Kaitlyn Dunnett here, musing about mazes.I’ve always liked the idea of mazes. The reality? Not so much.
On a visit to Hampton Court Palace, where one of the most famous mazes in the world is located, I totally chickened out before I’d gone a dozen steps inside. I’m not normally claustrophobic, but there was something about those high solid green walls that freaked me out. It wasn’t that I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to find my way to the exit. Not really. After all, there were lots of other people going through the maze and somewhere there was a way out. But the hedges were higher than I was tall. I couldn’t see over them without jumping up in the air and I couldn’t see very far ahead because of the twists and turns of the pattern. I did a rapid about face and got myself out of there while the getting was good!
That said, I happily used a maze in one of the non-mystery historical novels I wrote as Kate Emerson. No one got lost, although there was some hanky-panky going on at the center. I made mention of a corn maze in Vampires, Bones, and Treacle Scones although I didn’t end up using it in a scene. But then, when I started work on Ho-Ho-Homicide, set on a Christmas tree farm, it occurred to me that it might be possible to create a Christmas-tree maze. The problem, of course, was why would anyone do that? I admit it took me awhile to come up with a reason. And then I had to figure out how to use the maze in the plot. Sometimes this is called “writing yourself into a corner.” Fortunately, in the cozy mystery genre, especially the segment of it that accepts humor in mysteries, eccentric characters and the things they do are acceptable. Although I’m nowhere near as funny, I like to think of myself as writing in the tradition of Charlotte MacLeod, Joan Hess, and our own Dorothy Cannell.
Mazes still fascinate me, as long as I don’t actually have to set foot in one. When in England, quite possibly at Hampton Court, I purchased a booklet entitled Mazes: Ancient and Modern by Robert Field. It’s a wonderful, colorfully illustrated look at hedge mazes, labyrinths, and designs in turf and stone—the latter are nice low mazes even I would walk through! There are also mazes in mosaic floors. One look at some of the patterns in various mazes is enough to reveal that there is a link between mazes and puzzles and thus, of course, to mysteries. I seem to recall maze puzzles in kids’ magazines when I was young, where you were supposed to use a pencil to find the way to the middle. Maybe that’s where I got the idea it was easy.