The Story Behind Mushroom Murders by Stephanie Parker McKean

22 Apr 2019

By Stephanie Parker McKean

Baby boomers and older readers increase. Books with matching older characters remain static. My “Fog Busters” series featuring “old bones” detectives who are not too old to solve crimes and fall in love bridges that void.

When I first got the idea of the Fog Busters, I dismissed it, telling myself, “You live in Scotland, but you are not skillful enough to write books like this. You grew up in the U.S. You didn’t grow up in Scotland. You don’t know how to crawl inside the skins of Scottish characters and bring them to life.”

God reminded me that not all the characters in the books needed to be Scottish, and that I did not need to know what it was like growing up in Scotland to write a cozy mystery with Scottish characters. So with a great deal of research behind it, I wrote “Black Pudding Murder.” “Mushroom Murders” is the second book in the four-book series and it, too, required extensive research.

Fog Busters characters lived in my head for a couple of years before they made it to paper. Husband and wife team John and Peg have hearing problems, although John denies his. John is a guardian of unique, little-known facts.

Legally blind Alec is more Scottish than the other Scottish characters. Building him required learning new Scottish words and phrases. Alec sees with his ears, not his eyes.

Morag’s mind is brilliant, but words tangle up in her head and fall out of her mouth in disorganized patterns.

Susan and Rory are both Texans, and Susan and Rory, and Alec and Morag are all single—candidates for romance.

“Mushroom Murders” contains wit, humor, romance, mystery, suspense, twists, and even the bizarre as the older friends track down a serial killer. It was fun to write. It is fun to read.

The mushroom mantra fits “Mushroom Murders.” Claudius in 54 AD and Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI in 1740 died after eating death cap mushrooms, which are on the increase across the U.K., and which cause death in 90 percent of the cases. Between one and seven people a year die in the U.K. after ingesting toxic fungi. Actual figures are difficult to obtain. In the case of death caps, symptoms may not appear immediately and may begin several days later when the mushroom consumption has been forgotten.

In “Mushroom Murders,” the serial killer tries to win Susan’s heart first with a boat ride, and then with a lamb stolen from a farmer’s field. When both attempts fail, he delivers an ultimatum: eat the poisonous mushroom and die—or watch her rescued puppy eat it and die.

Meanwhile, Rory—who likes Susan a lot more than he should for someone who is determined to never marry again—gets a surprise visit from his deceased wife’s younger sister Felicia, who unlike Rory and the other Fog Busters, hates animals. Will Morag’s trip to the Edinburgh zoo with Felicia and Susan’s gift of a rooster named Fiona be enough to spoil Felicia’s predatory claims on Rory—or will Susan lose not only her life—but also the love of her life?

Stephanie Parker McKean is the author of the new book Mushroom Murders.

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