I don’t write cozies, but like many mystery writers, I grew up reading Agatha Christie. The first time I ever heard of the Orient Express was when I accompanied Hercule Poirot on his snowy ride aboard the wagon-lit. Later, I floated with him—and a shipload of murder-minded passengers—from Cairo up the Nile. I flew with Monsieur Poirot from Paris to the heretofore unheard of destination of Croydon in Death in the Clouds. In short I traveled the world (or at least a good part of it) with her funny little Belgian detective, and I came to see my surroundings the way his creator must have viewed her own environs. How many times did Dame Agatha look around an archeological dig and think to herself, “What a perfect place for a murder!”
I still have those moments myself. One of my perks at Down East is that I get to travel around Maine a bit. And there have been many occasions when I have stared at a particularly treacherous cliff or down into the plunge pool at the base of a waterfall and thought, “What a perfect place for a murder!” Here are a handful of real locations that struck me as particularly well-suited for fictional homicides (sadly, some of these sites have witnessed real-life tragedies and crimes, but we’re just mystery buffs having fun here):
Quoddy Head Light: The fog rolls in thick around this red-and-white striped lighthouse…the perfect cover for a killing.
Otter Cliff: At 110 feet high this famous precipice in Acadia National Park is popular with rock climbers, one of whose ropes might fray…or be cut.
The Knife’s Edge: Only a few feet wide, this windswept ridge along the top of Mount Katahdin is the sort of place where a hiker might easily stumble…or be pushed.
Popham Beach: At night this popular beach is isolated and off limits, but it’s easy to imagine someone going their with a lover to roll around in the sand…or being buried up to their neck while the tide comes in.
The Rockland Quarries: So close to the road, so easy for a car to skid into the depths…or be forced through a guardrail.
I have no plans to send Warden Mike Bowditch gallivanting from famous Maine landmark to famous Maine landmark, inspecting corpses. But as a crime writer, I can’t help but be tempted to imagine dark deeds.
What Maine locations have made you exclaim about the murderous uses to which they might be put?
Sorry, but I look at locations and say “What a great spot to put a house”! That’s why I’m a reader not a writer. So many thanks to all of you for writing. Dee
Dee, let’s talk about that house…!
When I was a kid, someone did skid off the road and into the Rockland quarries, so I was always terrified of them, even more so once I got my license. I was sure my car would somehow skitter across the road and into the quarries. And there were all those stories about people diving in and never coming up.
I have a slightly different version of the thought: what a great place to put a body. But as you must spend a fair amount of time talking with Maine game wardens, you know that the woods are full of bodies, and Gulf Hagas is the scariest place on earth.
Before people started taking the doors off, abandoned refrigerators were another very scary place.
And as for travel via fiction–I think it’s the best fun to visit a city via mystery before going there. I still remember, before going to Minneapolis/St. Paul for a mystery conference, reading The Weatherman. And I felt like I’d been there when I got there.
Kate, a driver was killed just a few years ago in Rockland when the same thing happened. Now there are guard rails, but as Paul notes, it’s still easy to imagine an accident there.
To carry on Kate’s thread .. before I went to Edinburgh (the one in Scotland) to do research for a still-unpublished book, I read a stack of Ian Rankin’s books, following his characters on an Edinburgh City map. I’ve since met Ian and told him that. He grinned, and asked Iin his wonderful Scottish accent) if I’d been able, then, to find the red-light district and the best bars all right. I assured him his directions were quite clear. Getting back to Maine ….I visit a lot of historical sites .. forts, jails and graveyards … and often think of those who died (or were buried) there … and wonder about such a scene for a contemporary murder. In fact …. hmmmm… got to go write …
I’ve played with a series of killings along the Appalachian Trail between Carrying Place and the Kennebec River. There are a series of spectacular waterfalls dropping several hundred feet that are almost impossible to access not far from the trail.
The Shirley Bog is another spot, possibly having the victim be done in by the ghosts of the caribou that supposedly vanished there after being reintroduced to Baxter Park back in the late 1980s.
Have you ever been to tne gorge at Gulf Hagas?
Maiden’s Cliff … and it almost happened, right, Paul?