Working at This Place is Murder! (Or the Problem with Writing a Mystery Series) By Karen McCullough, Guest Blogger
I have a book releasing right about now from Five Star/Gale Group/Cengage that I hope will be the first of a series of mystery novels. The book is A Gift for Murder and the series is Market Center Mysteries. These are stories set a fictional market center building and exhibition hall in Washington, D.C. and feature as the main detective, the assistant to the director of the center.
I’m currently writing the second book and mentally working on the third, but starting the second one smacked me with the obvious problem in creating a mystery series set in the same place. How do you make it realistic? I mean any place that has more than one murder in the space of a year has got to be one heck of a dangerous place to work, right? And it’s certainly going to draw some extra attention from local law enforcement types, even though each murder eventually does get solved and the killers and motives are varied.
If you’re going to write mysteries, and especially mysteries that have the word “Murder” in the title, you’ve got to have a murder in the story, so there’s no way around that. The setting at a market center means there are different events going on all the time, so it’s easy to vary the circumstances and motives for the crimes, and the cast of characters is constantly changing.
In fact, that’s part of what makes this setting so appealing to me. Lots of different people come and go and lots of different things happen. A trade show in the gift industry is a somewhat different animal from a trade show in the agricultural products industry. And I’ve been told that a show in the hair products industry can be an amazing event. I plan to try to check that out for myself!
What they have in common—and what makes them a great setting for a mystery—is that the stakes are high, the time is compressed, and people are out of their normal environment. Emotion can run high and money flows, and that can lead to all sorts of bad outcomes.
But still… How many murders can you realistically have happen in one place? At what point do the cops and the FBI and who knows who else begin to give everyone in the place the fish-eye and ask “What’s going on here?” When do my characters say, “This place is much too dangerous to keep working here?”
I guess I’m going to find out. And maybe, I can find a way to work that very issue into the stories as a thread or plot element. An interesting challenge.
More about A Gift for Murder, available now for pre-order.
The heroine of A Gift for Murder, Heather McNeil, is assistant to the director of the fictional Washington, D.C. Commerce & Market Center. In that role she gets to mediate disputes between feuding exhibitors, field complaints about dirty carpet, deal with malfunctioning popcorn machines, and generally provide a sympathetic ear to unhappy clients. Finding the body of a murdered executive during the biggest show of the year isn’t part of the job description. Nor is trying to find the murderer, but from various things she’s heard, Heather is pretty sure the authorities are off-base in their suspicion that the executive’s wife killed him. If she doesn’t identify the real murderer herself, the odds are that person will get away with it and possibly kill again.
A Gift for Murder is projected as the first in a series of “Market Center Mysteries,” with additional books and stories to come.The Market Center Mysteries website for the series is now open at for more information about the books, settings, and characters.
Karen, thanks so much for being my guest here today. It's always a special treat to feature a Five Star/Gale author.
You can learn more about Karen by checking out her bio at her website.