By Liz, welcoming Alyssa Maxwell to the blog today! Alyssa is celebrating the recent release of her ninth Gilded Newport Mystery, Murder at Wakehurst, and talking about what makes a good sleuth. Thanks for being here, Alyssa!
Recently, during a chat with Murder by the Book (Houston, TX) I was asked if I thought I would make a good sleuth. Honestly, that was the first time I’d been asked that question! And I had to think about it a minute. I mean, for these past, oh, nearly ten years now, I’ve been honing the art of thinking like a sleuth. But could I actually compile a list of possible motives, follow a trail of evidence, and confront suspects in real life?
First, what is it that makes a good sleuth?
To begin with, our intrepid individual needs to possess an insatiable curiosity. She (we’ll go with “she” here, since my sleuths are all women) isn’t someone who typically accepts things on face value, but thinks about cause and effect, and consequences. She wants to know what’s happening and why, and, in the case of adversity, what might done about it.
A social conscience. Our sleuth has an inner voice that won’t allow her to simply keep walking when something or someone needs her help. She cares deeply about her family and her community.
What else? A keen, analytical mind. She must have the ability to see matters clearly, to take into account all aspects of a situation, and understand how various circumstances might fit together to form a picture, even if initially they seem to have nothing in common. She doesn’t believe in coincidences and will work tirelessly to find the ties linking one set of events with another.
A bit of a suspicious mind also comes in handy. That goes back to taking nothing at face value, and includes understanding that words don’t make the person—actions do. So a sleuth always takes a suspect’s claims with a huge grain of salt. Yes, she’ll look for physical clues (body language, facial expressions) as to whether the person is lying or telling the truth, but she also backs up her instincts with evidence. If that means going behind backs to question friends and relations, and a bit of spying and record searching, so be it. Our sleuth is willing to do it, even if she has to make some apologies later.
Hutzpah – a sleuth needs this in spades! Confrontation doesn’t scare her. She has the confidence to stand up to people, to force her way into their lives with her questions and suspicions, and to persevere in the face of anger, insult, and even physical threats. A sleuth needs a love of adventure and a bit of a devil-may-care attitude, or she’ll never have the nerve to do what she must to solve the case. That doesn’t mean she should be “too stupid to live.” No, she should understand the dangers involved and have the necessary back-up if possible – like leaving a note for a friend saying where she’s going – but in the end, danger makes our sleuth’s heart beat faster, and makes her feel alive and self-reliant.
So, would I make a good sleuth? As much as I would love to say yes, the truthful answer is that I much prefer sleuthing in front of my computer, or through the pages of the mysteries I read. I’m not a confrontation person! It’s one thing to put together suspects, motives and clues on paper, but quite another to coerce bad people into confessing to murder. Yes, MURDER! Let’s not forget that. Sleuthing between the pages of a book is fun. Slinking through back alleys at midnight, sneaking into people’s homes, and having it out with a killer at the top of a cliff—not so much!
How about you? Would you try your hand at sleuthing if given the chance, or do you prefer your adventures rather less perilous? Comment below for a chance to win a signed, hardcover copy of my latest Gilded Newport Mystery, MURDER AT WAKEHURST! (open to U.S. residents only due to shipping costs.)
Murder at Wakehurst blurb:
In the autumnal chill of Newport, Rhode Island, at the close of the nineteenth century, journalist Emma Cross discovers an instance of cold-blooded murder on the grounds of a mansion . . .
Following the death of her uncle, Cornelius Vanderbilt, in September 1899, a somber Emma is in no mood for one of Newport’s extravagant parties. But to keep Vanderbilt’s reckless son Neily out of trouble, she agrees to accompany him to an Elizabethan fete on the lavish grounds of Wakehurst, the Ochre Point “cottage” modeled after an English palace, owned by Anglophile James Van Alen.
Held in Wakehurst’s English-style gardens, the festivities will include a swordplay demonstration, an archery competition, scenes from Shakespeare’s plays, and even a joust. As Emma wanders the grounds distracted by grief, she overhears a fierce argument between a man and a woman behind a tall hedge. As the joust begins, she’s drawn by the barking of Van Alen’s dogs and finds a man on the ground, an arrow through his chest.
The victim is one of the 400’s most influential members, Judge Clayton Schuyler. Could one of the countless criminals he’d imprisoned over the years have returned to seek revenge—or could one of his own family members have targeted him? With the help of her beau Derrick Andrews and Detective Jesse Whyte, Emma begins to learn the judge was not the straight arrow he appeared to be. As their investigation leads them in ever-widening circles, Emma will have to score a bull’s eye to stop the killer from taking another life . . .
Alyssa Maxwell knew from an early age that she wanted to be a writer. Growing up in New England and traveling to Great Britain fueled a passion for history, while a love of puzzles drew her to the mystery genre. She is the author of The Gilded Newport Mysteries and A Lady and Lady’s Maid Mysteries. She and her husband live in Florida, where she is a member of the Mystery Writers of American-Florida Chapter, Sisters in Crime-Treasure Coast Chapter, and the Florida Romance Writers. You can learn more about Alyssa and her books at www.alyssamaxwell.com, where you can also find all her social media links.
Adventures rather less perilous for me.
I grew up fervently wishing to be Nancy Drew… but alas, I think I’d get too nervous in real life to solve mysteries. Although, if I had fabulous cars, two great besties, a devoted sheepdog of a boyfriend (Ned!) and the common sense support of Hannah Green and Carson Drew- who knows?!
Nancy did have a great entourage and resources, didn’t she?
We’re adventurous in our imaginations!
I’m with you, Alyssa! And welcome back to the blog. I loved the new book and I know our readers will too.
Thanks, Edith, it’s great to be here again!
The only sleuthing I do is searching for all the things my husband misplaces. I thought I was forgetful but this man can’t remember what he did 5 minutes ago. I have to go around the house saying “what would I do if I was Wayne” and most of the time I find it. These are things like his wallet, glasses, his cup of coffee, etc. I love Newport and have toured some of the mansions. Would love to go at Christmastime some year. Thank you for this chance at your giveaway. pgenest57 at aol dot com
LOL! I can so relate. Usually, though, the thing my husband is looking for is right in front of him. And yes, Newport at Christmas is magic!
I’m not really a sleuth although I did enjoy the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books when I was younger. My interest has grown to love a good mystery with historical factors in it. Thanks for the blog and for the opportunity to enter the giveaway.
Then you’re a woman after my own heart, since besides my writing nearly everything I read is historical.
I also prefer to do my sleuthing in the pages of a book. Although, I suppose if I could be like Rex Stout, maybe. Not the 400 pounds, but the “I can solve a crime from my arm chair” thing and never leave my house. LOL
Finding happiness in being an armchair sleuth/armchair traveler has really come in handy this past year, hasn’t it?
Yes it has!
Through most of my life, I would have answered no, but as a senior citizen now I’ve seemed to have found my voice and hutzpah, I now I would say yes I could be a sleuth. My love of family (both by blood and those chosen) and wanted to help the underdog would only add to my ability. As with a lot of good sleuths, I’d have to have a sleuthing partner. I know with hubby beside me that there’s nothing we couldn’t do – track down clues, search out suspects, etc. And hubby has a way about him to put anyone at ease and I’m sure he could get them to talking while I nosey around. 🙂 One thing I know for sure, I’d be like the old dog with a bone – I wouldn’t give up until the right person was found and hopefully justice done.
MURDER AT WAKEHURST sounds amazing and is definitely on my TBR list. I would love the opportunity to read and review it. Thank you for the fabulous chance to win a signed, hardcover copy that I could add to my permanent library collection. Shared and hoping to be the very fortunate one selected.
2clowns at arkansas dot net
I love this reply, and that you’ve found your hutzpah later in life, when for so many people it would be the opposite. And that you would partner with your hubby – like in Hart to Hart! Only I’m guessing without their millions, lol.
This sounds like a great read. I would like to think of myself as a great sleuth, but I would probably be the person in the office doing research for the case.
Yes, I think I’d be good at the research, too!
I think I would much rather do any sleuthing in the pages of a book. I have read all the Emma Cross books and this newest is on my to be read list.
Thank you, Jane, for having Emma on your TBR pile! She very much appreciates being there!
Does tracking down and confronting cheating spouses count? If so then yes, I have been a sleuth. I was pretty surprised at how good I was at it.
It most certainly does. I’m sorry about the circumstances, but good for you for finding your answers!
I wanted to be Nancy Drew. I remember growing up walking around our small town looking for things that ‘didn’t fit.’ I didn’t find much to investigate – after all, the town was small enough that you knew all the residents (and their secrets) by sight. It did make me a curious person, and an adventurous one. Not big on the confrontational scale, so I have to say things worked out for the best.
I wanted to be a secret agent, lol – I think I was inspired by Emma Peel and 99 (Barbara Feldon).
I’m with you, I’m not good at confrontation either, unless I’m really really really heated up! I think it would be fun and challenging to hunt for and follow the clues, but I’d have to have a very brave partner. We’re pretty insulated from the horror of murder when we’re reading a book, real life would be tragic. Congrats on your new book!
So true – the difference between fiction and real life makes all the difference. In a cozy mystery, we’re focused on the puzzle, not the tragedy or the graphic details.
I would like to think I would try my hand at sleuthing but I’d probably chicken out. I do love reading about others doing it though.
You might surprise yourself, but then again let’s hope neither of us has to find out what kind of sleuths we’d make.
Welcome back Alyssa! Congratulations on your new book. I’d make a terrible sleuth. I have stories to prove it!
Thanks, Sherry! We’ll just keep writing and leave the real sleuthing to the professionals, lol.
I avoid confrontation at all costs, but other than that I might have made a good sleuth. At this point in my life, I’ll stick to sleuthing in the pages of my books. I’m too old to be out chasing someone anyway, lol. Alyssa, thank you so much for the lovely blurb for FRONT PAGE MURDER!
You’re so welcome, Joyce! I enjoyed it so much!
I’d be a terrible sleuth but I love to read about them.
Sounds good to me!
Welcome back to the blog, Alyssa! I have the tenacity, focus and determination–in the sense that nothing can hide from me on the Web. But the physical stuff…not so much.
Hi Barbara – thanks! It’s lovely to be here again!
I can’t even figure out who’s guilty in fiction, would be a terrible sleuth in real life!
To tell you the truth, I can’t always tell who’s guilty when I read mysteries. And sometimes I don’t try. I just go along for the ride!
I love Nancy Drew and historical mysteries, but would make a lousy sleuth. I respect people’s privacy too much! Just not nosy enough. 😇
This series fascinates me and am looking forward to making my TBR pile even higher.
You make a good point about privacy. I don’t think I’d make a good reporter, either. Good thing I have Emma to do these things for me.
A great sleuth follows their gut and pays attention to details.
I prefer a quieter life, as I read of twisty adventures like this one. IRL I won’t even get close to the edge of a cliff. Nope, no way. <3
No, me neither. It’s places like that, or in really tall buildings, that I remember I have a fear of heights, which I normally can ignore.
I would jump at the chance if I were younger and my health was better. Fortunately for the criminals out there, I will be safely in my home just reading about them! In my younger years I loved adventure. Climbing waterfalls and parasailing in Jamaica, the bullfights in Cancun, swimming with dolphins in the Bahamas, I will always remember doing those things so I would probably be more than willing to snoop around.
It sounds like you had a lot of fun and excitement in your youth. Good for you!
I prefer sleuthing through the mysteries I read.
And luckily there is no shortage of good mysteries out there!
I am firmly in the corner of “desk chair detectives” or maybe I should say “couch or easy chair detectives” in all honesty. And, if I am really being honest, I will say “reading in bed detective.” I would not give Miss Fisher a challenge of any kind. Oh, but those clothes she wears are so beautiful. Too bad she is too tall for me to borrow any of them. 😉
Don’t you love her wardrobe? I enjoy living vicariously through characters like Phryne, whether its sleuthing or fashion!
I’ll do my sleuthing through the pages of a book, I don’t I’m cut out to be a sleuth. This is one of my favorite series and I’m looking forward to reading “Murder at Wakehurst”. I love the setting and history behind the homes featured in your books.
Thanks, so much, Dianne!
Thanks for visiting today, Alyssa! I think I am like you in that I would prefer to sleuth from behind my keyboard! Maybe that is why writing up intrepid sleuths is such fun!
Exactly! And thanks for having me on!
Yes, we get a chance to act out without getting into trouble, lol.
I tend to stay away from anything that involves dead bodies. But, often, especially with work assignments, I find myself sleuthing. I have to admit when I solve a ‘mystery’, it is quite satisfying. After all, you only live once!!!
In a way, the research we do for our books is a kind of sleuthing – the safe kind! But also very satisfying when we find answers that aren’t immediately accessible.
I don’t think I’d want to be a real life sleuth
And there’s nothing wrong with that!
I can’t help myself, I would sleuth!!
Interesting! But would you be a Miss Marple or a Miss Fisher? LOL.
I’m by nature a suspicious, nosy person LOL so I would sleuth.
Would love to read & review in print format. Love books like this
I like that you’re willing to admit it, lol!
I love reading about sleuths, but I am not brave enough to try it myself! That explains why I love cozy mysteries. I can be cozy while reading about someone else having the adventures! I can read cozy mysteries endlessly.
Odd how reading about murder can be “cozy”, but I find there is something comforting about settling in with a good mystery.
I am a business analyst and editor…could be effective with evidence but not so great with figuring out people! Cozies make it easier because they direct me to the culprit.
Yes, cozies are about following the clues, with a little danger thrown in for fun.
I would like to think before I became disabled, that I would have tried to solve a mystery. Now that I am disabled, I would not be able to find the the clues. Thank you for sharing.
I would think you might be good at analyzing those clues, though!
While still relatively able-bodied, I am not as quick as I used to be, and social Isolation has me keeping pretty close to home, so I am not ideally situated to be a sleuth. My main mystery these days is “Why do I keep agreeing to accept a new book for review when I know it will add another monthly (if I am lucky: Most seem to be weekly) newsletter to my over-flowing inbox (currently 9,894)?”
Oh my gosh! Sometimes it’s perfectly ok to say no, and it sounds like you should! Obviously, you’re a dedicated reader/reviewer!
I grew up reading mysteries by the great Dame Agatha Christie and her followers. I enjoy reading mysteries, murder, and mayhem. I could not put myself into the actual role of a sleuth other than reading, writing, and listening to such crimes.
I’m right there with you!
I would absolutely love to be a sleuth! I love Nancy Drew.
You must have a sense of adventure!
No peril for me, I’m fine just reading about it. And I am so bad at noticing things in real life that I would miss all the vital clues anyway.
For sure, a sleuth needs to notice the finer details.
Love the book covers. I prefer sleuthing in my mystery books. Not sure I would good at in IRL. Thanks for the chance!
Thanks! My covers are done by an amazing artist named Stephen Gardner.
I could do the sleuthing online. I wouldn’t want to get in trouble in real life by snooping, but it is exciting when a sleuth searches someone’s house.
Yes, exciting to watch (or read about). I’d be too nervous to do it in real life.
Hi, your book sounds very intriguing , and I love your book cover! Yes, I think I would love to be an investigator, looking for all the clues , I think it is very interesting! Have a great week and stay safe.
Thanks for weighing in, Alicia! Yes, the art of following the clues is fascinating! It’s the danger I object to, lol!
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