I am so excited that Jennie is here today. Hubby and I used to be quite the Do-It-Yourselfers. We extensively remodeled 2 of our houses and even worked as home builders for awhile. In fact Mr. Dollycas with the help of friends and family built the house we live in today. Even with one side paralyzed I took great pleasure in doing the several coats required to stain and finish most of the interior trim and doors. So when I read about the tasks and projects Derek and Avery take on it just gives me a comfy feeling. Thankfully we have not come across any dead bodies but it wouldn’t be a cozy mystery with one or two of those popping up unexpectedly. Jennie is one of the masters of the cozy mystery genre and in this installment she had excited about one of the settings as well as the story. I will let her tell you all about it.
When Lori emailed last week to remind me that I’d promised to write a blog post for the release of Wall-to-Wall Dead,she happened to remark on the church in the book where a couple of the scenes take place. A high school friend of Derek’s is getting married, and the wedding takes place in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Portland, Maine.
The rest of the book takes place in Waterfield, which is a small fictitious – or fictional; I can’t keep those straight – town about forty five minutes north of Portland by car. You take Interstate 295 north, you get off at the Brunswick exit, you pass through Brunswick and keep going for twenty minutes or so, and you’ll end up in Waterfield. Just as soon as you pass Barnham College and the entrance to the snobby Wellhaven development.
No, it isn’t really there. That’s just where I chose to put it back in 2007, when I had a map of New England pinned to the wall, a blindfold on, and a dart in my hand, trying to figure out where to set this new mystery series I was starting to write.
Obviously New England is a real place. Maine is a real state. Portland is a real city. Brunswick is a real town, and so is Boothbay Harbor, on the other side of Waterfield. Waterfield isn’t. Rowanberry Island, which featured prominently in book 4, Mortar and Murder, and which crops up again in the prologue to Wall to Wall Dead, isn’t either.
I chose to make Waterfield fictitious for a couple of different reasons. The first one is that I’ve never actually been to Maine, and although I can write with a certain degree of accuracy about the landscape there – it’s a lot like Norway, where I grew up – it would be a lot harder to describe an actual town I’d never been to. One grove of pine trees looks much like another, and one craggy coast is a lot like the next one. But if I picked a real town, sooner or later I’d hear from someone who’d been there that I’d put the Starbucks on the wrong corner or the elementary school on the wrong street. Going fictional was a lot easier; I could just build the town I wanted from the ground up.
The other reason is that once you use something real in your book – be it person, place, or thing – you’d better be sure you speak nicely about it. If you don’t, someone will come get you. And when you’re writing about murder and mayhem, it’s safer to keep things fictitious. Less chance that someone will sue you.
So I made Waterfield fictitious, but put it in a real place in the real world. In a way, if everything around it is real, it becomes real too, by default. I’ve had people ask me whether it’s actually there. And no, it isn’t. Boothbay Harbor is there. Brunswick is there. I-295 to Portland is there. And the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception is there. It really does have a tower that’s 204 feet tall, where on a clear day you can see the mountains of New Hampshire on one side and the bay on the other. It does have Franz Mayer Bavarian stained glass windows and Stations of the Cross in Venetian glass mosaic. And if I lived in Portland and didn’t already have a husband, it would be where I’d want to be married too.
So what do you think? Do you have a preference when you read? Do you like real places you’ve been – or might go – to, or places made up from whole cloth in the author’s mind? Or some sort of combination? Have you ever visited a place you read about in a book because the author made it so vivid you just had to see it for yourself? And if you could pick a fictitious place and go hang out for a while, which place would you pick and why?
I love the combination of real and fictitious. I have to say after Jennie told me the cathedral was real I had to do a search on the internet because I just had to see if the picture in my mind from Jennie’s words matched the real thing. It was amazing how she took me there in the story. I wished I could visit there in person. I don’t want to ruin the story for anyone but after you read the book check out this site to see the pictures. Let me know what you think.
About Jennie Bentley
New York Times bestselling author Jennie Bentley writes the Do It Yourself home renovation mysteries for Berkley Prime Crime. As Jenna Bennett, she writes a variety of romance – from contemporary to futuristic and from paranormal to suspense – for Entangled Publishing. She also writes and publishes the bestselling Cutthroat Business Mysteries for her own gratification. Her most recent release is Wall-to-Wall Dead (A Do-It-Yourself Mystery), the 6th in the series.
Wall-to-Wall Dead (A Do-It-Yourself Mystery)
6th in the Series
A Berkley Prime Crime Mystery
The Berkley Publishing Group (September 4, 2012)
Published by The Penguin Group
Mass Market Paperback: 304 pages ISBN-13: 978-0425255568
Cover Illustration by Jennifer Taylor/Paperdog Studio
Cover Design by Rita Frangie
Derek and Avery are fixing up a cute little condo in Waterfield, Maine. It reminds Avery of her tiny apartment in Manhattan. She hopes to use some “tricks of the trade” that she has learned to make the small condo into a place with a more open feeling. It should be a quick job and a fast sale as the need the money as they wait for the right buyer to come along for the huge project they had just completed.
The only drawback to the project is the little old lady in the downstairs condo. She watches every move every resident of the building makes from her perch in front of her window. Hilda loves to snoop and keep track of everything happening outside her window.
When Hilda is missing from her window for a whole day Avery gets suspicious. She convinces Derek to break open the door so they can make sure she is all right. It is then they find that the busybody is now a dead body. While most people think she has died of natural causes Avery thinks there is more to the story. No one seems sad that Hilda is gone. Some residents are even happy. Maybe the old lady had some dirt on one of the residents, a secret they didn’t want to get out. Could anyone have a secret worth killing for? Avery is determined to find out by doing a little snooping of her own.
Checking in with Derek and Avery is like getting together with old friends. I love to see what they are up to and their projects never fail to spark some DIY ideas for around the house.
Every small town and most apartment buildings have someone who could be called a busybody but Hilda is a busybody extraordinaire. In my synopsis I called her seat in front of her window her “perch”, that is so fitting because she seemed to me like an ornery old bird. Too bad her snooping got her into so much trouble.
Jennie Bentley is one of the master writers of the cozy mystery genre. She has created characters we care about and she has a plethora of ideas for having trouble find them. The stories are fun and full of suspects which keeps the reading guessing. This one fooled me right to the end.
The setting in part of this book took us to the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Portland, Maine. After reading about this wonderful building I had to find out if it was a real place. It is! Jennie’s words had formed a picture in my mind. All I can say is her words took me there and the pictures confirmed that this cathedral really is an awesome place. The best books help us to escape and travel without ever leaving home. This one did that for me!! I know Waterfield is a fictional place but the author has painted it so clearly in our minds that we can escape there in each installment without any need to physical pictures. From Barnham College to Waterfield Inn. You can travel around Waterfield with ease and be drawn right into the lives of its residents from the seat of your cozy chair.
Wall-to-Wall Dead is a wonderful cozy mystery and a perfect escape.
Thanks to the people at Penguin
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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of this book. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”