In Mexico, With Murder on My Mind

by Vicki Doudera

The decision was an extremely tough one for me, my husband, and our daughter, Lexi.

Spend February vacation in Mexico, Maine (gateway to the Western mountains) or Mexico, Mexico? After some soul searching, we fell back on our superior parenting skills, and picked the place where Lexi could best practice her twelve years of Spanish. Before you could utter adios, I’d booked our flights and a thatched cabana, and south of the border we flew.

The timing could not have been more perfect. Last week, I finished writing the fourth Darby Farr Mystery, FINAL SETTLEMENT, and my beta readers had their copies in hand. It being a leap year, I figured I’d have enough time to incorporate any changes when we returned, and still make my March 1st deadline. With any luck, I could think about Darby #5 and get some plot ideas down on paper, too.

And I could relax. Jump off the crazy gerbil wheel of the past two months, soak up a little sun, and enjoy our youngest child — now a beautiful seventeen-year-old — before she flies the coop for college like her brothers before her.

A good plan, with one problem: murder stalked my thoughts each sunny day like silver-studded Mariachis at a restaurant.

Here, amigo, is how it went.

Morning Number One: I wake before sunrise to walk the beach. Immediately I see a man digging a hole. An enormous hole.

What -- or who -- will be buried?

A hole big enough to hide a body — or two, if they are of Mayan descent.

Get a grip, I tell myself, and stroll farther down the beach. What’s that shiny object? A cell phone?  I bend over, pick it up. Who carries a cell phone at 6 am? A drug dealer?  What if it rings? Do I say Buenos Dias (about the limit of my Spanish) or just ignore it? I open it up and it vibrates in my palm like a rattler about to strike.

Then there are the ruins.

They rise like tombs from the dusty earth, silent and sinister. How many people perished under the hot Yucatan sun while stacking those limestone blocks? Whose skull was used as the soccer ball for the pick-up games in the square? Perched on a jagged cliff, these temples of Tulum terrifiy me. I peer over the cliff’s edge, watch as waves crash below. So easy to push someone… an unsuspecting tourist, an annoying mother-in-law, the little kid who won’t stop whining…

I shake my head. It’s a sunny day, no sign of anything sinister. Relax, I tell myself. And then a creature stirs in the sand, rearing his ancient reptilian head…

Iguana in Tulum
A slow, painful death..

I need a cerveza. Or two. After all, it’s hot, and I’m from Maine. Not even Mexico, Maine, but Camden, Maine. Chances are I’m thirsty and a couple of cool drinks will restore my natural good humor.

Back at the beach, I hydrate and try to settle my jangled nerves.

Dehydration can be deadly…


I go for a stroll, go for a swim, go for another stroll, another swim. It’s working. I’m relaxing! And then I glance over at my husband, hard at work in his role as one of my beta readers….

What’s that he’s holding? A pen? A RED pen? Terror strikes as he lifts it, brings it toward the paper, and crosses something out…

Eeek! The ink is the color of blood…

I will get through this, I tell myself. I will get back to Maine, get my book in on time, and prepare myself for the release of DEADLY OFFER in April.

I will survive vacation, even if I have to spend six days in Mexico with murder on my mind.




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14 Responses to In Mexico, With Murder on My Mind

  1. Vicki,

    My hat is off to you. How many other mothers would selflessly sacrifice the chance to sit through the biggest snow storm of the season in Maine, instead enduring days broiling under the warm tropical sun, forced to listen to the interminable swoosh-swoosh-swoosh of the cerulean Caribbean waves, drinking beer just to keep from passing out from the lack of clean water AND risking potential pop-top cuts while strolling across the white sand beaches?

    I just hope your daughter is suitable grateful.

  2. Barb Ross says:

    Hmm. I see it now. Darby has a big sale on the line, but before her client can commit to the deal he has to sell his house in…Mexico. BUT there’s a problem….

  3. I love it, Vicki! I’ve vacationed in Tulum–and other Mexican settings–while turning over murder plots, too. Maybe it’s time to turn my attention from cozy Central Oregon bookstore murders to travel murders in warm places. (While slogging through snow and freezing temperatures to retrieve the newspaper, I didn’t encounter one mysterious stranger, large hole, or vibrating cell phone.) Liz

    • Vicki Doudera says:

      Liz, you know what they say… a change of scenery, a new book idea! (if “they” don’t say that, perhaps all we writers should…)

      Still, there is something about bad weather that works for mysteries… yours sound like just the thing to curl up with here in Maine.

  4. Vicki Doudera says:

    Julia, when I agreed to be a parent I decided I would give it my all, and if that means sacrifice, there you go. Not to be a martyr, but you should see the fresh mangos, papaya and melons I am forced to eat each morning.

  5. Vicki Doudera says:

    Barb, I did change one of my character’s vacation destinations in the MS from Florida to Mexico…. for a possible setting down the line…!

  6. Lea Wait says:

    Vicki, OK. I was going to write a horribly humorous note about how you’re giving people the wrong idea about how writers research their books. And then I decided not to do that, because it would just look as though I was horribly mean and jealous. Which I am. And I would never, ever, be jealous of a blog-mate. Ever. Because that might be interpreted as a motive. And you never know what might happen to a real estate dealer in a dark house on a secluded lot in Camden …. I know. I read all about it somewhere …..

  7. Gerry Boyle says:

    Now that’s dedication, Vicki! (Now I know I’ve got the green light to blog from the seediest section of Edinburgh next month.) Was your family aware that where they saw sunny skies, you saw a murder in the making? Mine is used to it. When we travel to Ireland, my daughter makes sure there are two types of touring: one for the family, and one for the crime writer, sometimes including a chat with the gardai.
    We are not normal people. …

    • Lea Wait says:

      Ooooh – you’re going to Edinburgh, Gerry! Now I AM truly going to die of jealousy! I spent ten days there about 10 years ago, doing research for a book. (One of my historicals for young people. One of those that,unfortunately, has yet to sell.) It’s one of my very favorite cities. I would love to go back. Don’t miss the Museum of Scotland — and the restaurant on their roof. To die for …..!

    • Vicki Doudera says:

      Gerry, my daughter and her friend were just here reading the blog. Their comment to me? “You’re twisted.”

      • Vicki Doudera says:

        And yes, Gerry …. totally green light from me! Too bad there is not an Edinburgh, Maine….

  8. Patty Albany says:

    You make me laugh!!! 😉 Hope you, Ed and Lexi are having a wonderful time—- even with murder on your mind! (Good place for your next plot?!?!?) L, P ox

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