Author visit and GIVEAWAY!
Katherine Bolger Hyde is my guest today and she talks about discord, harmony, and resolution in music—and in Bloodstains with Brontë, the latest in her Crime with the Classics series. I loved her first book, Arsenic with Austen, so much that I lost no time in scheduling her to appear here. Enjoy!
To win a copy of Bloodstains with Brontë leave a comment below. US only. Giveaway ends at 10pm EST, Dec. 5.
I’m writing this blog post in my study, which is on the second floor of my home. In the room below me, my composer husband is playing piano. The music sounds disjointed, which means he’s probably playing his own composition-in-progress rather than a pre-existing piece. In the bedroom down the hall, my young-adult son is listening to a recording of electronic music that we have affectionately dubbed “the baritone chipmunk,” while playing his own accompaniment here and there on electric guitar. The effect is, shall we say, discombobulating.
The protagonist of the Crime with the Classics series, Emily Cavanaugh, is on a first-name basis with the discombobulating. In the first book of the series, Arsenic with Austen, she was ripped from her familiar environment as a middle-aged, widowed professor of literature at a small liberal arts college and plunked down in a Victorian mansion in a tiny seaside town, where she suddenly had to deal with an access of wealth, inheriting the role of first citizen of the town, re-encountering her lost first love—and murder.
By the end of that book, Emily had risen to the occasion and succeeded in bringing all these discordant elements into a new kind of harmony in her life. But now in Bloodstains with Brontë, the new foundation she’s built for herself is threatened again. Where the Jane-ian theme of Arsenic with Austen lent itself to a lighter tone with romance in the ascendant, the brooding passions of the Brontë sisters’ novels make for a far more turbulent plot this time around. Emily’s composure, her conflicting loves, and even her view of herself are shaken into a jarring dissonance that threatens not to be resolved.
Resolution, however, is—I suspect—what lovers of traditional mysteries read for above all. The good guys win; the bad guys are punished. There’s some gray swirling around amidst the black and white, but not enough to obscure the distinction between them. In this sense, art does not imitate life, for life rarely provides us with such neat solutions. For every mystery that is resolved in the real world, three more crop up that defy solution. For every bad guy that gets punished, another escapes justice, and a good guy suffers in his place.
But if we wanted that sort of thing in our fiction, we’d read noir. The dissonant blue notes of jazz mesh perfectly with noir, while traditional mystery is more suited to a Bach fugue: the separate melodies diverge, weave around and through each other, sometimes clash briefly, but ultimately come together in perfect harmony. The order of the universe, briefly disturbed by crime, is restored. Life returns to normal—until the next book, and the next murder, come along. Bloodstains with Brontë is no exception.
Downstairs, my husband finishes his playing and moves on to some quieter activity. In the next room, my son puts his music away and goes off to spend the evening with friends. In the ensuing stillness, I bring together the last measures of my wandering thoughts into a final resounding chord, and go down to the kitchen to make dinner. Life returns to normal—until the next practice session comes along.
Katherine Bolger Hyde spent her career as an editor before venturing into writing. Bloodstains with Brontë is her second traditional mystery in the Crime with the Classics series. The setting of Crime with the Classics was inspired by her annual writing pilgrimage to Rockaway Beach on the Oregon coast. Katherine makes her home in the redwoods of Santa Cruz County with her husband, the youngest of her four children, and two obstreperous cats.