If the heart of the fictional mystery is a great story and the brain a clever detective, then the body must be location–to my way of thinking anyway.
A great location can make up for any number of issues, including a lack of state-of-the-art gadgetry. If I can piggyback a contemporary Sherlock Holmes stalking a killer on the mean streets of say, Whitechapel, I don’t care if he or she has a smart phone, an iPad or bluetooth technology. What I want are those gritty, foggy, chilly lanes ripe with the sensations of life in the underbelly of a great city. Even if Whitechapel undergoes gentrification and loses its unsavory bits, the savvy author will find the right part of town to bring forth the necessary edge. London offers all possibilities.
A good location can compel desperate acts: Think of an ambitious stockbroker, fashion designer or actor trying to make it in New York City. You can believe any one of them would kill to get ahead simply because they live in New York City. Give those same characters a home in Boulder, Colorado, and the built-in tension just isn’t there.
When choosing locations for the Feng Shui mysteries, I wanted dynamic architecture and dwellings as well as an abundance of natural beauty. While San Francisco would have fit the bill, I decided instead to give my character two very different domiciles. For great architecture, history, and plenty of intrigue, I chose Washington, D.C., in particular the Georgetown section of the city. Characters there are much different from the characters inhabiting Salome Waterhouses’ second home, Santa Cruz County, California. The natural beauty of California’s central coast fulfills my obligation to myself to give the reader a portrait of one of the most divine locations in the U.S. And plus, there is plenty of fog and, in early winter anyway, enough rainstorms to create additional problems for an earnest sleuth.
I’m the sort of reader who takes great pleasure in the location the writer has provided. Often, even the most interesting story won’t get me through the book if the place where I’ve been transported lacks atmosphere and that undefinable something that keeps me wanting to turn the page.
As I bring this to a close, my next task will be to book a flight to Washington, D.C. Another aspect of choosing the right location is choosing a place you, the author, loves to visit.
author of The Feng Shui Mysteries
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