I have been a mystery-lover all my life. I grew up reading the ladies of the Golden Age: Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, Josephine Tey. I enjoyed those books for their clever puzzles, but they never touched me emotionally. I never wanted to cry over the body in the library.
Then when I was a young mother I started working my way through the local library and I came upon Tony Hillerman. Suddenly I was reading books that not only provided me with a good mystery, but took me to another place, another culture. Hillerman didn't just tell me about the Southwest. He took me there, so vividly that the first time we drove through Indian country, I could point out landmarks like a tour guide. He didn't just describe the Navajo. He made me feel that I was privy to insights about tribal life. And his heroes, Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee, were wonderful real, fleshed-out characters whom I did care about.
I had been a writer for most of my life, but I knew instantly that I wanted to write books like that. Not about the Southwest, obviously, as I'm a Brit, but books that take the reader to another time or place. So I set my first mystery series in a small village in Wales, a place where I had spent happy hours as a child. Then one day I went to Ellis Island and was so emotionally overcome with what I saw and felt there, that I realized I had to write about it. So Molly Murphy became an Irish immigrant who has to flee her native land and becomes mixed up in a murder on Ellis Island in Murphy's Law, the first book in that series.
This setting is easy for me. I married into an upper class English family, so I know about stately homes and sherry parties and cousins with silly nicknames. And I know London well. So I'm enjoying poking gentle fun at aristocrats against a serious setting.
What are some of your favorite cultural mysteries?