Mary MacDougall’s first case of 1902 seems simple enough.
Just before the 19-year-old heiress leaves for a summer holiday on Mackinac Island with her Aunt Christena, she’s hired to stop in a little town along the way and make inquiries. Did Agnes Olcott really die there of cholera? Or were there darker doings in Dillmont?
Mary’s mentor, Detective Sauer, thinks it’s merely a case of bad luck for the dead woman. But Mrs. Olcott’s daughter suspects her detested stepfather played a hand in her mother’s untimely death.
With the reluctant help of her aunt and her dear friend Edmond Roy, the young detective struggles to reveal the true fate of Agnes Olcott. As she digs ever deeper, the enemy Mary provokes could spell disaster for herself and the people she loves. But in the end, it’s the only way to banish a daughter’s doubt.
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Q: Aloha Richard, and welcome back to Island Confidential! Tell us about your protagonist, Mary MacDougall.
A: In this story, set in 1902, Mary MacDougall has just turned 19. She’s the whip-smart daughter of a mining millionaire and can have nearly anything she wants. But what she desires above all is to become a consulting detective. She’s already proven herself in two earlier cases and in this story takes on her first paying assignment. Is it an improbable dream for a young lady in her position? Absolutely. But rebels and mavericks existed then as now, and Mary is one of them.
Q: How much of you is in Mary? How would you feel about her if you met her in real life?
A: I have almost nothing in common with 19-year-old heiresses of 1902. And I suppose I would find Mary a bit intimidating if I were to meet her. When I first came up with the idea of Mary some years ago, I imagined her as a mashup of Lucy Honeychurch (E.M. Forster’s A Room with a View) and Sherlock Holmes. That early version of Mary was cold and calculating and not very likeable. So this time around, I softened her edges, gave her imperfections, and provided her with a love interest who will baffle, confuse, and delight her.
Q: Do your characters change and evolve throughout consecutive books in the series?
A: Mary definitely matures. After all, she starts sleuthing just a month after she graduates from high school. In fact, there’s a bit of Nancy Drew about her in the first two novellas. In this third story, a novel, she faces some harsh realities and pays the price for her mistakes. In other words, Mary is beginning to grow up.
Q: Have you ever thought of killing someone that you know in real life–on the pages of a murder mystery, I mean?
A: Not anyone I know. But I’ve created dislikable characters that are based on former acquaintances. That’s as close as I’ve come to committing literary revenge.
Q: How realistic is your setting? Do you take liberties, or are you true to life?
A: I’ve tried to make the Midwestern settings that Mary operates in as true as possible to what things were like in 1901 and 1902. My goal is to create characters and plots that engage readers and draw them into the stories, with just enough historical flavor to make it seem real. I don’t try to provide the exhaustive period details that one might find in a straight historical novel. Think watercolor brush strokes vs. photographic specificity.
Q: When the movie or TV series is made, who plays the major parts?
A: For Mary, I’d cast Emma Watson. For Mary’s Aunt Christena, Cate Blanchett. For Edmond Roy, Josh Hartnett. For Mary’s father, Russell Crowe. For Detective Sauer, Tim DeKay.
Q: What’s the worst and best advice you’ve heard or received as an author?
A: The worst advice was to spend a lot of time on promotion and getting reviews and such. The best advice is to write as many good books as you can. Building your series up to at least five or six titles is the most important thing.
Richard Audry is the pen name of D. R. Martin. As Richard Audry, he is the author of the King Harald Canine Cozy mystery series and the Mary MacDougall historical mystery series. Under his own name he has written the Johnny Graphic middle-grade ghost adventure series, the Marta Hjelm mystery, Smoking Ruin, and two books of literary commentary: Travis McGee & Me; and Four Science Fiction Masters.
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