Vinnie Hansen, the very first guest I’ve had on this blog, is a retired high school English teacher who lives in Santa Cruz, California. From the story she tells me, it sounds like she and her husband, artist Daniel S. Friedman love to travel—and read.
In my family we have the expression “under-the-tree good.” It refers to a
hot South Dakota afternoon when my brother Frank mixed up some orange Kool-Aid for us, his three younger siblings. He put ice cubes in it. We sat in a shady spot in the tree line behind the house and drank the beverage from brightly colored aluminum cups. The four of us agreed this was the best Kool-Aid ever. Thus originated the standard of under-the-tree good.
How much difference really could there be in one batch of Kool-Aid vs. another? In truth, a confluence of elements—heat, shade, kindness, ice-cubes—conspired to create the sensation of under-the-tree good.
Externals can also shape our experience with a book. I recently read Cara Black’s Murder in the Latin Quarter while staying in the Latin Quarter. The book became a blue print for a scavenger hunt. My husband and I tracked down 61 rue Buffon, the scene of the crime. Across the street was the lovely Jardin des Plantes. Without the mystery, I may not have visited, although this garden is every bit as beautiful and worthy as Jardin du Luxembourg. But I had to go to the garden! Protagonist Aimée Leduc escaped through the grounds on her Vespa.
My husband and I walked up into the area where Hemingway lived and Verlaine wrote his poetry. At the Pantheon where Victor Hugo is interred, I looked about and thought, “This is where the second murder in the book takes place.”
Important scenes in the mystery involve inhabitants of the catacombs that run under Paris. My husband and I didn’t descend into these tunnels. However, on Pont de la Concorde, two men, clearly not city workers, popped up out of a manhole and crossed the bridge. I felt as though the book were coming alive in front of me! Even though Murder in the Latin Quarter is set in 1997, it is clear that people still haunt this underground world of Paris.
Even now as I finish the book at home, I follow Aimée along the streets of Paris. When she turns onto Rue Cujas, I think, “We were there!”
All this makes reading the book an under-the-tree good experience.
My own Carol Sabala mystery series is set in what author Laura Crum called a “faithfully rendered” Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz is a tourist-destination beach town full of wonderful sights. Like Cara Black’s books, mine are set back in time, but many Santa Cruz landmarks have not changed. I love the idea of a Santa Cruz tourist picking up one of my mysteries, newly re-released from misterio press.
While reading Murder, Honey, maybe he or she will be inspired to eat a burger—meat or veggie—at Carpo’s. If the person is in town for our annual Open Studios in October, what fun to combine the trip with Art, Wine & Bullets set during the art event!
I would love to provide an under-the-tree-good experience.
Vinnie is in the process of updating her Carol Sabala mystery series for re-release by misterio press, while also working on the next installment in the series.
A Carol Sabala Murder Mystery
The strangled body of a gallery owner offers Carol an opportunity to cement her reputation as a private eye. Instead, the investigation turns into a nightmare during which Carol unravels much more than a murder case.