Thankful for Our Readers Giveaway: Mary Ellen is giving away an ebook of The Pickled Piper, the first book in her Pickled and Preserved series, and an ebook of Wreath of Deception, the first of her Craft Corner series!
Have you noticed that quite a few cozy mysteries center around a shop? I have, and in fact I’ve written several myself! Why shops? Well, there’s a reason.
Many cozies revolve around a particular theme. It might be food, gardening, crafts, or clothing that the main character earns a living from. But she/he can’t just be sitting in their workshop or kitchen all by themselves. Much as they’d like to do their weaving, cooking, or crafty projects in a solitary manner, we want them to also investigate murders. To do that, they need to be out and about, talking to lots of people. Investigating! How to do both? Set up a shop.
Shops have the advantage of bringing people to our protagonists. And there’s no limit to the types of people who might walk in. Customers who’ve stopped in to buy a piece of beaded jewelry can drop a few clues in the process, or a killer, who thinks he’s there only to purchase a book might give himself away with a careless remark.
In my Craft Corner mystery series, Jo McAllister offered various craft classes. This brought together a small group of women who began discussing the latest murder and sharing information as they worked at creating their wreaths or scrapbooks.
Piper Lamb made and sold pickles in my Pickled and Preserved series, and her customers quickly became co-investigators as they also bought home-made Gherkins, watermelon pickles, and brandied cherries.
My new series – the Keepsake Cove mysteries—takes advantage of similar opportunities. In A Fatal Collection, Callie Reed has inherited a music box shop that is set among dozens of other shops that sell collectible items: things like unique salt and pepper shakers, collectible glass figurines, and vintage sewing or cooking items. The other shop owners knew Callie’s Aunt Melodie well and help Callie get to the truth of her aunt’s unexpected death.
The same goes for her customers. Collectors tend to patronize their favorite shops often, and Callie’s Aunt Mel had many loyal customers who were shocked at her death. So Callie isn’t alone in refusing to accept the official ruling of accidental death. Gathering information, therefore, on an aunt who she hadn’t seen in years becomes much more possible.
Of course, Callie has to step out of the shop once in a while. Readers want to see and get to know the town she now lives in—and so does she! With an assistant to take charge of the place, Callie can do that, especially when most places are within walking distance. And of course, there’s her off-hours, when the shop is closed and she’s free to venture farther.
So you see, setting a cozy mystery in a shop, or sometimes a restaurant or gardening center has many advantages. I, in fact, have always felt comfortable writing about a shop setting since I’ve worked in a couple myself. In my teen years, I clerked at my dad’s small, independent drug store, and I once did a stint in a book store. I’ve met plenty of interesting people while dishing up a hot fudge sundae or ringing up a sale and have no doubt that some of them have appeared in my fictional shops.
Though I’m not aware that I ever waited on a murderer (scary thought!), I did pick up a several useful ideas that worked their way into my plots, or my subplots. Cozy mystery murders, you know, never involve serial killers or hit men. They center around the kind of people you could run into every day and who might be hiding secrets that lead to terrible actions.
The next time you step into a shop, you might think about that. Is that man, who’s looking so thoughtful as he waits in line to pay for his newspaper, planning something that you might read about in the paper’s crime section next week? Or is the woman handling the cash register going to make someone—who looks just like you—a victim in her future book? She might if you’re not very nice to her. Criminals and mystery authors aren’t always easy to spot. So… be careful.
Mary Ellen Hughes is the bestselling author of the Pickled and Preserved Mysteries, the Craft Corner Mysteries, and the Maggie Olenski Mysteries, along with several short stories. A Fatal Collection is the first in her new Keepsake Cove mystery series..
A Wisconsin native, she has lived most of her adult life in Maryland, where she’s set many of her stories, raised two children, and a few cats and vegetables. She credits her husband with being her greatest inspiration as well as top supporter. You can visit her at http://www.maryellenhughes.com
Readers: Do you have a favorite shop or restaurant where people gather?
Welcome, Mary Ellen! I’m going to start looking more closely at my local shopkeepers…
Thanks so much for having me, Edith. And yes, it’s probably wise to be alert. 🙂
Thanks for explaining why Cozy Mysteries often center around shops. ( :
Yes, I have a favorite restaurant where people gather. It’s called Pio Pio. It’s a Peruvian spot and it’s always hopping with lots of people.
Oh, I love Peruvian food. Just went to a Peruvian tapas bar tonight.
Welcome, Mary Ellen! I love the idea of a music box shop. It sounds magical!
Thanks, Sherry. It was, a bit, and fun to write!
I can’t wait to start this new series. I love music boxes and would love to visit Callie’s shop!
Doesn’t it sound great?
The idea of a music box shop is very intriguing and fun. I look forward to reading. My favorite place is Sullivan’s, a steakhouse that has a swingin’ happy hour. Thursday night is the best and a group of former co-workers and I, who have dubbed ourselves “The Martini Club” meet quarterly!
Oh, that sounds like fun!
Hello Mary Ellen! I have found that a lot of cozy mysteries have a coffee shop in them. It is a good place to meet others and just sit and talk over a cup of coffee…and maybe pick up some clues. I don’t read ebooks, so don’t enter me in the give-away, but could not resist saying hello.
Hello to you, Judy. 🙂
Welcome to the Wicked Cozies, Mary Ellen. I’ve worked in a few shops and nothing interesting happened whatsoever. I must have been in the wrong places!
I love that antique music box that kind of looks like a record player.
Those are amazing!
This sounds like such fun! Thanks ever so much for the advice.
This new series sounds dangerous to me. I’m a collector my nature, and all these shops filled with things I’d love to collect? Yikes!
Stay strong, Mark.
On my limited budget I gather at one or the other of the senior centers ten miles or less from home. I DO have to drive, but I don’t raise the hopes of a struggling proprietor when I have no money for a purchase.
That sounds like an excellent place for a gathering!
I do agree about your points in having the shop being such a great draw for all kinds of characters. There are cute little shops all over our historic downtown–many of them would make a great murder scene!
A historic downtown sounds wonderful. I hope all murders are fictional!
My dad and I have breakfast at a little cafe in town each morning called JJ’s, there is a whole table full of us sitting there yacking (gossiping…lol) 🙂
That sounds like so much fun!
Thans for visiting, Mary Ellen! Siince I live out in the country we don’t have local cafes or shops like the ones in most cozy towns. I do love to stop in at my favorite nursery and look for herbs and flowers. There is nothing like the smell of potting soil on a spring morning!
That explains a lot about cozy mysteries and why they’re normally set in a shop or business of some sort. Very interesting and your new book sounds so good!
Our local used bookstore always has a ton of people inside and they host a lot of fun events. A music box shop sounds interesting. I look forward to reading your new book!
That sounds like so much fun!
Well, now when I’m out shopping I’m going to look at everyone with suspicion! I don’t really have a favorite shop, unless you count the local bookstore. email@example.com
Ha! Local bookstores are wonderful!
My favorite shop/gathering place is a coffee shop where my writing group used to meet. It’s noisy, ungodly cold, and the chairs are so uncomfortable, but the employees are welcoming and the place is cheerful. Besides, they have the absolute best hot chocolate — made from 85% cacao. Add a shot of peppermint flavoring and it’s to die for.
Sounds wonderful (except for the noise, cold, and chairs.) 🙂 I’ll put up with anything for great hot chocolate!
Me, too. But they put up with a gaggle of would-be authors who would buy maybe one beverage each and then spend 3 hours wrangling about grammar, spelling, and character building.
Before I moved to another state, my friends & I used to gather at the Literati Cafe. There were usually other small groups there as well.
I’ve moved from favorite places too.
We probably run into more people we know at a small Mennonite-run grocery than anywhere else. There’s no place to sit and chat, but the front of the deli counter is always hopping with those of us who know they have the best prices in town for deli meats and cheeses. I certainly can see one of the delightful women there being an amateur sleuth
Oh, that would be a great setting!
What a great article. We have an independent bookstore here that also has a coffee shop connected to it. People gather there all the time.
That is so lovely!
Really like the sound of your new series. There isn’t really any store or restaurant where people gather here. In the summer, the neighbors gather in one of the backyards for morning coffee.
We have a used bookstore in Monterey that is gathering place for readers in the community. We used to have 6 used bookstores and with the economic downturn only this one made it. They feature a classic book club as well as current releases and their mystery section is to die for. They feature local Monterey Bay history and Steinbeck collection knocks my socks off. I walk in and forget everything for 3 hours. Its heavenly and I always meet interesting people that love to talk about books. Every time I go I have to control my spending but they also do paperback trade for you while you shop so when your done you sometimes have a credit ! I never leave without books that I adore and keep forever such as history of Big Sur, Nepenthe , Carmel and new Steinbeck copies , Robert Frost has a huge section as does Thoreau . This is the only bookstore in a 65 miles radius where I can buy cozies and they have a large cozy section, usually every book in a series you would want! I adore it. I have met servicemen that love to read, professors and visitors from other countries. Its a treasure.
I’d love to visit it. Sounds amazing.
I love Monterey! We were lucky enough to live there for 18 months and was one of my very favorite places we ever lived! That’s why I had my protagonist be from Pacific Grove. Is that the bookstore that was downtown?
If I ever went in there, I would never come out again. Think of the rent I would save!
Linger Longer. It is actually an antique shop. Well, there are “booths/areas” where people have antique stuff, or just old stuff, collectible stuff, even new stuff. And Linger Longer has a working original soda fountain.
And there is an area to the side where the proprietor hosts groups for meetings or such.
I own place where people sometimes linger – a winery!
I’d linger there!
Actually, there is one here called Lifestyles. Its in a building that dates back to civil war and is a collection of overpriced (University town) items that range from toys to kitchen to clothes to modern paintings. All new. I go because I love the building! This book sounds intriguing! Would love to read it!
Love Pacific Grove & the Monterrey Bay area. I don’t have a favorite place to hang out, yet.
We used to have a bookstore with a coffee shop where people would gather. That store went out of business. Now the most common gathering place is probably the vestibule our church (which also serves coffee/beverages).
A small restaurant people meet for coffee in the morning.
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