3 Reasons Why a Sleuth Can Never Take a Vacation

by Kathy (K.B.) Owen

Ah, the chance to get away from it all. Our sleuth (amateur or otherwise) is more than ready to leave the bustle behind and relax, dig her toes in the sand, perhaps sip a cool beverage beside the water. Not a care in the world.

Nope. Not gonna happen. The mystery writer is there to ruthlessly yank that illusion away. Bwahaha. 

Why so heartless? Because vacationing is the perfect occasion for mayhem and murder. Here are three reasons why:

State of mind.

No one wants to deal with unpleasantness or disruption while on vacation. And a dead body can be plenty disruptive, as Hercule Poirot found out during his aborted vacation in Christie’s Death on the Nile. Conflict, a key ingredient to any story, increases when our expectations are flouted and we are caught unprepared. A detective’s fellow vacationers would rather be sipping margaritas than answering uncomfortable questions.

The journey.

Henry M. Stanley and party standing on back of train at Monterey, California, March 19th, 1891, porters standing at side of car. Library of Congress.

Trains, planes, cruise ships…great opportunities for chaos and conflict, as strangers are forced to travel together in tight quarters. Tempers flare. Small annoyances turn into big grievances. Moreover, who are these people? What troubles have they brought along with them?

Mystery writers have long turned to such a setting. I couldn’t resist it myself in the fourth book of my Concordia Wells Mysteries, Unseemly Haste, which is set aboard a cross-country sleeper car in the summer of 1898. There may have been a dead body or two, but you’d have to read it to find out. *wink*

The locale.

There are a couple of elements to consider in this category. One is the incongruity between, say, a paradise location and a grisly murder. Everywhere one looks–the swaying palms, the gentle breeze, the gorgeous sunsets–indicates peace, contentment, serenity. Except for the grisly body one has just stumbled upon.

Just a sunset, no body. Photo by K.B. Owen.

Another consideration is the “fish out of water” aspect of being in a strange place. We are completely dependent upon the local hosts who are the only ones familiar with the people, backstories, customs, and overall workings of the community. Misinformation–or outright lying–can make for some wonderful twists and turns to the mystery. Who knows what secrets lurk in paradise?

So, there you have it: our poor, overworked sleuth cannot catch a break.

Any other reasons you can think of as to why a vacation spot works so well for a mystery? I’d love to hear from you.

Speaking of detectives and vacations, I’d like to announce a new release!

 Missing jewels…a haunted inn…a long-held secret…

Penelope Hamilton Wynch, one of the few female operatives employed at the Pinkerton Agency in 1886, is sent to the Adirondacks to investigate the mysterious happenings at Schroon Lake Inn, newly renovated to cater to New York City’s upper crust on summer holiday. Rumors of ghosts are bad enough, but when expensive jewelry disappears, the owner’s livelihood is at stake. A woman’s touch is needed.

Pen’s boss, William Pinkerton, thinks he has given her the perfect cover. She is to play the part of an eccentric spirit medium, eager to experience the purported ghostly manifestations.

Unfortunately, her cover will not remain intact for long, and there are those watching who do not want the secrets disturbed.

Available for pre-order now, goes live March 1st! Just $0.99

 Order from Kindle or iBooks

Until next time,

Posted by Kathy Owen (aka K.B. Owen). Kathy is a recovering former English professor with a PhD in 19th century British literature. She is currently raising three boys and working on Book 6 in the Concordia Wells series of historical cozy mysteries.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

You Might Also Like


  • Reply
    Shannon Esposito
    February 28, 2017 at 9:03 am

    You know it’s funny, I was writing speculative fiction until I moved back to Florida in 2008. Then, I had a sudden urge to write murder mysteries lol… something about mysteries and tropical paradise that just go well together. Anyway, I love the premise of your new book! I bet that goes awry very quickly. 🙂 Good luck with the new release!

    • Reply
      K.B. Owen
      February 28, 2017 at 10:37 am

      And your books certainly exploit the “murder in paradise” concept to good effect, LOL. Thanks so much, Shannon!

  • Reply
    Kassandra Lamb
    February 28, 2017 at 9:28 am

    I’ve read the new story and I loved it!! I’d never given much thought to why “vacation” was such a good place for murder and mayhem (even though I write vacation mysteries). You’ve nailed the reasons, Kathy. It so unexpected, so out of sync… that gives the story an extra zing.

    • Reply
      K.B. Owen
      February 28, 2017 at 10:39 am

      Thanks bunches, Kass! We’re so mean to our characters, aren’t we? *wink*

  • Reply
    Marcy Kennedy
    February 28, 2017 at 12:56 pm

    I just pre-ordered a copy. Can’t wait to read it!

    My pen name writes mysteries, and you now have me thinking that maybe I need to send her off on a vacation where she can get into all new trouble.

    • Reply
      K.B. Owen
      February 28, 2017 at 1:18 pm

      Absolutely, Marcy! Show no mercy. Oh, and thanks so much for the pre-order. Hope you enjoy it!

  • Reply
    Vinnie Hansen
    February 28, 2017 at 9:35 pm

    I really enjoyed Unseemly Haste. The journey across the country in 1898 was as interesting as the mystery.

    This new story (a novella?) sounds intriguing.

    • Reply
      K.B. Owen
      March 1, 2017 at 11:01 am

      I was so happy you enjoyed Unseemly Haste, Vinnie! Yep, the new one is a novella, from Penelope Hamilton’s perspective. You’d remember her character from Unseemly Haste. She’s a bit more rough around the edges than Concordia.

    Leave a Reply

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.