by Barbara Early
A few years back, things were rather bleak and stressful in my life. I homeschooled my daughter, served as a pastor's wife, and suffered from insomnia, all while my mother was dying of a lengthy illness. I began the habit of reading cozy mysteries at bedtime, to help me de-stress from the day.
Now, I always loved a good cozy--generally a clean mystery with an amateur detective, quirky characters, and little "on-screen" violence. Perhaps they reminded me of the days growing up, reading Nancy Drew under the covers with a flashlight, thinking nobody would figure it out.
Murder in Hum Harbour by Jayne E. Self is a prime example of an inspirational cozy. Start with a quirky character, or at least a character with a quirky occupation. Gailynn MacDonald is a medical receptionist. Okay, maybe that's not so quirky, but it's only part time. The job that pays the bills until she can get her sea glass jewelry business off the ground.
Set that sea glass jewelry business within a picturesque seaside fishing community in Nova Scotia, Canada. Throw in more quirky small-town characters, a handsome new doctor for some romantic diversions, and, of course, a body, and you're up and running.
Gailynn is collecting her sea glass--the smooth eroded remains of discarded commercial glass-- along the beach one morning when she comes across the Medical Convention, a cabin cruiser belonging to the retired doctor. With his body on the deck, of course. This is a problem for our intrepid amateur detective who has a phobia of boats. When the official police investigation increasingly targets friends and family, Gailynn pursues leads of her own to find the killer.
Jayne has plotted a good mystery, with a surplus of suspects and enough twists to keep most readers guessing for a long time. I also like that she has done her homework, peppering her investigation with references to police procedure and forensics, while never departing from a cozy.
While not the first book she has written, this is the first one published, and I look forward to future installments so I can spend more time in lovely Nova Scotia and see how the romance with the new doctor progresses--and solve more mysteries, of course.
In my interview with Jayne, I asked her to tell me more about the setting of her book. I enjoyed my brief (imaginary) trip to Nova Scotia, and wanted to know more. Here's a peek of what she said:
As for Hum Harbour, I created the fictional village from a composite of Nova Scotian communities. (We have summered in Nova Scotia for over twenty years.) The village’s name is derived from the HMS Humphrey which ran aground in 1779 while it transported a motley group of Scottish settlers to the new world. The survivors waded ashore and went no further. Like Hum Harbour, the HMS Humphrey is fiction, derived from fact.
Nova Scotia, one of Canada’s ten provinces and three territories, is known as Canada’s Ocean Playground. Although the province is only 357 miles long (smaller than West Virginia), it boasts 4,600 miles of spectacular shoreline. Its rolling, sometimes mountainous countryside is mostly forested; its people are down-home friendly. Culture flourishes in Nova Scotia. Her people are fiercely loyal, and their art and music reflect the province's strong Celtic and Acadian roots.
Read more of my interview with Jayne on my blog: Faith, Fiction, and the Occasional Felony.
Disclaimer: I should note that Pelican Book Group is also my publisher for Gold, Frankincense and Murder (Dec 2011), and I currently work there as an editor. I have, however, received no compensation for this review, which was unsolicited and represents my personal opinion.
Question: Has a novel ever made you want to travel to its setting? Where would you like to go?Barbara Early grew up buried in the snowy suburbs of Buffalo, NY, where she developed a love for all things sedentary: reading, writing, classic movies, and facebook scrabble. She holds a degree in Electrical Engineering, but her penchant for the creative caused her to run away screaming from the pocket-protector set. Barbara cooks up cozy mysteries with a healthy dose of comedy and sometimes a splash of romance. Her holiday novella, Gold, Frankincense, and Murder will be released from White Rose Publishing in time for the holiday season. You can learn more about her writing on her personal blog: http://barbearly.blogspot.com/ or see what's for dinner on her recipe blog: http://bflogal.blogspot.com/.