Now that I have your attention, this is Kaitlyn Dunnett, blogging today about some of the oddities that turn up when a writer does research for a murder mystery. In Clause & Effect, the second “Deadly Edits” mystery featuring retired teacher turned book doctor Mikki Lincoln, Mikki is present when a mummified body is found behind a bricked-up fireplace at the local historical society.
Oddly, bodies hidden in walls or chimneys are not that rare. Not in fiction and not in real life. Whether the remains are skeletal or mummified when they are discovered years later depends on all kinds of things, including the weather. I’ll spare you the gory details. Suffice it to say that I had a choice about how well preserved I wanted my murder victim to be. I opted for all in one piece, and in researching how and why that would occur, I came across the story of the mummified cat. Ah-hah, I said to myself. If a cat can be that recognizable, so can my corpse.
It’s a fascinating story, really. In 2009, a 400-year-old mummified cat was found in the walls of a house that was being renovated in Upborough, near Plymouth, England. It turns out that placing a cat in the wall of a house was something that used to be done to keep witches away. Moreover, when a previous owner of the house discovered the same cat in the 1980s, he put it back where he found it. The owner in the article planned to do the same, saying it would add “charm” to the property. Reportedly, his wife wasn’t thrilled by that prospect.
I found plenty of accounts of human bodies found in walls and chimneys, too. In one case, bones discovered in a chimney in Louisiana turned out to be the remains of a man missing for twenty-seven years. In another, a mummified body was found in a chimney in a cabin in Colorado. The remains were identified as those of a man missing for seven years.
In all honesty, I can’t say the title of this blog is completely true, since the plot of Clause & Effect was not really “inspired” by that story about the mummified cat. It’s an attention-grabber, though, isn’t it? What did inspire the story was the fact that there was a fireplace in the house I lived in growing up—the house that is the model for Mikki’s house in my fictional Lenape Hollow, New York. I don’t think we ever had a fire in that fireplace, and sometime after a photo was taken of me standing in front of it in 1957, my parents had the fireplace removed and the chimney walled in.
I’m pretty sure there isn’t a body behind that new wall . . . but you never know.
Leave a comment here or on my Facebook page to be entered in a drawing for an Advance Reading Copy of Clause & Effect. The hardcover and e-book editions will be available for purchase on June 25 with the audiobook to follow. Here’s the (slightly edited) jacket copy:
Nestled in the picturesque Catskills, the village of Lenape Hollow prepares to celebrate the 225th anniversary of its founding. Freelance book editor Mikki Lincoln has been drafted to update and correct the script left over from the town’s bicentennial. The historical society building where it is housed is being renovated for the big day, but when human remains are found walled up in a fireplace Mikki shifts focus from cold-reading to solving a cold case. Just as her investigation seems to have hit a brick wall, a new murder rattles the townspeople. Clearly someone is hiding a few skeletons in the closet. Now Mikki will need to go off script to make a connection between the bicentennial bones and the current homicide, but if this book editor isn’t careful, she may be the next one sentenced to death.
With the June 25, 2019 publication of Clause & Effect, Kathy Lynn Emerson/Kaitlyn Dunnett will have had sixty books traditionally published. 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 and the “Deadly Edits” series as Kaitlyn. As Kathy, her most recent book is a collection of short stories, 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 A Who’s Who of Tudor Women.