If you took a look at the brand-new Indie Crime Fiction of the Month round-up I posted two days ago, you might have noticed that one of the new releases listed was a new Helen Shepherd Mystery. So here is the official new release announcement for Kitchen Witch, the tenth Helen Shepherd Mystery to date (and there are at least two more coming up).
The inspiration for this particular Helen Shepherd Mystery was culinary. For you see, I’m very fond of wild garlic a.k.a. ramsons a.k.a. wood garlic a.k.a. bear garlic, a tasty and healthy leafy herb. Wild garlic is only available for a few weeks in April and early May, so I have it as often as possible when it’s in season. My favourite way of preparing it is lightly sauteeing the leaves in olive oil, tossing them with garlic, tomatoes, olives and red pepper flakes and serving it with pasta. Here’s a pic I took last time I had wild garlic spaghetti.
I buy my wild garlic at the supermarket, but quite a few people forage their own. And so, during wild garlic season, I came across an article that warned of the dangers of mistaking the leaves of autumn crocus or lily of the valley, both of which are highly poisonous, for edible wild garlic. This got my mystery writer’s mind working and wondering what if someone deliberately switched harmless wild garlic leaves for poisonous autumn crocus?
Now there are few things that get a mystery writer’s mind going faster than a good murder method. And so I came up with the story of Eudora Pembroke, herbalist, eccentric and self-styled witch, who ends up dead in her favourite armchair, after eating a wild garlic salad that contains a lethal dose of autumn crocus leaves.
As always, Detective Inspector Helen Shepherd and her team question several witnesses and potential suspects. One of these witnesses/suspects is Tara Willows, owner of a New Age shop. I enjoyed writing Tara a whole lot, so much that I decided to keep her around and give her her own spin-off.
I’m not a “write to market” person at all, but I am interested in genres and subgenres and how they are defined. Now I’ve explained before that the definition of crime and mystery fiction is quite different in Germany and the US and that the definition of “mystery” in the US is much narrower than the definition of “Krimi” a.k.a. “crime fiction” in Germany. As a result, most of the crime shorts collected in Murder in the Family and elsewhere (Murder in the Family, Volume 2 is coming soon BTW) are Krimis, but they’re not mysteries in the US sense. But unfortunately, the crime fiction category at Amazon is something of a wasteland – mystery is where the readers and the sales are. So I tried to write a crime story that would fit into the narrower US definition of mystery and so the Helen Shepherd Mysteries were born.
Now one of the most popular mystery subgenres are cozy mysteries featuring an amateur sleuth, usually a woman, solving mysteries, often using specialist knowledge about cooking, baking, crafts, etc… Cozy mysteries are not easy to come by here in Germany – the crime fiction sections in bookstores are dominated by thrillers and suspense – though I enjoyed the atmosphere and quirky characters of those that I’ve read. I also considered writing one, provided the right protagonist came along. When Helen and DC Walker walked into Tara’s shop to question her, I realised at once that Tara was the amateur sleuth protagonist I’d been waiting for. So look out for the first Tara Willows Mystery soon.
But for now, here is Kitchen Witch, the latest Helen Shepherd Mystery:
When Eudora Pembroke, a self-styled witch, is found dead in her house after ingesting a poisonous plant, everybody suspects a tragic accident. After all, Eudora was elderly and might have mistaken the poisonous plant for a benign herb.
But Detective Inspector Helen Shepherd is sceptical. Would a skilled herbalist like Eudora Pembroke really make such a beginner’s mistake? And who might have had a motive to poison her?
Length: 12500 words
List price: 2.99 USD, EUR or GBP
Buy it at Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Germany, Amazon France, Amazon Netherlands, Amazon Spain, Amazon Italy, Amazon Canada, Amazon Australia, Amazon Brazil, Amazon Japan, Amazon India, Amazon Mexico, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Apple iTunes, Scribd, Smashwords, Inktera, Playster, Thalia, Weltbild, Hugendubel, Buecher.de, DriveThruFiction, Casa del Libro, e-Sentral, 24symbols and XinXii.