When I was researching for the first book in the Beach Reads series, Little Bookshop of Murder, I had already decided that Summer Merriweather would have arachnophobia. So I looked into it. And while some critics of my book think I spent too much time on it, or that Summer thinks about it too much, those critics just don’t seem to know how serious of a disorder it can be. It’s not just a simple fear of spiders. It’s a medical condition where people actually have intense panic attacks. So, many sufferers do live their lives around their condition, trying to avoid spiders.
Like Summer, they try to stay out of places that might have spiders, like attics, basements, and closets. They also don’t participate in things like camping or other outdoor activities. Also like Summer, many of them wear protective clothing, particularly around their face in order to sleep. The fear of spiders crawling into their mouth, nose, or ears keeps them awake.
Because the Beach Reads series is a cozy mystery series, I tried not to delve too deeply into the dark nature of the disorder. I tried to keep in light, In one case, Summer answers the door with her night mask on, and gives the person on the other side quite a start. But there is a moment in the first book during which she has to set her fear aside to save her aunt. And there are moments in Once Upon a Seaside Murder that are terrifying for her.
It’s a fine line we cozy mystery writers walk trying to keep the prose light and airy while delving into a murder story. It is one of the challenges that make writing it so much fun.
A Beach Reads Mystery: Book 2
Publication Date: October 12, 2021
There’s no place like home for the holidays, even if home is sleepy, beachside Brigid’s Island, NC. During this season for giving, the town wakes up to a welcome throng of shoppers–and Beach Reads is no exception. But bookseller Summer Merriwether’s Christmas cheer turns to cringing fear when she uncovers a deadly secret about her late mother–a secret someone will kill to keep.
When the local library hosts a cozy mystery panel discussion, Summer learns that one of the authors on the panel based her book on an actual murder that shook Brigid’s Island thirty-five years before. Worse, she soon learns that her dearly missed mother, Hildy, took a disturbingly deep interest in the case, going so far as to collect clippings and keep a journal of the dark doings. This doesn’t jibe with Summer’s memories of her usually cheery mother at all.
Tidings get worse when Summer learns of her long-lost biological family’s involvement in the crime…and still worse when the life of the book’s author is threatened. With the help of Hildy’s plucky book club, Summer puts her scholarly smarts to work on protecting the cozy author and solving the decades-old murder.
But this ghost from Christmas past may still be deadly in the present, and if she can’t find the killer, Summer’s future will be brief.
Maggie Blackburn is the pen name of Mollie Cox Bryan. She writes cozy mysteries with edge. She’s the author of several bestselling mystery series. She’s recently released a novella mystery series: The Victoria Town Mysteries. Her book, “Goodnight Moo,” has been shortlisted for a Fresh Fiction Reader’s Choice Award. Her books have been selected as finalists for an Agatha Award and a Daphne du Maurier Award and as a Top 10 Beach Reads by Woman’s World. She makes her home at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the Shenandoah Valley, Va.
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