Location, location, location. How do you research the location for your novels? The community, village, small-town atmosphere? Do you hunt online or hop in the car and head out the door to breathe in the scents and sounds of your story’s setting? Author Vicki Delany stopped by to tell us about her latest research for her Sherlock Holmes Bookshop series set in Cape Cod. Grab a jacket and read on!
By Vicki Delany
My new book, Elementary She Read, the first in the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop series, is set on Cape Cod.
I hadn’t been to Cape Cod for many, many years. How long? Well, when we left our vacation rental the next family arrived with a portable TV. So they could watch the moon landing.
I had the entire United States to choose from to set my series, and the Cape seemed like a natural fit. For one thing, I wanted the English connection. Some place suitable for the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop, located at 220 Baker Street, West London.
These days you can do a lot of research on the Internet. You can travel down streets and check out houses and shops with Streetview or get the big picture with Google Earth. But I have found that there really is nothing like seeing a place in person.
So last spring my daughter and I loaded ourselves into the car and set off on a road trip.
We had a great time. I took notes and lots of pictures as we travelled from one end of the Cape to the other. We studied shopping streets and drove through residential areas checking out the houses. In the books my protagonist Gemma Doyle lives with her great uncle Arthur in a colonial Salt Box house. I went in search of Salt Boxes and surreptitiously (I hope) took pictures. We drove the winding roads and the highways crossing the cape and walked on the beach (too cold yet to swim).
We went on a whale watching tour out of Brewster and to the fish pier in Chatham, and I got a good impression of a small town harbor. We ate sea food at restaurants of the sort like the Blue Water Café, the favourite of Gemma and her friend Jayne Wilson.
I swung my stool around to check out the view. The restaurant overlooked the small harbor, and the outdoor seating area was perched on stilts above the water. The harbor faced east, toward the stormy waters of the Atlantic, but this stretch of the coast was protected by a sandbar lying a few hundred feet offshore. Big charter fishing crafts and small private sailboats were returning to port, moving slowly through the calm waters of the inner harbor. A seaplane flew low overhead, and far above it, the passage of a commercial jet drew a line of white vapor across the blue sky. Seals played under the pier or followed in the wake of the fishing boats, and sea gulls swooped though the evening sky on the lookout for dinner. The beam from the West London lighthouse flashed above it all.
“Cheers,” I said, and Jayne and I clinked glasses. Our seats were against the railing on one side, and on the other side, two elderly couples had gathered stools into a circle. They were not on their first drinks of the day, and their laughter filled the deck.
— Elementary, She Read by Vicki Delany
I don’t drink beer but my daughter does, and she loved the Nantucket Grey Lady. So now my characters do too!
Research – there’s nothing like being there.
Elementary, She Read by Vicki Delany
A Sherlock Holmes Bookshop Mystery
Transplanted Englishwoman Gemma Doyle owns the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop and Emporium in the quaint town of West London on Cape Cod, specializing in the Holmes canon and pastiche, and the adjoining Mrs. Hudson’s Tea Room. When Gemma finds a rare and potentially valuable magazine containing the first Sherlock Homes story hidden in the bookshop, she and her friend Jayne Wilson set off to find the owner. What they find is a dead woman and Gemma’s house ransacked. The highly perceptive Gemma is the police’s first suspect, so she puts her consummate powers of deduction to work to clear her name, investigating a handsome rare books expert, the dead woman’s suspiciously unmoved son, and a whole family of greedy characters desperate to cash in on their inheritance. But when Gemma and Jayne accidentally place themselves at a second murder scene, it’s a race to uncover the truth before the detectives lock them up for good.
Fans of Sherlock Holmes will delight in the sleuthing duo of Gemma and Jayne in Elementary, She Read, the clever and captivating series debut by nationally bestselling author Vicki Delany.
Vicki Delany is one of Canada’s most prolific and varied crime writers, author of twenty-four crime novels, including standalone Gothic thrillers, the Constable Molly Smith series, and the Year Round Christmas Mysteries. Under the pen name Eva Gates she writes the national bestselling Lighthouse Library cozy series from Penguin. The first Sherlock Holmes Bookshop novel is Elementary She Read, March 2017 from Crooked Lane Books. Vicki is the past-president of Crime Writers of Canada. Her work has been nominated for the Bony Blithe and the Arthur Ellis Awards.
Facebook: Vicki Delany & Eva Gates (evagatesauthor) and
Twitter: @vickidelany and @evagatesauthor
Thank you so much, Vicki, for stopping by ePen and sharing your research methods!