Secret histories

A weird thing happened when I started to write my new novel, Maggie Dove and the Lost Brides. (Coming on November 9!!!)

The novel is set in the lovely little village of Darby-on-Hudson, which is a lot like Irvington, the lovely little Hudson River village I live in. It’s the sort of place where you can spend half an hour going up and down Main Street because you keep running into people you know. I’ve lived here for most of my life and I love it.

But, at the time I began writing the novel, I happened to be reading a terrifying book called Deranged by Harold Schecter. It’s an account of a truly terrible man who commit horrifying crimes in New York City. Comes the point where the police figure out where he might be, and so they get in their cars and drive north. To Westchester. The county where I live.

Then I read this: “The police went on to the Saw Mill River Road, following it until they reached the village of Irvington in the Westchester town of Greenburgh.” My jaw dropped. Turned out that one of the most terrible crimes of the 1930s, a crime that shocked people all over the world, took place in the pretty little village where I live. In a place called Wisteria Cottage, which is no longer there, though I believe the wisteria is. I was stunned because I’d driven by it countless times.

I couldn’t imagine this evil existing in my village, and yet clearly it did. That made me wonder what else might exist that I didn’t know about. I think of my protagonist, Maggie Dove, as being someone confident in her own world. But what if the world is not what she thinks it is? What if her niece comes for a visit and encounters a whole other side of Darby? What if Maggie comes to realize she’s shut herself off from seeing things she didn’t want to see? And, of course, what if that leads to murder?

Have you ever found out something surprising about the place where you live? Join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.

Susan Breen is the author of the Maggie Dove mystery series. Her stories have been published in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine and Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine. The MWA anthology, Crime Hits Home, in which she has a story, just won an Anthony Award. She teaches novel-writing at Gotham Writers and is on the staff of the New York Write to Pitch Conference.


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