Who doesn’t love a good mystery? As human beings we’re naturally curious and want to know what happened, when it happened, who did it, and why. In crime fiction, we refer to the three M’s: motive (why), means (how), and moment (opportunity, or when). Putting the pieces
together to reveal the whole picture and solve the crime can be very satisfying (especially if you guess whodunnit!). So is the sense of justice when the culprit is caught. Order is restored.
My main character in Room for Suspicion, the first of my Cluttered Crime Mysteries, loves creating order out of chaos. Crystal (Crys) Ward is a professional organizer, which means she helps people declutter their spaces, whether it’s a basement, garage, entire house, or office.
Clearing a drawer, closet, or room and then organizing it to meet her client’s current needs is more satisfying to Crys than a cheese Danish from Milow’s Bakery. As with a good mystery, order is restored when she’s finished, allowing her clients’ lives to move forward.
I’ve always been drawn to self-help books and love organizing hacks. When I was thinking of a career for Crys, I knew I had to choose a profession that would bring her into people’s homes and even allow her to uncover their secrets. Sometimes just seeing how people live tells a lot about them. In this novel, Crys’s client Farrah is a neat person with minimal clutter who just wants professional help reorganizing her home office for greater efficiency. She’s expecting a promotion and preparing to move forward in her career. That’s all great, but doesn’t the lack of
mementos, photos, and other personal items also say something about this character? Maybe she’s all business—a workaholic with no hobbies or social life. Then again, she might just be a minimalist who believes less is more. But what if she’s put her past behind her and doesn’t
want reminders of the not-so-good old days? Her office may also offer to clues to her personality (unsentimental, no nonsense) by what’s NOT there as well as what is. As a writer, I have to consider what message or mood my setting will communicate to the reader. It’s another piece of the puzzle.
Now you might assume that Crys would be super organized at home, with uncluttered rooms and drawers that look like Marie Kondo just paid a visit. Alas, that’s not the case. Did I mention that Crys has two children, ages twelve and fourteen? Or that she lives in an older bungalow in
Chicago that had to be modified five years ago to accommodate her husband’s wheelchair and special needs? Or that the parlor they converted into their new master bedroom doesn’t have a closet? Crys does the best she can. Her secret failure to practice what she preaches is an unexpected twist that makes her human and hopefully more relatable. She’s not perfect, but she is ambitious. As soon as she can afford more renovations, she’ll fix her home’s problems and restore order. Unfortunately, discovering a dead man at Farrah’s house may end her career, especially if her client is arrested for murder.
Writing a mystery is like putting a 5000-piece jigsaw together, or piecing a quilt, which I also enjoy doing. I have to make sure all of the clues, red herrings, and suspects appear when they need to but not too soon. I have to have multiple characters who could have committed the crime. The three M’s apply to suspects as well as the killer. Perhaps they were at or near the murder scene when it happened. Or maybe they had compelling reasons to harm the deceased. They could have had access to the cause of death—the smoking gun, a deadly poison, or the nylon stocking used to strangle the victim. Nothing can be too obvious, or a dead giveaway (no pun intended). Few people have nylon stockings these days, so it would be too obvious for the eighty-year-old former Rockette with a drawer full of nylons from the 1960s to have done it.
She had to have been framed! Yes, there are always twists in a good mystery, too. I won’t make it easy for you, but I promise the pieces (or clues) will finally fit together providing you with the full picture.
I hope you enjoy Room for Suspicion. The second book in the series, Deadlier Than Fiction, will be published by Tule on September 7. Meanwhile, I’d love to hear about your favorite organizing hacks. What tricks do you have for staying on top of clutter?
About the Author
Carol Light is an avid reader and writer of mysteries. She loves creating amateur sleuths and complicating their normal lives with a crime that they must use their talents and wits to solve. She’s traveled worldwide and lived in Australia for eight years, teaching high school English and learning to speak “Strine”. Florida is now her home. If she’s not at the beach or writing, you can find her tackling quilting in much the same way that she figures out her mysteries—piece by piece, clue by clue.