Kaitlyn Dunnett/Kathy Lynn Emerson here, today plugging Overkilt, the twelfth Liss MacCrimmon mystery, and revealing a bit about where the story idea came from.
A couple of years ago, around the time I was trying to come up with a plot for Liss #12, there was a campaign on social media to boycott one of Maine’s best known businesses, L. L. Bean. This came about because one member of the Bean family, Linda Bean, had contributed heavily to a particular political campaign. Politics aside, what struck me about this was that targeting L. L. Bean made no sense. Linda Bean has her own business interests. She’s only a minor cog in the company that employs many Mainers and sells products made by many more.
I don’t think the campaign did any serious damage. In fact, given the recent reports on Nike’s sales, attempts at blackballing a company on political grounds tend to backfire. But what if the same thing occurs on a smaller scale, and with bigger consequences?
Ten days ago, the hashtag #boycottMaine started to pop up on Facebook and Twitter in response to Susan Collins’s speech to explain why she was voting to approve Judge Kavenaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court. Excuse me? Does that make any sense at all? There was plenty of opposition in Maine to his appointment. Not only that, but our other Senator, Angus King, an Independent, voted against Kavenaugh. We’re into “throw the baby out with the bath water” territory here.
A little research revealed that this hashtag originally appeared in 2016 in response to something Governor LePage said. Like the reaction to Linda Bean’s politics, that movement soon fizzled out, but dumb boycott ideas never seem to die. The only upside to this sad fact of life is that such things sometimes inspire those of us who write murder mysteries.
In Overkilt, Liss’s father-in-law, who owns Moosetookalook, Maine’s luxury hotel, The Spruces, offers a “Thanksgiving Special” aimed at childless couples who want to spend the holiday away from their families. This outrages a local troublemaker, Hadley Spinner, leader of a religious sect calling themselves the New Age Pilgrims. He sees the promotion as an affront to family values and vows to ruin not only Joe Ruskin’s hotel, but also the businesses of Joe’s sons and daughter-in-law.
Oh, yes. He’s over the top. At first no one takes him seriously. When the term overkill comes up, Liss changes it to overkilt, since her business is Moosetookalook Scottish Emporium, a shop selling Scottish-themed gift items. She can’t imagine the protest will amount to much, but boy is she wrong! Spinner’s campaign will end up causing all kinds of trouble in her quiet little town.
I didn’t have to look far to find real-life models for Spinner and his ilk. As the saying goes, the Devil can quote the Bible for his own ends. Some of Spinner’s goals are pretty nefarious. As for his followers, there has never been any shortage of people who will blindly follow a leader.
Overkilt is probably the most serious cozy I’ve written, but don’t despair. It is leavened with humor. After all, most human foibles have more than a hint of the absurd about them.
Kathy Lynn Emerson/Kaitlyn Dunnett is the author of nearly sixty traditionally published books written under several names. She won the Agatha Award and was an Anthony and Macavity finalist for best mystery nonfiction of 2008 for How to Write Killer Historical Mysteries and was an Agatha Award finalist in 2015 in the best mystery short story category. She was the Malice Domestic Guest of Honor in 2014. Currently she writes the contemporary Liss MacCrimmon Mysteries (Overkilt—November 2018) and the “Deadly Edits” series (Crime & Punctuation) as Kaitlyn and the historical Mistress Jaffrey Mysteries (Murder in a Cornish Alehouse) as Kathy. The latter series is a spin-off from her earlier “Face Down” mysteries and is set in Elizabethan England. Her most recent collection of short stories is Different Times, Different Crimes. Her websites are www.KaitlynDunnett.com and www.KathyLynnEmerson.com and she maintains a website about women who lived in England between 1485 and 1603 at www.TudorWomen.com