Dam Witherston is the third of my Witherston Murder Mysteries. The others are Fairfield’s Auction and Downstream. They are all set in a fictive town in the north Georgia mountains where everybody knows everybody else and few people are bad. However, even in this idyllic community of four thousand souls somebody is murdered every year or so, and Mev the police detective, Aunt Lottie the online columnist, and Mev and Paco’s teenage twin sons Jaime and Jorge and their friends collaborate to identify the murderer.
After Black Opal Books accepted Downstream for publication and took on the series I learned that I was writing “cozies.” A “cozy mystery” is a category of crime fiction in which the characters, often eccentric or comic, are well developed, their actions involve little violence or explicit sex, and the events take place in a closed environment. The author tacitly agrees to play fair with the reader by giving appropriate clues to the crime’s solution—not so many as to lead the reader to guess what happened early on, but enough to enable the reader to figure it out by the end of the novel if he or she thinks hard. And the reader must have fun participating in the detection.
In my mysteries I provide information about the events not just through the narration but also through an online newspaper called Witherston on the Web, locally known as “Webby Witherston,” to which Lottie, the boys, the police, and other folks in town contribute. Webby Witherston includes Breaking News, Announcements, Editorials, Lottie’s “North Georgia in History,” Cartoons, Letters to the Editor, Police Blotter, and the Weather.
Why do I enjoy writing cozies? Because I like creating a puzzle for readers to enjoy solving. It’s a game we play together. I only wish I could hear my readers laugh, or at least say, “Aha!”
Dr. Betty Jean Craige is University Professor Emerita of Comparative Literature at the University of Georgia. She has lived in Athens, Georgia, since 1973. Betty Jean is a teacher, scholar, translator, humorist, and writer. Her first non-academic book was Conversations with Cosmo: At Home with an African Grey Parrot (2010). After retiring in 2011, she published a column about animal behavior in the local paper titled “Cosmo Talks” and began writing fiction. Her Witherston Murder Mystery series includes Downstream (2014), Fairfield’s Auction (2016), and Dam Witherston (2017).