Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A Place to Die Book Tour

What’s it like to write a mystery?
This was the question put to me by MamaKnowsBooks. To which I reply: what kind of mystery? When I first thought of writing a murder mystery myself, I thought of the literate, one might say, genteel mysteries that I had read on and off all my life, by people like Dorothy L. Sayers , and then later, by P.D.James. Sayers’s Lord Peter Wimsey was a charming, upper-class Englishman; her novels were cleverly plotted and beautifully written. P.D. James’s Commander Dalgliesh was again an Englishman, a poet and a man of great sensitivity; her novels, long, complex. brilliantly situated and cleverly worked out. Mystery novels to aspire to. Really? Still? In our day and age?
P.D. James has famously said: “Detective fiction is not about murder. It is about the restoration of order.” This notion appealed to me and made it possible for me to launch into the writing of a murder mystery with a clear conscience. How else, I wondered then, can one make of murder an entertainment?
Since then, since writing my own mystery, A Place to Die, and since launching my own blog, , I have thought a lot more about it and read a lot more mysteries. I’m not so sure any more that detective fiction is about the restoration of order. Well, some of it may be, but what sense does this make as a general principle in a world like ours where “order” seems to be something you wistfully hope for, rather accepting it as the norm?
I have since read chiller-thrillers (a few), crime fiction with hard-boiled detectives who wouldn’t recognize a poem if it fell into their lap. I have read, with eyes half-closed, descriptions of horrors, of torture, of physical violence and sexual abuse. What is all this? I ask myself. People obviously like to read this kind of thing. Horror movies are popular. TV crime programs are much watched. Daily newspapers with real-life horror stories on the front page sell like hot cakes.
So what price the genteel country-house detective novel for entertainment these days? What price the cozy mystery for curling up on a winter evening with a box of chocolates? These still sell. I think. To whom? Is it more or less perverse to make murder a cozy thing than to show it in all its horror?
I don’t know the answer. I wrote my first murder mystery, A Place to Die, set in a genteel retirement home in the Vienna Woods, before I had considered such questions very deeply. I didn’t think of it as particularly cozy, actually. I am now coming to the end of my second mystery, set in a different sort of place, A Place to Live, and these questions are keeping me awake at nights.
So what is it like to write a mystery? Quick answer: It is a mind-churning experience.

A Place to Die Book Summary

Eleanor and Franz Fabian arrive from New York to spend Christmas with Franzs mother in her sedate retirement home in the Vienna Woods. Their expectations are low: at best, boredom, at worst, run-of-the-mill family friction. But when the wealthy, charming Herr Graf is found dead in his apartment with an ugly head wound, the Fabians are thrust into a homicide investigation.

Some residents and staff have surprising connections to the dead man, but who would have wanted to kill him? Inspector Bchner tracks down the murderer against a backdrop of Viennese history from the Nazi years to the present day. Witty, suspenseful, lyrical, this is a literary whodunit that will keep you guessing till the last page.

Dorothy James Bio:

Dorothy James was born in Wales and grew up in the South Wales Valleys. Writer, editor, and translator, she has published short stories as well as books and articles on German and Austrian literature. She has taught at universities in the U.S., England, and Germany, makes her home now in Brooklyn and often spends time in Vienna and Berlin.

She wrote A Place to Die in her attic apartment on the edge of the Vienna Woods. She has travelled far from Wales, but has not lost the Welsh love of playing with language; she writes poems for pleasure as does Chief Inspector Büchner, the whimsical Viennese detective who unravels the first mystery in this new series of novels. 
Dorothy James' web site:

Dorothy James' blog:

A Place to Die

Dorothy James
' Twitter:

A Place to Die blog tour site:


  1. Thank you so much, Shandy Jo, for presenting my book so well on your blog, and for giving me the chance to write a Guest Post for your readers. All good wishes!

  2. Shandy, thanks for featuring Dorothy today. We appreciate your support of her mystery novel and I can see how she was inspired by literate, genteel writers of the genre.


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