Auntie M is enjoying the Bouchercon Mystery Convention in Albany, participating in a panel discussion on amateur sleuths and conducting several interviews she’ll share this fall.
Today, please welcome guest Rosie Genova, whose mystery Murder and Marinara debuts October 1st. Rosie will describe the influence of an early murder case on her writing career. Rosie, over to you:
I love working in the genre of cozy mysteries, with their small communities, quirky characters, and murders that happen offstage. I’m happy to leave the darker stuff to those who do it well. But while my passion for mysteries has its roots in the work of Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers, it was also fed by a more gruesome source—a real life 19th century murder.
For me, it all started with Lizzie Borden, a figure who besides Nancy Drew is probably responsible for the careers of many a mystery writer. By the time I was fourteen, however, I’d outgrown Nancy, and my aunt was reading a book about Borden. It may well have been Edward Radin’s book, Lizzie Borden: The Untold Story, a work that posited Lizzie’s innocence.
Once I opened it, I was hooked. Everything from the ghastly murder scene photos to the days-old mutton that the parsimonious Mr. Borden insisted serving the family caught my imagination, not to mention the unanswerable questions. Why did Lizzie reportedly buy poison the day before the murder? Why did she burn a blue corduroy dress in the kitchen stove? What of the mysterious houseguest, John Morse? And Bridget Sullivan, the maid who was none too fond of the Bordens—might she have served as Lizzie’s accomplice? Or was that role played by Lizzie’s sister Emma?
After that book, many others about Lizzie followed, and it was impossible not to get pulled into the repressive and stultifying world that she inhabited. It was easy to imagine the locked house, the oppressive August heat, and one too many dinners of leftover mutton. Lizzie lived in a family and community whose strictures regarding women bound her as tightly as her corset and many layers of clothing. Her father, a man typical of his era, was a rigid patriarch who brooked no opposition. Lizzie had lost her mother at a young age, and she made no bones about her antipathy toward her stepmother Abigail, not exactly a warm and fuzzy type. Despite a life of physical comforts, Lizzie must have felt very much like a prisoner in Andrew Borden’s house. A year before the murder, the Borden house was robbed of cash and jewels, with Lizzie the prime suspect. Was it a play for attention? An indication of the greed that might have been behind the murder of Abigail and James Borden? Or simply a way to have some income of her own?
Photos of Lizzie Borden depict a face nearly devoid of expression. But there is an eerie, otherworldly light in those pale eyes. Behind those unsettling eyes and attractive but blank face, was there a seething anger that manifested itself in a bloody act of violence? A reading of the bald facts of the case points to Lizzie’s guilt; my own instincts tell me that her rage finally erupted that day, in the most terrible way imaginable. So why am I on her side?
And I know I’m not alone. A quick search of Lizzie’s name will garner a number of websites devoted to the murder, and an even greater number of fans devoted to Borden herself. We’re secretly glad that Lizzie was acquitted, that she and her sister inherited her father’s large estate and bought a lavish home. And though Lizzie lived her life under a shadow of suspicion, she also lived it as a free woman. But at what price?
(For a detailed and fascinating account of the Borden case, see the UMKC Law School Famous Trials website.)
Rosie Genova, mystery author
Murder and Marinara: An Italian Kitchen Mystery (Book 1)
Release date: October 1, 2013
Author Bio:A Jersey girl born and bred, Rosie Genova left her heart at the shore, which serves as the setting for much of her work. Her new series, the Italian Kitchen Mysteries, is informed by her deep appreciation for good food, her pride in her heritage, and her love of classic mysteries from Nancy Drew to Miss Marple. An English teacher by day and novelist by night, Rosie also writes women’s fiction as Rosemary DiBattista. She lives in central New Jersey with her husband, two of her three Jersey boys, and an ill-behaved fox terrier.
Hit whodunit writer Victoria Rienzi is getting back to her roots by working at her family’s Italian restaurant. But now in between plating pasta and pouring vino, she’ll have to find the secret ingredient in a murder….
When Victoria takes a break from penning her popular mystery series and moves back to the Jersey shore, she imagines sun, sand, and scents of fresh basil and simmering marinara sauce at the family restaurant, the Casa Lido. But her nonna’s recipes aren’t the only things getting stirred up in this Italian kitchen.
Their small town is up in arms over plans to film a new reality TV show, and when Victoria serves the show’s pushy producer his last meal, the Casa Lido staff finds itself embroiled in a murder investigation. Victoria wants to find the real killer, but there are as many suspects as tomatoes in her nonna’s garden. Now she’ll have to heat up her sleuthing skills quickly…before someone else gets a plateful of murder.
“The tastiest item on the menu with colorful characters, a sharp plot, and a fabulous Jersey setting. I enjoyed every bite.”- Jenn McKinlay, New York Times bestselling author
“Clever and intriguing…..It definitely left me hungry for more.”- Livia J. Washburn, author of the Fresh Baked Mystery series.
Upcoming release: The Wedding Soup Murder, Summer 2014