Judith won the book! Watch for an email from Shari!
It’s always great to have Meri Allen aka Shari Randall visit the Wickeds. Whether she’s writing about lobsters or ice cream her books are deliciously entertaining and I gobble them up! Today she’s here celebrating the release of Mint Chocolate Murder.
Meri: Every time I take a trip, I recall the Anne Tyler book and movie, The Accidental Tourist. The Accidental Tourist of the title is a man who hates to travel and writes dreary guidebooks for businesspeople like him who only travel because of work.
I’m the opposite. My husband jokes that I get excited about driving to the next town. To me, less-discovered sights are just as much fun as the famous ones. One of my local, less-discovered favorites is Gillette’s Castle in East Haddam, Connecticut. Ever since I first visited it on a Girl Scout field trip too many years ago, I’ve been dying to set a murder there and I finally got my wish in my latest Ice Cream Shop mystery, Mint Chocolate Murder.
Gillette’s Castle is not a pretty Sleeping Beauty-style castle. In the book, one character describes it as “fortification, not Disney vacation.” But the medieval inspired stone building fascinates, not just for its rough-hewn exterior and magical setting, but for the story of its builder.
William Gillette (1853 – 1937) was scion of a prominent Connecticut family who found fame as an actor on stage and screen. His most famous role? Sherlock Holmes.
His Sherlock, long and lean, became the prototype for the detective on film. Further, because Gillette was also a playwright, he ad libbed several “Holmes-isms” that are not found in the canon. He’s the one who uttered “Elementary.” He added the famous deerstalker and pipe to his costume.
When he decided to build his dream house castle on the Seventh Sister Hill overlooking the Connecticut River, he incorporated some inventive touches, including secret nooks and specially angled mirrors so he could jump out and surprise his guests by appearing from “nowhere.” Yet the interior is surprisingly homey for a medieval style castle with its own miniature railroad curling around the property. Visitors are not allowed to visit every space in the castle but I’m convinced there must be a secret staircase somewhere.
In adapting the castle for the book, I kept the rough fieldstone exterior (Why? No spoilers!) and glowering medieval look. Instead of Gillette, I made the original owner of the castle a Gilded Age millionaire industrialist who loved Scotland so much he imported the very stones themselves to create his own “pile” and named it Moy Mull. Town gossips declared the stones haunted, and decades later teens who visited Moy Mull after it fell into decades of disrepair whispered about hearing the ghostly Weeping Lady herself, who mourns from the castle tower.
In the present day of the story, Moy Mull is brought back to regal life by a former super model who invites my main character, Riley Rhodes, to create treats for a fantasy ice cream social. Riley discovers the castle still holds secrets, and the Weeping Lady still cries from the tower.
If you’re going to have a castle, you have to have a ghost, right?
Giveaway! I’ll send one copy (print or ebook) of MINT CHOCOLATE MURDER to one lucky commenter. US Only.
Readers: Have you visited any castles? If you decided to have a castle setting for a book, what would you put in it?
Meri Allen is the author of the Ice Cream Shop mystery series. As Shari Randall, she penned the Lobster Shack Mystery series. She lives on the Connecticut shore and enjoys haunting bookstores and antiques shops.
More about Mint Chocolate Murder: When Udderly Delightful Ice Cream shop manager Riley Rhodes is summoned to Penniman’s Moy Mull Castle, it’s the cherry on top of a successful summer season. The gothic pile built by an eccentric New England Gilded Age millionaire has been transformed into a premiere arts colony by Maud Monaco, a reclusive former supermodel. As part of Moy Mull’s Fall Arts Festival, Maud is throwing a fantasy ice cream social and hires Riley to whip up unique treats to celebrate the opening of an exhibit by Adam Blasco, a photographer as obnoxious as he is talented.
As Penniman fills up with Maud’s art-world friends arriving for the festival, gossip swirls around Blasco, who has a dark history of obsession with his models. Riley’s curiosity and instincts for sleuthing – she was a CIA librarian – are piqued, and she wonders at the hold the cold-hearted photographer has over the mistress of Moy Mull.
But when Adam is found dead behind the locked door of Moy Mull’s dungeon, Riley realizes there’s more than one suspect who’d wanted to put the malicious photographer on ice.