I’ve been reading murder mysteries since my teens, planning on writing my own novels. But, raising four rambunctious children and welcoming ten equally wild grandchildren seemed to force continuing postponements, until my husband and I retired in 1994, moving east to Lyme, Connecticut.
I volunteered at our local art establishment, the Lyme Art Association, located in Old Lyme, just a few miles south of our new home, and became fascinated with the artists and their techniques. There are an amazing number of artists of all genres living in the area, some poor and others definitely nowhere close to starving, And I finally had time to construct my first mystery, located in the fictional town of Elmore Harbor, Maine, clearly modeled after the town where we spent some of every summer, Tenants Harbor. It was published in 2005.
My second featured a series character from the first who traveled from Maine to Wyoming, Stockholm, and Bermuda, places I had visited and enjoyed. When I started my third book, I naturally considered Old Lyme as a possible murder scene. So why not set one in the Lyme Art Association?
Old Lyme is a relatively tiny village, of some 7,600 residents, enlarged each summer by vacationers. Created in 1665 when its settlers split off from Saybrook, across the Connecticut River, it features shorelines along that river and Long Island Sound and many examples of fine architecture. Its flourishing art colony includes not only the Art Association, but also the adjacent Florence Griswold Museum and the Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts (now apart of the University of New Haven.) The towns of Old Lyme and Lyme (five miles up the river) are also known as the place Lyme disease was first detected in 1975.
Here I arranged for a local artist to be nastily stabbed in the eye with a paintbrush and had my protagonist just miss her own demise at an old house above the Sound where I spent many mornings with a writing group.
Many moldering old mansions cling to the shore of Long Island Sound . The one where I set a murder is also reputedly haunted. It is a huge shingled warren of rooms full of Dickensian atmosphere, and home to an eclectic jumble of valuable antiques. A circular dumbwaiter rises from the old basement kitchen to the second level pantry off the dining room. The house is structurally bizarre but solid. It survived the Hurricane of Thirty-Eight, and, despite heavy damage from other storms along the northeastern coast, still reigns intact on a hill above the shore. One’s first sight on arriving, after winding up the long drive, is eerie. The shingles have darkened with age and there’s a conical eighteen thousand gallon water tank rising over one corner of the roof like a giant witch’s hat.
And it was in that water tank where I tried to dispatch my heroine!
A Diamond to Die For Do painters often resort to murder? Click here to learn more.