I’m happy to welcome back bestselling author Judy Penz Sheluk. Today, Judy shares ten facts that inspired the Marketville Mystery Series and her new release, Before There Were Skeletons.
After a three-year hiatus, Calamity (Callie) Barnstable is back in Before There Were Skeleton, book #4 of my Marketville Mystery series. I like to consider these “Cold Case Cozies,” but while there may be no sex, violence or bad language, the plots tend to be more complex than a traditional cozy. I thought it might be fun to tell Joanne’s readers 10 things that inspired the stories. Here goes:
1. Marketville is a fictionalized and smaller-town version of Newmarket, Ontario, Canada, located about an hour north of Toronto. Considered a commuter community, Marketville is (according to protagonist Calamity (Callie) Barnstable), the sort of town where families with two kids, a collie, and a cat move to, looking for a bigger house, a better school, and soccer fields.
2. Marketville’s Cedar County, which includes the fictional towns of Lount’s Landing, Miakoda Falls, and Lakeside, is loosely (and I do mean loosely) based on towns in three municipalities/towns in York Region (Newmarket/Marketville, East Gwillimbury/Holland Landing/Lount’s Landing, and Georgina/Keswick/Lakeside). Miakoda Falls is the exception, inspired by my childhood memories of our family cottage on the Gull River between Moore Falls and Elliot Falls, with a hint of Fenelon Falls tossed in for good measure.
3. The idea for a series set in Marketville came to me while my husband and I were waiting for our lawyer to return from Newmarket court. We were there to update our wills and I wondered, “What if I was there to inherit instead? And what if there were strings attached?” By the time our lawyer arrived, I’d scribbled down what would become the first two chapters of Skeletons in the Attic.
4. Calamity Doris Barnstable is named after Calamity Jane, famous for her nineteenth-century Wild West shows, and Doris Day, who played a very fictionalized Calamity Jane in a 1950s movie. I wanted a name that was both unusual and could be shortened; Calamity/Callie just worked. I wrote a bit about Calamity Jane in the Facts in Fiction section of my website
5. While the series starts with Callie as an amateur sleuth, by book two, Past & Present, Callie puts her new sleuthing skills to work, opening Past & Present Investigations. Her first case, looking into the murder of Anneliese Prei in 1956, was inspired by 1952 travel documents I found in my mother’s closet, shortly after her death. My mother’s first name was Anneliese, and Prei was her mother’s maiden name.
6. A Fool’s Journey, book 3, was inspired by a newspaper article I’d read about a young man who left home 15 years earlier to “find himself.” The article was accompanied by a photograph credited to Ontario Missing Adults. The character of Brandon Colbeck, the missing young man who Callie is hired to find, is a compilation of several missing persons’ profiles on the site.
7. In Skeletons in the Attic, first published in 2016, Callie is 36 years old. I’ve always admired the way John Sandford ages Lucas Davenport in his acclaimed Prey series and decided to do the same thing. In Before There Were Skeletons, Callie is now on the cusp of 42, still single, but finally accepting that her self-proclaimed “loser radar,” is actually a fear of commitment.
8. I’ve also admired the way authors like Michael Connelly and Tana French take major characters from one book/series and employ them as walk-on or minor characters in another book/series. The inclusion of The Glass Dolphin Mysteries protagonist Arabella Carpenter, her ex-husband, Levon Larroquette, and references to other Glass Dolphin characters in the Marketville series is inspired by their work, and it’s been great fun to include these characters in a meaningful way.
9. We sold our house recently and in packing up I found some of my husband’s old university yearbooks. That gave me the idea for a subplot in Before There Were Skeletons, where Callie delves into her mother’s (Abigail Osgoode Barnstable) teenaged past after her grandmother gives her the five high school yearbooks belonging to Abigail. Callie knows there’s no such thing as closure, but she finds herself looking for it anyway.
10. While the police often make public appeals for information about cold cases, sites like Ontario Missing Adults, Canada’s Missing, and the Doe Network provide a permanent plea for assistance, a portal for families who are looking for information about police processes, or who may be hesitant to make first contact with police. It is my hope that Before There Were Skeletons leads to the awareness of compiled websites, and possibly, information on, or the resolution of, a cold case.
About Before There Were Skeletons
The last time anyone saw Veronica Goodman was the night of February 14, 1995, the only clue to her disappearance a silver heart-shaped pendant, found in the parking lot behind the bar where she worked. Twenty-seven years later, Veronica’s daughter, Kate, just a year old when her mother vanished, hires Past & Present Investigations to find out what happened that fateful night.
Calamity (Callie) Barnstable is drawn to the case, the similarities to her own mother’s disappearance on Valentine’s Day 1986 hauntingly familiar. A disappearance she thought she’d come to terms with. Until Veronica’s case, and five high school yearbooks, take her back in time…a time before there were skeletons.
Universal Book Link: https://books2read.com/u/mqXVze
About the Author
A former journalist and magazine editor, Judy Penz Sheluk is the bestselling author of two mystery series: The Glass Dolphin Mysteries and the Marketville Mysteries. Her short crime fiction appears in several collections, including the Superior Shores Anthologies, which she also edited.
Judy is a member of Sisters in Crime, International Thriller Writers, the Short Mystery Fiction Society, and Crime Writers of Canada, where she served as Chair on the Board of Directors. A longtime resident of York Region, she now makes her home in Northern Ontario, on the shores of Lake Superior. Find her at https://www.judypenzsheluk.com.