I am so excited to have Ellen Byron here at Paranormal and Romantic Suspense Reviews with a Spotlight and Giveaway.
Thanks Ellen and Great Escape Tours for allowing me to join your Body on the Bayou Blog Tour!
Please take it away, Ellen!
Methods of death in mystery fiction
By Maggie Toussaint
Killing off victims in mystery fiction isn’t as easy as you think. Shoot ’em is my default M.O. For most people, death follows getting shot in the heart or the head. Those are nearly always fatal wounds.
Right… But wait. If authors kill off all their victims by shooting them, readers think poorly of said authors. They think we’re gun freaks or something.
That’s not good.
Just as it’s not good to have all victims of one gender and all killers of another gender. Readers like variety. Writing mystery fiction isn’t as simple as wash-rinse-repeat.
Further, in cozy mysteries like my Dreamwalker series, the violence needs to happen off-screen. In other words, I research a means of death, learn enough about it to sound like an expert, and then keep 95 percent of that knowledge out of the book. Bummer.
On the bright side, I have talked to some interesting “experts” and I have fascinating books on my bookshelf. When my book on poisons arrived, my husband’s face turned white as an oyster shell. He held up the book, with the cover facing me, and said, “Should I be worried?” [Sidebar note: Family members often take a dim view of this kind of research.]
After reassuring him that I had no intention of killing him, I dove into the book on poisons. I knew from my days as a toxicologist that just about anything, even water, can be a poison depending on the dose. (In a previous book, I poisoned someone by giving them something in their coffee which reacted fatally with her prescription medication.)
So, how do I want to kill thee (on paper)? Let me count the ways… I’ve already mentioned shooting. That’s easy to explain because many suspects have access to weapons. But I have poisoned someone in a book. I’ve had several victims die from knife wounds. Recently I branched out and coshed someone on the head with a shovel. I’ve had a couple of victims who were drowned, a hit-and-run with an auto, an arsonist who killed with fire, a couple of drug overdoses. So far I haven’t killed anyone with a spider, snake, shark, or alligator, though I’ve used those elements to ramp up tension. I also haven’t asphyxiated anyone, either manually or with car exhaust. But I haven’t ruled them out for future books, or any other methods I might have overlooked.
For Doggone It, book 3 in a paranormal series, I chose the eerie setting of a haunted house that was being used as a movie backdrop. I also have the experience of seeing what happens when a film crew descends on a town. It’s a little strange and at times very over the top. Therefore, having someone be shot and killed would be too ordinary for this mystery.
In my opinion, people (and book characters) are a mixture of good and bad. The people who conform to societal norms are generally considered “good” people, while the individuals who operate outside of what is considered good and “right” are considered “bad.” Doggone It uses an unusual means of death for the victims, one that fuels my sleuth to get justice for them. She needs all her resources in this world and the next to catch this killer.
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BIO. Southern author Maggie Toussaint writes mystery, suspense, and dystopian fiction. Her work won the Silver Falchion Award for best mystery, the Readers’ Choice Award, and the EPIC Award. She’s published fifteen novels as well as several short stories and novellas. The next book in her paranormal mystery series, Doggone It, releases October 2016. Maggie serves on the board for Southeast Mystery Writers of America and Low Country Sisters In Crime. Visit her at www.maggietoussaint.com.
Doggone It (A Dreamwalker Mystery)
Genre – Paranormal Cozy Mystery
Series: A Dreamwalker Mystery (Book 3)
Hardcover – 292 pages
Publisher: Five Star Publishing (October 19, 2016)
Dreamwalker Baxley Powell can’t remember the last time she had such a crappy weekend. A twilight encounter with a ghost dog left her numb and disoriented, her dreamwalker abilities are wiped out, and the sheriff just summoned her to a double homicide.
With no access to the spirit world, Baxley bluffs her way through the crime scene where a movie star’s assistant and a charter boat captain were strung up and bled dry. In a haunted house, no less. Figuring out who killed these people will be a real challenge without her ability to speak to the dead.
Just when Baxley thinks her powers are returning, her dreamwalks malfunction. With the sheriff pushing her to solve the case quickly, Baxley teams up with a dognapping medium to boost her powers.
Suspects include the captain’s good-for-nothing brother, the assistant’s replacement, and, of course, his stalker. All of Sinclair County is on edge, and the media circus isn’t helping. At stake are the movie’s funding, the sheriff’s job, and Baxley’s senses.
Can Baxley safeguard her abilities and solve the case before the killer strikes again?
Haunted houses, lost pirate treasure, conniving in-laws, supernatural baddies, and a determined ghost dog test amateur sleuth Baxley Powell’s mettle in Book Three of Toussaint’s Dreamwalker Series.
About The Author
Formerly a contract scientist for the U.S. Army and a freelance reporter, mystery and suspense author Maggie Toussaint has thirteen published books. Her recent mystery releases include Gone and Done It, Bubba Done It, Death, Island Style, and Dime If I Know. Her latest mystery, Doggone It, is Book Three in her dreamwalker series about a psychic sleuth.
Maggie won the Silver Falchion Award for Best Cozy/Traditional Mystery. Additionally, she won a National Readers’ Choice Award and an EPIC Award for Best Romantic Suspense. She was twice nominated for the Georgia Author of the Year Award and finaled in the Beacon and the Readers’ Crown Contest.
Maggie lives in coastal Georgia, where secrets, heritage, and ancient oaks cast long shadows. Visit her at www.maggietoussaint.com.
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I stared at my best friend, alarmed. “We’re going in the haunted house? Count me out. I didn’t sign on for breaking and entering. I can’t do that. I’ll lose my job as a police consultant.”
Charlotte shone her light on the weathered façade of June’s Folly. “No breaking required, Baxley. The front door is open.”
I added my beam to hers. Sure enough, the paneled door with the centrally located doorknob gaped on its hinges. “Dang. You’re right. Still, this place belongs to someone. We don’t have the right to stroll inside. We’ll be trespassing.”
“Just a peek inside. If the ghost is here, it should repel us at the door, or so goes the legend. Speaking of ghosts, is anyone talking to you? Maybe shaking some chains or speaking in French?”
“All I’m hearing is a desperate reporter.” Cautiously, I touched the banister to see if it was secure. It was. I used the railing for support as I carefully trod the rotten, squeaking steps. Drifts of thickened air stirred my hair and sighed through the pines. Charlotte halted. “You hear that?”
Her voice sounded too high. “The wind?”
“Chains clanking. And a sad, mournful song in another language.”
“Truly?” I heard nothing of the sort. Was Charlotte’s imagination getting away from her? Was there a ghost?
Charlotte sank to the porch decking, her gear clunking as she landed heavily on her rear. “I, uh, need a minute.”
“Okay.” I sat on the top step beside her. Other than feeling dread and a shiver against the elements, I seemed normal with no sign of sensory overload. I marveled that I was still functioning. A little maturity and a little extrasensory training and I had a whole new perspective on this place.
“Don’t you feel it?” My friend’s teeth chattered. “I’m freezing.”
I estimated it was nearly eighty degrees and humid enough for spiders to dance on the air. Puzzled, I touched Charlotte’s arm. Her skin felt cold to the touch. Ordinarily, Charlotte would be griping about the heat and the humidity. Something was crossing her wires.
“Look at you! Working those earlier ghost sites must have unleashed a latent talent.” I gazed at her with frank admiration. “You’re the ghost detector tonight, Char. I’m not picking up anything.”
“Are you looking?”
She had me there. “Nope. I don’t want to have to call my father to come get me again. That would be embarrassing.”
“I thought you were doing this to prove yourself as a full-fledged dreamwalker.”
“My main thought is that you have your answer to the ghost question. Chains and mournful singing support the drowned slave legend. Time to go home.”
“There’s more to this, I know it,” she insisted. “Help me prove it. You can handle whatever it is I’m feeling. I haven’t passed out or anything.”
Like that would reassure me. But there was a certain logic to her claim. I was being a wimp by keeping my senses and my body shielded.
Charlotte had called me out. Worse, she was right. Just because I never heard ghosts before was no reason not to listen for this one.
My talents and my shielding abilities were much more finely tuned now. I’d been talking to the dead for months. I didn’t have to let childhood fears dictate my actions. And, the sooner I gave Charlotte what she wanted, the sooner we could go home.
With that, I closed my eyes and opened my senses to the night. Immediately, I plunged into a freezing fog bank.
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