When a Hobby Leads to Mysteries

 By Elaine L. Orr

Most of my mystery series come about because I’m interested in a place. The Jolie Gentil series grew from a love of Mid Atlantic beach towns, especially smaller ones, in the off-season.

The River’s Edge series, set along the Des Moines Rivers in Southeast Iowa, grew from my admiration of how residents of Van Buren County, Iowa helped each other after the river flooded in 2008. I still haven’t put a flood in one of the books, but I think I’ve captured the feel of a small, rural town.

The Logland Series was not meant to be one. Huh? I wrote Tip a Hat to Murder as kind of a lark. I’d recently moved to central Illinois and thought, “How come I’ve never written a book about a place I live?” (I used to live in Iowa, but wrote that series after I left.) The Logland series features a small-town police chief and a lot silly humor at times. So, different for me. Then I didn’t want to let go of the characters!

Where did the name Logland come from? Illinois is famous for Abraham Lincoln, right? The first thing little kids learn about him is that he lived in a log cabin. In fact, we all played with Lincoln Logs. I know, it’s a groaner.

What about the Family History Mysteries?

My sister describes a day we were all at my aunt and uncle’s place on the Rhode River in Maryland. She was standing next to my cousin looking at the water and joked about how I’d become fond of tromping in cemeteries looking for long-dead ancestors. She deemed that weird.

My cousin and her adult daughter looked at each other and back to my sister. They also tromped. My sister said she realized she was the odd one out. (In fact, my cousin Barb and her kids have visited cemeteries and courthouses in six or eight states.)

The photo at right shows the result of that (joyful) work. Most people have names on their family trees. My cousin’s wall has photos of ancestors going back several generations. That is a labor of love.

William Orr & two siblings, Missouri

One day late in 2019, it occurred to me I’d never written a book about the state where I lived my first 43 years (Maryland) or created a sleuth who liked to delve into family roots. Thus grew Digger and her Uncle Benjamin, and the Pandemic let me do four books rather quickly.

To get a good sense about my thoughts and how they led to the series, take a look at my post on Lois Winston’s blog, Killer Crafts and Crafty Killers. The photo at the beginning was taken in the early 1930s, about 100 years after William Orr left Aghadowey in County Londonderry. The couple in front are his cousins, who stayed in Ireland.


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