As any voracious reader knows, there are so many books out there, it can be hard to choose just what to read next. So what could be better than a hand-picked recommendation from someone in the know? Every Wednesday the XOXOAD team likes to find out what some of its favorite authors are reading; today we’ve asked veteran mystery writer Chrystle Fiedler, author of the upcoming Garden of Death: A Natural Remedies Mystery (available 3/24 in print and eBook) to tell us!
I love the U.K. and have had a passion for all things English for as long as I can remember. This of course, includes cozy mysteries by authors like Agatha Christie, Caroline Graham (Midsomer Murders) and M.C. Beaton (Agatha Raisin and Hamish McBeth mysteries) that feature quaint country villages , dappled country lanes, inviting stores on the high street, and of course, lovely rose covered cottages; inside, a fire in the hearth and a tea pot on the table.
My latest favorites are mysteries by James Runcie, the first of which, Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death has recently been made into the new Masterpiece Mystery series Grantchester. Sidney is not your average country vicar. He smokes and drinks, (sometimes to excess), has sex and falls in love. The setting though, is typical small town England, with charming houses and churches, and oddball characters. If you haven’t read these books which are very popular in the U.K. or seen the series, it’s time you checked it out.
In Grantchester like other English cozies, this picture perfect setting is in stark contrast to the murderous crimes committed there that shatter the peace and serenity. One minute the village is hosting a fete, and the next a body shows up in the dunk tank. The story is how each detective or amateur sleuth solves the crime. But we’re never really worried because we know the detective, whether it’s Hercule Poirot, Miss Marple, Tom Barnaby or Sidney Chambers will figure out the puzzle, catch the killer and put things back in their proper place.
When it came to creating my own cozy universe, I used English mysteries as my inspiration. My natural remedies mysteries are also set in an idyllic village. It’s called Greenport, it’s located on the East End of Long Island in NY and it’s my hometown. Greenport is a popular tourist destination with upscale eateries and boutiques, sandwiched between Mom and Pop hardware stores, diners and retro stores. Forbes magazine has even named Greenport one of the prettiest villages in the U.S.
As for my cozy protagonist, the person who rights the wrong, I chose a holistic doctor named Willow McQuade, who takes over a health food store – Nature’s Way Market & Café – after her Aunt Claire (who once lived in London) meets an untimely end. The store is located in a lovely three story yellow Victorian house (more English influence!) with a water view. Inside, it’s cozy too, with a homey feel, yummy cooking smells and the scent of essential oils, herbs and flower essences and post cards from around the world on view. To complete my cozy universe, I gave Willow, a hunky ex-cop love interest named Jackson Spade, 3 adorable rescue dogs and two rescued cats, loyal friends and workers and the spirit of her Aunt Claire to guide her.
In Garden of Death, my latest natural remedies mystery cozy, I’ve created a new medicinal plant garden right next to Nature’s Way. This garden was inspired by a garden I visited in 2008 in – you guessed it – London. It’s the Chelsea Physic Garden. It was established in 1673, as the Apothecaries’ Garden, to train apprentices in identifying plants. Today, the garden plays a major role in educating the public about natural medicine, and how plants can be used for a variety of therapeutic purposes. The variety of plants is astounding! You can learn more about it here: http://chelseaphysicgarden.co.uk/. Of course in my book, the Garden of Death, you’ll find more than medicinal plants, you may even find a body or two!
However, writing the natural remedies mysteries does give me a wonderful chance to share what I’ve learned about natural cures with readers. In the Garden of Death, for example, at the beginning of each chapter I focus on a particular plant like aloe or lavender, and how you can use it to feel better and be healthier.
I’ve crossed the pond twice to visit England and hope, one day, to go again, but in the meantime, books by English authors and TV mysteries set in England give me my U.K. fix. Whether I am writing my cozies, or reading or watching English ones, I know I’ll experience the same comfortable, homey, and safe feeling, knowing that no matter what happens, all will be well in the end.