It’s difficult for me to remember a time when I did not read. Books were as much a part of my childhood as play, and so much of my play revolved around stories. As a child, The Humpback of Notre Dame was read aloud to me, and we named our new kitten Esmerelda. We had to change the cat’s name when we found out that “she” was really a “he,” but for a few days she was our dancing gypsy. My best friend and I played Little House on the Prairie (her name was Lori and mine Meredith, so we figured we were practically Laura and Mary), affected by their stories of hardship on the prairie as much as if it had happened to us.
But when you ask a writer about the book that changed their life, I think the answer must lie somewhere in the book that turned them into a writer. The book that made them realize that they could be a storyteller, too.
I wish I could identify the one book specifically that turned me into a mystery writer, but I can’t. Instead, I can identify an author and a particular summer. I was thirteen, tall for my age, and skinny. I left seventh grade early to go to Wales and stay with my aunt for a month. My aunt and uncle ran a weaving shop in a small Welsh town and had two kids under three. I lived with them until my mother came over, and then the two of us traveled across Europe together.
Our travel goal in Europe was Greece, a place my mother, a history professor, had always wanted to go. But we made a few stops along the way—Venice and Heidi’s Alps were my requests. I was a voracious reader, and not always interested in going to see monuments as much as my mother. To keep me from going insane, we bought paperback books for me along the way. And the books we found that I liked and could always find in English were Agatha Christie mysteries.
My father is English, and I have always romanticized England a little. I had just spent a month in a small town in Great Britain, and perhaps that’s also why they resonated. They were also puzzles, and dealt with all the issues I was just beginning to think about: life, death, love, and hate. Agatha Christie offered a world built on reason, where terrible things might happen, but the brain could overcome all evil and justice always prevailed.
When I wrote Posed for Murder, I didn’t set it in a quaint English village. I set it in my town, Brooklyn, and I made the characters the inhabitants of the art community in New York. But I brought to it the lessons I’d learned from Agatha Christie; evil may exist but good always wins. And if I make any reader feel the way Dame Agatha made me feel the summer I was thirteen, I will be satisfied indeed.
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