Homicide in the House
Hello and welcome to my place today. Hold on tight to your coffee ‘cos there’s Homicide in the House today! Ya’ll can blame author Colleen J Shogan and her cozy mystery novel for that, lol. For more murder and mayhem, please click on the banner above, which will take you to Colleen’s other tour stops at Goddess Fish. If you indulge in a wee bit of internet stalking, you’ll have more chances to enter her Rafflecopter giveaway, which will be awarding a $50 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. 🙂
During a government shutdown, Kit’s congresswoman boss is found standing over the dead body of a top staffer she tangled with in front of the press. The police are about to name her as the prime suspect. The weapon was the Speaker’s gavel, an item entrusted to the congresswoman the previous night. The killer knows Kit is on the case. Can she solve the mystery in time to save her job and her life?
Absent the big commuter crowds to slow the boarding of trains, I arrived at Capitol South twenty-five minutes later. Maeve hadn’t replied. Perhaps the “trouble” had already blown over. Just in case she still needed help, I headed directly to the Cannon rotunda without stopping at the office. Reporters usually camped out inside the rotunda to shoot live cable television hits from Capitol Hill. It wasn’t as grandiose as the Capitol rotunda, but its Corinthian architecture with imposing columns did provide a stately backdrop for the camera.
I exited the elevator and walked past the famous Cannon Caucus Room, which hosted the House Un-American Committee hearings decades ago. Hearing Maeve’s voice in the distance, I followed the narrow hallway circling the rotunda. After rounding the bend, I found my boss. She wasn’t alone. Next to her was Detective O’Halloran of the Capitol Hill Police. Jack Drysdale was between them, but the Speaker’s top aide wasn’t looking so handsome this morning. Blood flowed from his head onto the pristine marble floor. If he’d generated Clarence’s Capitol Canine votes, there wouldn’t be any more favors coming my way. Jack Drysdale was dead.
Some thoughts on Character Building from Colleen:
Writing an ongoing series with no pre-determined end can be a writer’s dream. After all, a successful series is a goldmine for publishers. Readers get hooked, and as the popularity of the books grow, there’s a reduced need for publicity splashes when new installments are issued. The advantage of “growing a series” is that the author doesn’t need to reinvent his or her audience each time a new book hits the stands.
One of the challenges of writing a series is character development. This can be particularly thorny within the traditional amateur sleuth genre, sometimes known as “cozy” mysteries. There is a certain degree of predictability in the characters within a cozy. Perhaps the main character consistently struggles with her diet or she can’t stand a meddlesome neighbor. Readers take delight in the consistency of these details. That’s part of why serial reading is so popular, particularly within the mystery and romance genres. Readers get to know popular characters and hopefully want to read more stories featuring their escapades.
The challenge is the flipside of the same coin. Personally, I stop reading a series when the main characters become stale. Yes, consistency is important. But that doesn’t mean the characters shouldn’t develop in important ways. New conflicts have to emerge and lingering struggles should be resolved. Otherwise, a series can start to resemble Bill Murray in “Groundhog Day.” The details around the edges may vary from book to book, but the predictability becomes boring rather than comforting.
It’s a fine line for a series author. Although my books are classified as “cozies,” they take place in an urban setting, namely Washington, D.C. Our nation’s capital is not a predictable place. As an author, I’ve consciously decided to provide a little more change in my characters than the typical series. Significant life events happen to them, and their choices alter how they interact with each other. In short, life happens – even within the world of a cozy mystery.
As its core premise, an amateur sleuth mystery series require a leap of faith. Hopefully no one encounters multiple murders on a regular basis! Even so, the supporting details, including character development, should make an honest attempt to mimic real life.
About the Author:
Colleen J. Shogan has been reading mysteries since the age of six. She writes the Washington Whodunit series published by Camel Press. A political scientist by training, Colleen has taught American politics at Yale, George Mason University, Georgetown, and Penn. She previously worked on Capitol Hill as a legislative staffer in the United States Senate and as the Deputy Director of the Congressional Research Service. She is currently a senior executive at the Library of Congress. Colleen lives in Arlington, Virginia with her husband Rob and their beagle mutt Conan.