in the series, but great as a standalone novel too.

I’m not strictly following the theme running through many books I choose to review this time, for reasons you’ll read in my review:

  • They tell a tale linked to history
  • The books are often set in two time periods
  • The location is a place either I have an affection for, or one I would dearly love to visit.

Why did I choose this book?

Strawberry Thief was set in a small (imaginary) village in south west France near Bordeaux, where some of my family live, and so it was easy for me to imagine the scene from the start. I did not know at the time, but Vianne tries to make sense of the present by reflecting on her time with her mother in the past… but above all, I chose it because I love chocolate; and wild strawberries too.

Did you feel empathy for any particular character?

I could not help but feel Vianne a kindred spirit, trying to settle into a new home – a quiet village; quite a contrast to her last base in the city. Suddenly coping with all the joys and drawbacks of living in a smaller tight knit community. Mind you, as a chocolatier she had an advantage; chocolate.

Is there a lasting thought or memory of the book which remains with you?

Yes ~ What will the wind blow in today?

A mysterious book of life’s struggled, neighbourly conflict, misunderstandings, guilt and love ~ maternal and romantic and of course CHOCOLATE!

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Themes in Novel Writing ~ 6 ~ Themes to Craft an Alternative Mystery Genre Novel

Keeping up the tension in a novel ~

Typical crime mysteries

In a murder mystery themes of death, fear, hatred, evil, crime and a multitude of equally negative themes keep up the tension in a novel.

Of course, with a missing person theme, or in the case of my latest novel missing people, all of the above themes could be relevant, but they could also include kidnapping, capture, ransom, abduction and hijacking, to name but a few. The tension could be enhanced by the place which is the ‘prison’ and the dramatic way they are being held. We’ve all seen the movies.

Here’s another good post on themes in mystery novels which traces recent changes in the genre:

fmwriters.com ~ a murderous act

Thinking outside the box  v Reader Expectations

In a title like ‘MISSING’ all of the above could have been used equally to evoke drama, but that wasn’t how I planned to develop MISSING Past and Present. Gerald, Dot’s husband disappeared. He chose to leave, so what causes the tension?

Themes such as betrayal, abandonment, devastation or mental health issues for example a total break-down leading to destitution, poverty and homelessness. All of these things in fact.

Thinking ‘outside the box’ in a mystery is a risk. As one of the police in the novel said at one point in the investigation, ‘We don’t even know if a crime has been committed.’

This is not necessarily what the reader is expecting, but did it pay off?

Here are a couple of reader’s comments on reviews:

Derik Birk’s ***** review ~  An intriguing and addictive tale

“Most books I read are full of violent action but though there is very little such action in this book, I really liked this story of a woman re-inventing herself after a bewildering set of events that almost destroy her.”

Here’s the full review on Derik’s site: Dodging Arrows

H Bane ***** review ~ Really Great Book

“This is such a well written book that really just draws you in. Dorothy leads us on a journey on how she ended up where she’s at. We also have the story she writes of Millie.”

Jackie McAll ***** review ~  Is it just the roll of the dice? Super book

Diana Jackson has a way of writing that easily draws you into the lives of her characters. Although this book handles large themes of destiny and change, love and forgiveness, they are handled in an easily readable way. I loved the story within the story (deserving of a book of its own!). She saves a surprise for the end ! Highly recommended.

Both reviews are great reviews but, I’m sure you’ll agree, they are not typical of reviews in the mystery genre.

Qualities I wished for my protagonist

In order to keep these readers interested how do I think I ‘drew readers in’ or made it ‘addictive?’

resilience

Resilience and Fortitude

I believe it was the themes of fortitude and resilience, qualities of my protagonist Dot, which kept the story moving. I didn’t want Dot to be searching, in fact it was her foster son Jamal (a Syrian refugee) who took on that mantel, when his brother also disappeared and he was arrested. I wanted Dot’s strength of character to pull her through the worst of times, only just!

Another theme I could add here was escapism. Dot managed to escape the effects of her tragic circumstances by:

  • escaping into the past ~ the back story in the form of her memories
  • escaping in the present ~ through mindfulness of the natural world around her
  • escaping from even her own thoughts ~ by creating and writing the story of Millie, an aspirant nun who had lived in the place where she squatted a couple of centuries before.

Only time will tell if my gamble with ‘mystery’ worked.

 

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