Wicked Wednesday: Neighbors

NEIGHBORSIn Steamed Open, Barbara Ross’s latest Maine Clambake mystery, a new neighbor moves in and blocks access to the beach. This creates a pretty solid motive for a lot of folks in Busman’s Harbor. For those of us in New England, issues around beach access are fairly common, and litigious.

Today’s Wicked Wednesday topic is neighbors. How important are good neighbors in our books? Conversely, how helpful are bad neighbors to our plotting?

steamedLiz: I could talk about this topic forever. Neighbors have been an ongoing theme for me ever since I moved to Connecticut. There was the crazy lady in the condo complex I lived in for a very short time who used to mind everyone’s business. She was literally Mrs. Kravitz. And since she was home all the time she had nothing else to do anyway. I came home at an odd time one day and found her in my driveway, pretending to sweep but looking in the garage windows. Then she ran to the next condo and hid behind the little alcove, like I couldn’t see her do it. I eventually had to put that plastic stuff on the windows that was like a mirror if you looked in from outside…it was seriously disturbing. I killed her in an as-yet-unpublished short story.

Edith: In my new Cozy Capers Book Group Mysteries, my protagonist Mac Almeida lives and works on the main drag of Westham on Cape Cod. Her own grandma, the diminutive Reba, lives on the second floor a block away and uses her spyglass to monitor what goes on in town. All the other shopkeepers within a block radius are neighbors, too. As in any small town, this is both good and bad!

Jessie: Neighbors make the mystery world go round! After all, often neighbors are more a part of daily life than farther-off family members. Good neighbors or bad there is a great deal of fodder for a mystery brewing in those relationships. And who really knows what goes behind closed doors? The neighborhood nosy parker may think he or she knows but do they really? The possibilities are endless!

Sherry: Congratulations on Steamed Open, Barb! I love all of the neighbor problems you created in it. In my series, Sarah has one wonderful neighbor — her opera singing landlady and friend Stella Wild. She also has a neighbors who are rarely in town but create problems for Sarah when they show up unexpectedly in A Good Day To Buy. I just realized I’ve never explored who lives in the houses around Sarah. Stay tuned!

Julie: Neighbors are the gift that keeps on giving in cozy series. In my new series, Lilly Jayne has a new, mysterious and handsome neighbor. In the Clock Shop series, all of the neighbors and business owners added a lot to stories. In real neighbors are great character studies, for good and for ill.

Barb: Thanks so much everybody. I’m excited about Steamed Open. Fee and Vee Snugg who live across the street from the house Julia Snowden grew up in have been in the books from the beginning. They are dear friends and honorary great-aunts who were inspired by my parents’ neighbors of many years who were lovely to my brother and me, our spouses and kids. In Yule Log Murder I introduce a new neighbor, Odile St. Onge who lives next door. And there’s local cop Jamie whose parents’ house backs onto Julia’s mother’s house and who grew up with Julia and her sister Livvie. Neighbors, particularly year-rounders, are so important the the Maine Clambake Mysteries.

How about you, dear readers? Any good neighbor stories to share with us?

22 Thoughts

  1. My favorite condo neighbor was an older gentleman who spotted me in the hallway sniffing at front doors. Though he had no sense of smell, he took me seriously when I said I smelled smoke, and he walked the hall with me to identify the unit where, it turned out, someone had burned dinner. We had a delightful conversation about his years as an administrator walking the halls at his school keeping an eye on things. That experience left me with a good feeling about my condo community and the people I could count on.

  2. “Lower your voice. Do you want the neighbors to hear you?” was something my mother said often when I was growing up. I was a loud (only) child, especially when I wasn’t getting my own way. It wasn’t until I was grown that I fully realized just how close together the houses in our neighborhood were. I’m now exploiting that to the fullest in my Deadly Edits series.

    1. I think it is so cool you are exploring your old home town in your Deadly Edits series, especially since it is a place with such an interesting history.

  3. This happened recently in my neighborhood and it involved the new method of spying — a drone! A disgruntled neighbor decided to start flying a drone to spy on the neighbors on his street. People started to notice the drone hovering near their windows and reported it to the police. The police tracked down the culprit and he was arrested. Very creepy! I guess you never know when you’re being watched….

  4. I haven’t explored all the neighbor’s in the apartment building where Sally Castle lives – I might have to do that. Jim’s neighbor Marge, a stay-at-home-mom, is a useful source of gossip and a reliable fall-back when Jim needs someone to take care of his dog (when he can’t get home for various and sundry reasons).

    My neighbors right now are pretty good. But I think I could come up with some good stories since the house two doors down is a rental. 🙂

    Congrats on the books!

    1. Thank you, Liz. one of the great things about a series is the slow-roll of reveal, like stories involving Sally’s neighbors. I’ve been adding stores to my Main Street almost every book.

  5. Funny this should come up this week. Sunday night was the latest round with my neighbors who insist that it is their right to smoke in their garage – a garage that is directly under my bedroom. And they don’t care that the smoke comes up into my bedroom. I only got about three hours of sleep between fighting them (until 2 am) and then airing out my bedroom. And this has been going on since they moved in 14 years ago.

    Fortunately, it isn’t an every day thing. The last two nights have been fine.

    1. Ugh. Mark, what a pain! We had a condo meeting Monday night. Bill and I want to vent our currently ventless gas fireplace, which will mean a little itty-bitty thing sticking out of our townhouse. No one will even see it. Nonetheless I was nervous. Fortunately, it went well.

  6. Oh, my, this brought back a lot of memories. The first apartment I lived in, almost 50 years ago, was a garden apartment with 3 apartments on each of three floors. All 8 of our neighbors were characters of one sort or another. A sampling: The drunk who hollered “Hey” and “Oh” at all hours, the classical music lover who played records (remember them?) loudly at all hours, the woman on the first floor who claimed to be hard of hearing and had to have her TV blasting but could hear you come up the steps even in stocking feet (I tested it more than once) and she would be at the door looking out, and the woman who lived upstairs who I swear wore stack heels (remember those?) at all hours and loved to vacuum her tile floors very late at night. Great war stories.

      1. Go for it, Barb! You can add the kid who said he didn’t like hamburgers tho’ he never had had one. And the woman who had a shrine to her husband (complete with candles) who had died 30 years before.

  7. I hadn’t thought about it, but I haven’t ever really utilized Lee and Aunt Ibby’s neighbors on Winter Street. The only time I’ve mentioned any of them was when Lee “liberated” a very cool “Shabby Chic” footstool from a neighbor’s trash!

  8. I lived in a double house since I was one year old. Although you usually can’t make out words, you hear a lot. One of the loudest was the two tiny children of a Vietnamese couple. They sounded like a herd of elephants. Made me wonder how my brother and I sounded to the elderly couple who lived there when we were children.

    1. I’ve lived in double houses, too, including when my kids were little. We had a thick, brick firewall between us, so you couldn’t hear anything. (At least I hope not.)

  9. When I was waiting for my trailer to be replaced (a process I expected to take only a couple weeks), my neighbors let me use their spare room to live in. It ended up being closer to four months!

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