Why setting is so important in a mystery series

Blood in Tavasci MarshWhen I began planning the Pegasus Quincy mystery series, my prime impetus was to share the beautiful Verde Valley with the world. The area is a paradox, a small valley with one major river and five named creeks in the middle of a state, Arizona, renown for its deserts.

The first novel, Death in Copper Town, introduced the fictional small town of Mingus, located in the mountains that were made famous during their copper mining heydays. The second, Blood in Tavasci Marsh, continues exploration of this setting by moving down the hill to the Native American Indian Ruins at Tuzigoot and the marsh below it.

Setting can involve time, as well. What better time of year to visit a ghost town than at Halloween? In this second novel, Mingus prepares for the holiday in typical small town fashion: Pegasus visits the old mining cemetery, Isabel prepares for the Day of the Dead ceremonies, and the entire town, shops and all, decorate for the holiday with skeletons and pumpkins.

Setting involves not only plants, but animal life. Blood in Tavasci Marsh concerns a young man in love with the beauty of indigenous butterflies, his brother who is breeding redbone coonhounds, and Shepherd’s cat, who becomes more than a match for Pegasus.

Weather is another ingredient of setting. The second novel in the series takes place in the volatile autumn season in Mingus, where one day is sweltering hot, and the next brings an ice storm that paralyzes the Valley. Both will influence how the story develops and resolves.

Characters in a novel, no matter what the genre, must be developed three-dimensionally in order for the story to work. But setting is no less an integral part of story development.

Join me as Pegasus Quincy continues to grow as a person and as a law officer in the novel Blood in Tavasci Marsh! 

 

How I developed the character of Pegasus Quincy for DEATH in COPPER TOWN

Death in Copper Town, a Pegasus Quincy MysteryUsually I begin a new novel with setting. In the case of Death in Copper Town I was fascinated with the history of copper mining in Arizona. It started in the late 1800s, but continued until the 1950s, and even now companies are exploring ways to recover yet more minerals from the earth.

Next, I since I was writing a series, I needed to develop characters to people this setting. I wanted to write a police procedural, but one from a feminine viewpoint, and particularly that of a beginner. Enter Pegasus Quincy. I determined she needed to be a beginner,  experiencing all that a cop learns for the first time, unjaded by patrol work in a grungy inner city setting. She had to have a sense of humor and a deep sense of caring for others in her world.

She wouldn’t know a lot about police procedure, since she was young and just out of the police academy; therefore she would view death like most of us do, something that happens out there, to somebody else.

Peg had recently moved from Tennessee to Arizona, trading lush green hills for the sometimes harsh high desert plateau. While she would know copperhead snakes, encountering timber rattlers would be unnerving. Javelinas would be a new experience for her as would dramatic summer monsoon thunderstorms in the southwest.

Oh, and since characters never operate in a vacuum,  let’s give her a grandfather she can’t get along with, and a mother with early dementia, and a boss that rues the day he ever hired her.

Add bright red hair, a stubborn personality, and a six-foot height. Yes, that’ll get her started.

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