Friday, November 2, 2018

Writing a Saints Day Mystery

guest, Marilyn Leach

Someone asked me where on earth I got the idea to write an All Saints Day mystery.  My question in return was, “After visiting the North of England, how could you not write a Saints Day mystery?”  England’s North Country is steeped in abbey ruins, wild winds, and brooding history.  Venerable churches, stately homes, lively villages, and the North Sea all set the stage for activating creative thought.  It invites storytelling.

Entrance to the crypt for ancient Celtic pilgrim of faith, Cedd, in the village church at Lastingham, England

When I visited the little village church in Lastingham, England, I was awestruck when entering the crypt of Celtic churchman, St. Cedd.  The setting was truly medieval and the atmosphere hallowed.  An historical account has been established of how Cedd and his brother, after ordination in the seventh century, traveled from Holy Island in the North Sea to this very spot.  They established a religious community, and the church that sits atop the crypt is still very active and central to the village goings-on.  It isn’t just a building.  Centuries of people’s daily lives, hopes, fears, prayers, and faith live within the stones of this ancient monument.  And what stories could the stones tell?  I was inspired.  Although All Hallows Dead is a modern day whodunit, its roots are in England’s rich history.

Dunstanburgh Castle


Of course, the fact that my Berdie Elliott mystery series is set in England, and my main character is a vicar’s wife gifted with extraordinary sleuthing abilities, adds to the interest of writing a Saints Day theme.  With four other books about her exploits already on the shelf, here’s a bit about the story line for All Hallows Dead.

When Berdie Elliott, vicar’s wife and sleuth extraordinaire, attends a church course with her husband in the North of England, she bumps into her former newspaper boss who calls upon her to investigate beguiling circumstances that spell murder.  From the landed Cavendish family to the local pub’s manager, Criswell Abbey and its village are steeped in a centuries-old mystery.  The legend of a departed churchman, a mysterious bell tower, England’s tangled history, a delayed marriage proposal, and a wily parrot all help Berdie to declare the truth in All Hallows Dead.

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Just for a tickle, here’s an excerpt
Berdie Elliott and her best friend, Lillie Foxworth, often find themselves in hot water, and they’re not brewing tea.

What I found is absolutely priceless. There’s….” Berdie stopped when she became aware of clip-clop steps in the nave. “Shh.” She put her index finger to her lips.
“Why shush?” Lillie didn’t make her voice particularly quiet.
Berdie raised her brows and pointed toward the nave. “Someone’s about the place,” she whispered. “We can’t let on that we’re in here…”
The steps outside became louder. They were advancing toward the tower.
Lord have mercy.
There was a hesitation.
Berdie held her breath. She realized instantly that whoever was on the other side of the door, was perhaps one who knew all the secrets of this place which could mean she and Lillie were in very real danger.

 Reading All Hallows Dead isn’t complete until you can snuggle into a comfy chair with a steaming cup of tea.  It’s a cozy mystery that’s just right for short autumn days and long blustery nights.  Cheers

To find out more about Marilyn, see snaps of England, or view other books she’s written


To purchase an ebook


At the age of nine, Marilyn wrote her first play with a childhood neighbor, “The Ghost and Mr. Giltwallet”. It was a mystery. And she’s been writing in one form or another, hobby or livelihood, since. As well as teaching art, she’s had the opportunity to co-author several plays that have been performed on both church and secular stages, as well as two screenplays. Marilyn has had the good fortune of “discovering her roots” while visiting England where she developed lasting relationships with wonderful people there. It has greatly impacted her writing. A keen fan of Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple and David Cook’s Hetty Wainthropp series, Marilyn was inspired to write her Berdie Elliott Mystery series. It takes place in a small English village where the vicar’s wife, Berdie Elliott, is the divine sleuth. Marilyn lives lakeside in a cottage on the outskirts of Denver near the foothills.



31 comments:

  1. Good morning, Marilyn! Oooh, these books sound good! I still treasure memories of castles and manor houses, cathedrals and village churches, and moors and misty mornings when I visited England, Scotland and Wales years ago. Gonna check these out!! :)

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    1. Good Morning Glynna. It's such a treat to find a kindred spirit in sharing all the UK has to offer. I hope you snuggle in and enjoy the read. Cheers

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  2. Welcome, Marilyn! This sounds like such a fun, exciting story! Thanks for sharing with us today. The photos are beautiful. Makes me want to travel again! I was there with my high school band and again as a rising freshman in college for a study abroad program. But I haven't been back as an adult. I think I need to start saving!

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    1. Missy, what an opportunity you had as a young person. Once in England, it's in your blood. Brit Air has some great sales around now and in spring. I hope your desire is realized. Cheers

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  3. Lee-Ann B here: thanks for your post Marilyn. I've visited northern England and parts of Scotland and have thought the same thing - if these walls could talk what stories they would tell! If one isn't careful the imagination could run wild there! �� Thanks for sharing an excerpt from your book. I am intrigued now...

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    1. LeepAnn, if you enjoyed that North England atmosphere, I think you'd have fun with this Berdie mystery. How fortunate that you got to visit that part of the world. It's unforgettable. Cheers

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  4. Good morning, Marilyn. So glad you could join us today. The books you write encompass a delicious corner of my dream world. What I wouldn't give to spend a summer in northern England!

    All Hallows Dead is a great title, too. Makes me want to pick it up!!

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    1. Hi Audra. One way or another, you've got to pack the bags and head out for the UK. Even if it's not for an entire season, I know you'd be inspired. I actually had a different title for the book, and my editor at Pelican thought All Hallows Dead was better. See? Listen to your editor. Cheers

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  5. If only I could travel there myself instead of through pictures and online videos...but I totally agree that the ancient buildings hold more stories than there are books to tell them in. Congratulations on your newest release and another Berdie Elliott adventure.

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    1. Candee, thank you so much. I truly believe you would flourish even more after time in the UK. I look forward to reading your own story of ancient Scotland. I'm so glad you dropped in. Cheers

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  6. Isn't it wonderful the way travel can inspire us? Even though it's been years since I was in Britain, I always feel as if I'm back there when I read one of your books, Marilyn. Your stories also make me hungry, because Berdie and her co-sleuths eat such delicious food. Great job!

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    1. Thanks for stopping by Amanda. I so enjoy the many pub meals and delicious Sunday lunches I've shared with friends in England. Even the tea shops and cafes where we often take elevnsies have been somehow tastier there. Berdie does enjoy her full English breakfasts. Cheers

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  7. Marilyn, I can't wait to read your latest Berdie Elliott series. You do such a beautiful job bringing me back to the UK.

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  8. Thank you, Karen. I love being taken to other places by a good book. Of course, you have to have a comfy spot to read. I call the chair I most often use a "chairplane" because I travel the world with stories. Have a "transporting" read. Cheers

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  9. Hi Marilyn:

    Who wrote the blurb for your book that you have in your post? It is one of the best I've read with so much info packed into it. It really makes me want to read the book. Excellent.

    I've always thought that a series could be built around Hadrian's Wall. I understand there was much peaceful trade among the Romans and the people on the north side of the wall. Roman wine was much desired among all the barbarians.

    I'd love to know where your story location is set in relation to Hadrian's wall.

    Also, I'm curious if 'Berdie" is short for Bernadette.

    Lastly, do you have any plans to do a story on the Mexican "Day of the Dead"? I think this might be fun to do after writing a story on "All Saints Day"? Of course, it might be better to have it as "All Souls Day".

    Vince

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  10. Vince, I'm so pleased you dropped by Seekerville today. Actually, I write my own blurbs. Thank you for your kind words. I take it you're familiar with blurbs. To answer your questions, the east end of Hadrian's Wall is about 40 miles West of Newcastle, England. My story takes place about 50-60 miles North of Newcastle, near Alnwick close to the North Sea. So, they're a ways apart. I have no doubt that ancient tales around Hadrian's Wall could be great fodder for riveting stories. I've been to some Day of the Dead festivities and enjoyed it very much. Very colorful and historic. Your suggestions for story lines are food for thought. Thank you. Cheers, Marilyn

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  11. I love mysteries, especially those steeped in history! Your book sounds delightful, Marilyn!

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    1. If steeped in history is your cup of tea, I think you may really enjoy All Hallows Dead. It was a delight to create and I hope it's a treat for readers. Cheers

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    1. Kim, I'm so pleased you dropped by. And, I'm so pleased that I have a new reader to entertain. Have a jolly good read. Cheers

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  13. I love English settings, Marilyn. Congratulations on your new release!

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    1. Barbara, how kind of you to drop by. Thanks so much. I agree that English settings have their own special appeal. And thank you for celebrating with me. Cheers

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  14. Congratulations on your most recent release, Marilyn. Thank you for sharing here. I love small English villages and historical stories set there. Agatha Christie's Miss Marple is one of my most loved sleuths. I learned more about my own English roots while doing genealogy research, visiting England with my British hubby and connecting with family there. I feel I have the best of both worlds. God bless.

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    1. Pat Jeanne, you do have the best of both worlds. I've enjoyed the pix you post of your holidays in England. Berdie, my main character, is a vicar's wife in an English village, and village life plays a big role in the stories. Isn't it great fun to learn about family heritage? It's amazing to think of all those who've gone before us. Thanks so much for dropping by. Cheers

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  15. Marilyn, Congratulations on your release!

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    1. And thank you, Caryl, for stopping by and celebrating with me. Cheers

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    1. Thanks for dropping in, Connie, and I hope my book brings chuckles and suspense to all the readers. Thanks for your well wishes. Cheers

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  17. Sorry I'm late to comment, Marilyn but this is a great post. So interesting!

    Good luck and God's blessings with your new release
    PamT

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  18. Pam, thanks for dropping by! And thank you for the encouraging words and good wishes. I'm glad you found the blog interesting. Cheers

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  19. Birdie sounds delightful! (finding herself in hot water, even though she's not brewing tea). I'm happy for your new book!

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