The Perfect Halloween-Themed Literary Tour — Welcome Back Maureen Klovers

I’m delighted to welcome back Maureen Klovers who recently released the sixth book in her Rita Calabrese culinary cozy, The Legend of Acorn Hollow! We met through a critique group born from an email through the Chesapeake Chapter of Sisters in Crime. I think one of the ideas for this series might have been born from a discussion in that group.

Maureen: What inspired me to create a modern twist on “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow?”

A visit to the real Sleepy Hollow, NY, and the bucolic riverside estate of the legend’s creator, Washington Irving.  The old stone bridge where Ichabod Crane and the headless horseman had their fateful encounter is still there, with the steeple of the Old Dutch Church rising behind it and the eerie three hundred year old graveyard stretching just beyond. You really can picture the headless horseman galloping across the bridge toward you…

And just a mile away, is Sunnyside, Washington Irving’s bucolic riverside estate, where I listened to master storyteller Jonathan Kruk, who recited the tale from memory…and left me wondering how I could weave it into my Italian-American culinary cozy series.

Fortuitously, my protagonist—the indomitable matriarch turned reporter Rita Calabrese—already lives in Irving’s neck of the woods, in the (fictional) Hudson Valley hamlet of Acorn Hollow.

And so I began to wonder, what if the citizens of Acorn Hollow thought that their town was the real inspiration for Irving’s tale? And what if there hadn’t been just one disappearance by the old stone bridge but three…and one of them involved the nephew of the town’s notorious centenarian “black widow”?

And so “The Legend of Acorn Hollow” was born!

In homage to original legend and my more modern take, I’ve devised a delightful Halloween- and fall-themed weekend tour of the Hudson Valley:

Saturday 9 a.m. Start at Olana, the Moorish-style home of painter Frederic Church, one of the leaders of the influential Hudson Valley school of painting. The art inside is impressive, but it pales in comparison to the landscape outside, which was designed by Frederick Law Olmstead of Central Park fame. The fall foliage here is stupendous.

Saturday 11 a.m. Make a slight detour north to the Kinderhook one-room schoolhouse where Jesse Merwin taught; Merwin was reportedly Irving’s inspiration for the character of Ichabod Crane. Then take a tour of the home of Martin Van Buren, our nation’s only non-native English-speaking president (he spoke Dutch as a child, like many Hudson Valley residents of the time), who was a friend of both Washington Irving and Jesse Merwin.

Saturday 1 p.m. – At Millbrook Vineyards, sample a flight of wines while enjoying the spectacular fall foliage from their patio. While Rinaldis’ Winery in “Of Masques and Murder” (#4 in the Rita Calabrese series) is fictional, it’s based on Hudson Valley wineries like this one.

Saturday 2 p.m. – In nearby Millerton, pop in to Harney & Sons to sample dozens of hot teas and enjoy a lovely lunch.

Saturday 3:30 p.m. – Head to Bash Bish falls, the largest single-drop waterfall in Massachusetts.

Saturday 6:00 p.m. –  Just as the sun sets, you’ll arrive at the Culinary Institute of America in time for your reservation at one of the student-run restaurants. Rita often stops at the bakery here to pick up a pain au chocolat, which is not very Italian, but is very delicious! If you want to continue with the Italian food theme, nab a spot at the Tuscan-themed Caterina de Medici overlooking the rose garden.

Sunday 9:00 am -After pastries at La Delicioza, an old-school Italian bakery in Poughkeepsie’s Little Italy, head to Sleepy Hollow for a day of Irving festivities. Your first stop should be Irving’s estate at Sunnyside, where you will learn about the origins of Irving’s tale (like Shakespeare, he borrowed on older traditions) and the fame he enjoyed as the United States’ first internationally-known writer.

Sunday noon – After a delicious lunch at Stone Barns farm just outside of town, head back to Tarrytown for a stroll over the old stone bridge and a tour of the graveyard at the Old Dutch Church.

Sunday 6 p.m. By night, explore the almost endless options for Halloween-themed entertainment, from haunted hayrides to performances of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.”


If you could retrace the footsteps of one of your favorite fictional sleuths, who would you choose and where would you go?


Maureen Klovers is a former spy and middle school teacher. She has hiked through the jungle to Machu Picchu, toured a notorious Bolivian prison with a German narco-trafficker, and fished for piranhas in Venezuela. She lives with her family in Arlington, Virginia, and enjoys testing recipes and speaking Italian.

Blurb for “The Legend of Acorn Hollow”

The locals insist that Acorn Hollow was the real inspiration for “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” But is that a blessing…or a curse?

As the Hudson Valley’s best garden-to-table home cook, fiercest Italian matriarch, and most dogged reporter, Rita Calabrese has many reasons to look forward to fall. Her garden is bursting with the ingredients for chicken cacciatore, apple crisp, and pumpkin cheesecake. Her son is starring in the local community theater production. And Acorn Hollow is at its most festive as it celebrates “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” which the townspeople insist was inspired by their own bucolic hamlet.

But as the fall foliage peaks, so does the drama. First, a series of mysterious accidents befall the actor portraying Ichabod Crane. While most of the townspeople are willing to chalk it up to the supernatural antics of the headless horseman, the police have a far more mortal suspect in mind: Rita’s son, Vinnie.

Then the notorious “black widow” of Acorn Hollow offers Rita tantalizing new clues about a pair of cold-case Halloween disappearances bearing the hallmarks of the original legend, right down to the smashed pumpkin by the old stone bridge.In exchange, the widow asks Rita to cater her funeral—and she’s already set an exact date.

As the clock ticks down to the appointed date, Rita cooks up a fabulous funeral feast. But she begins to suspect that the widow is cooking up something of her own, and it just might be an elaborate trap to catch a killer…

Featuring drool-worthy fall and Italian recipes!

22 Thoughts

  1. Oh, this book sounds so good! I’m right up my alley. I would love to visit Miss Marple and tour St Mary Mead. Would enjoy seeing the church, rectory and cemetery. And, of course, meet the Bantrys.

    I, too, have trekked to Machu Picchu, visited a prison in Cusco, and caught a bunch of pirañas. Not a spy, though.

    1. Ginny, I can’t believe how much we have in common! I agree, a tour of St. Mary Mead would be fun! Is that a real place?

  2. Congratulations on the new release, Maureen! And what a cool itinerary you put together.
    I would ‘t mind retracing the steps Agatha Christie took in Barbados for her book A Caribbean Mystery. What a research vacation!

    1. Now that’s a rare TROPICAL destination. No foggy, rainy London for you :). That does sound fun, though. – Maureen

  3. Welcome back to the Wickeds, Maureen! Your tour sounds lovely and I’m sure I would enjoy it. I’ve read there are Three Pines tours, and I would love to take one someday. When we were in Scotland last year, I tried to keep the Outlander geeking down to a minimum, but we did visit the Culloden battlefield and my husband took my photo in the Edinburgh close where the print shop scenes were filmed.

    1. Oooh, I love Scotland! That sounds amazing. And, yes, I’ve heard about the Three Pines tour too. That’s definitely on my bucket list. My book does have a couple of chapters that take place in Quebec City, so I was thinking of Louise Penny (and the wafting scent of fresh-baked baguettes and croissants!) as I wrote this :).

  4. Welcome, Maureen! I am fascinated by your storyline, and the cover is absolutely perfect. I am hooked! Now I can’t wait to read it. I live in California, and have lived in NY and almost moved to Boston, so I am somewhat familiar with all the history and gorgeous scenery that the area offers. Now I want to go back and take your absolutely wonderful tour suggestion! To answer your question, I would love to move to Carsley, in the Cotswolds, UK, and live right next door to Agatha Raisin, one of my favorite cozy murder mystery sleuths, created by the late M. C. Beaton! Thank you so much for sharing your writing skills with us readers!!! Luis at ole dot travel

    1. Hello Luis, I too enjoy Agatha Raisin and I actually went to the town in the Cotswolds that the TV series is filmed in (I don’t think there is actually a Carsely). It was so beautiful! No one else on the tour seemed that impressed (it was mainly to go to Stonehenge), but I was! It’s funny you mention Agatha Raisin because a few folks have compared my protagonist to Agatha, although she is a bit older, very Italian-American (not British!), not single, and uses cleaner language :). But there is something of the same indominable, slightly exasperating but loveable character. – Maureen

      1. Thank you for your kind reply, Maureen! I just went to amazon and was pleasantly surprised to read that indeed Rita is compared with Agatha! How did I miss that? How great that you have been able to visit the Cotswolds. The main filming location for the TV show is the village of Biddestone in northwest Wiltshire, which stands in as the fictional Carsley. My son lived in London for many years, so we love the UK, and that area of the country. We have not found any bodies yet (phew!). I am looking forward to reading The Legend of Acorn Hollow! Blessings! ~ Luis

  5. I would love to visit England and the places Holmes lived or visited. London, Scotland Yard, Baker Street etc.

    1. Yes!! I think it’s mostly fictional locations, but I have been past Scotland Yard…and London itself is so atmospheric, especially in the rain!

  6. I actually did this at one point in your neck of the woods to visit “Sleepyside” (really Ossining), the home of Trixie Belden. While we (a big group of fans) visited the real places that were fictionalized for the series, we did visit Sunnyside as well. But it’s been over 20 years since I was there.

    1. I had no idea Trixie Belden was set nearby – I loved that series as a kid! I will have to check it out next time I am up there. – Maureen

  7. I would say Shay Mayers from Lauren Elliott’s series Crystals and CuriTEAS mystery series. Thank you for sharing. God bless you.

    1. I hadn’t heard of that series, but I just looked it up and it sounds intriguing! I would assume it’s a fictional place…right? Or is it a real location in northern CA?

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