Kathy Laweryson is the winner of Debra’s giveaway. Look for an email from Debra!
Welcome back, Debra Goldstein! We met Debra years ago when we were standing in line waiting to register at Malice Domestic. What a fortuitous event that turn out to be! Debra is doing a giveaway–look for details at the end of the post.
Debra: One of the best and worst of things writing a continuing cozy series is dealing with Cabot Cove Syndrome. The fictional syndrome, which is attributed to the television show, Murder She Wrote, describes the finding of bodies repeatedly in the small town of Cabot Cove, Maine. Because the show ran for twelve years, not to mention the books and movies it spawned, the BBC once calculated its murder rate at 1490 per million, which translated to about two percent of the residents of Cabot Cove.
Numbers like that, if the town truly existed, would either strain reality or make one leery of ever visiting. The concept holds true when writing a continuing series. Readers want to identify with a cast of characters found in every book, but at the same time, they want the character roster to expand enough each time that the dead body and the culprit aren’t the only new faces in town. To keep the reader satisfied and coming back, the author must use different methods.
The easiest way to avoid Cabot Cove Syndrome is have the protagonist take a trip. That can work here or there, but in a cozy the small town setting itself becomes a character that readers look forward to visiting. What would Louise Penney’s books be if they didn’t, for the most part, take place in Three Pines? Rather than ignoring Cabot Cove Syndrome, it is better to embrace it through the workaround of introducing minor characters whose roles grow in subsequent books.
For example, in One Taste Too Many, the first book in my Sarah Blair series, I introduced Grace Winston as a culinary student interning with Sarah’s talented Chef sister, Emily. She has several scenes in One Taste where readers learn about her personality, health, and history. Mentioned again in Two Bites Too Many, but in a minor role, Grace remains in the reader’s mind. Her scenes become important in Three Treats Too Many, where she now is the sous chef for Emily’s restaurant. In fact, the title of the book comes from an idea she raises with Emily, Sarah, and Emily’s boyfriend, Marcus, during a brainstorming session. Although she still is a secondary character, the reader learns about Grace’s partner and sees Grace caught in a culinary job dilemma between restaurant rivals.
Four Cuts Too Many begins a few days after Three Treats Too Many ends. Grace’s dilemma is the impetus for a meeting between Sarah and Grace. Within pages, the reader sees Grace’s role expand as now, besides being a sous chef for Emily, Grace is teaching a knife skills course at the community college. After she has a run-in with her department head, he is found dead from a knife wound to his throat. And, voila, Grace becomes the primary suspect.
The importance of Grace being the suspect in Four Cuts Too Many, or any of the primary suspects used in the other books in the series, is that their characters are known to the reader and are people the readers want Sarah to help. Although the corpse may be someone new to the community, there is enough familiarity for the story to feel like a continuous extension of a discussion between friends. For my books, the developed continuity and affection for the characters is what lets the reader transcend and suspend any impact the Cabot Cove Syndrome might have.
Readers: For a chance to win a print or e-book copy of Four Cuts Too Many (U.S. only), tell me, how do you feel about Cabot Cove Syndrome in the books you read?
Four Cuts Too Many
Sarah Blair gets an education in slicing and dicing when someone in her friend’s culinary school serves up a main corpse in Wheaton, Alabama . . .
Between working as a law firm receptionist, reluctantly pitching in as co-owner of her twin sister’s restaurant, and caretaking for her regal Siamese RahRah and rescue dog Fluffy, Sarah has no time to enjoy life’s finer things. Divorced and sort-of dating, she’s considering going back to school. But as a somewhat competent sleuth, Sarah’s more suited for criminal justice than learning how many ways she can burn a meal.
Although she wouldn’t mind learning some knife skills from her sous chef, Grace Winston. An adjunct instructor who teaches cutlery expertise in cooking college, Grace is considering accepting an executive chef’s position offered by Jane Clark, Sarah’s business rival—and her late ex-husband’s lover. But Grace’s future lands in hot water when the school’s director is found dead with one of her knives in his back. To clear her friend’s name, there’s no time to mince words. Sarah must sharpen her own skills at uncovering an elusive killer . . .
Includes quick and easy recipes!
Bio: Judge Debra H. Goldstein writes Kensington’s Sarah Blair mystery series. Her short stories and novels have been Agatha, Anthony, Derringer, and Silver Falchion finalists. Debra is on the national board of MWA and is president of SEMWA. She previously was on SinC’s national board and was the Guppy Chapter president. Learn more about Debra at https://www.DebraHGoldstein.com .