In Monument to the Dead, Book 4 in Sheila Connolly's Museum Mysteries series, a serial killer is murdering wealthy philanthropists. Nell Pratt, president of the Pennsylvania Antiquarian Society in Philadelphia, must figure out why these harmless, elderly benefactors are being targeted before the next do-gooder is done in.
Sheila Connolly will be appearing, along with her friend and fellow mystery writer Clea Simon, at Brookline Booksmith, 279 Harvard Street, on Monday, July 29th at 7PM. I reached Connolly by phone at her home in Middleboro, MA, to ask her about her busy writing schedule and how she first became interested in mysteries.
Brookline Hub: Tell me about your new book, Monument to the Dead.
Sheila Connolly: It's set in Philadelphia, where I once worked as a fundraiser and researcher for a historical society. The actor Edwin Forrest (Philadelphia native in the nineteenth century known for performing the works of Shakespeare) figures in the plot. Because she is the president of the Pennsylvania Antiquarian Society, Nell Pratt has information about a serial killer that the FBI does not.
BH: You're the author of three different mystery series—in addition to the Museum Mysteries you also pen The Orchard Mysteries and The County Cork Mysteries. Why the different series?
SC: I write cozy mysteries for Berkley Prime Crime. There's a strong audience for this genre. The Orchard Mysteries is about a Boston banker who becomes an apple orchard owner in a small New England town. The County Cork Mysteries is a new series set in Ireland.
BH: What first drew you to mystery writing?
SC: I started writing twelve years ago. I tried writing romance novels but I find writing mysteries to be more intellectually challenging!
BH: Are you an eBook or print book reader?
SC: I have ten books on my eReader, but when you walk into my house it's very obvious that I prefer print books! Many mystery readers are older and they too prefer print.
BH: Which authors do you read? What are you reading now?
SC: I have been reading mysteries since I was young—all the Golden Age stuff, like Dorothy Sayers, Agatha Christie, Patricia Wentworth. Of course I started by reading Nancy Drew books. Now I read all my mystery writer friends' books. I liked Nick Flynn's Gone Girl. I like the Irish crime novels of Tana French. I think John Connolly (no relation!) has an interesting mind.
BH: What are you working on next? Anything you want to add?
SC: I'm writing three different books right now. I'm also thinking of a stand-alone novel that came to me when I was on a trip to Northern Italy with a group of 40 other women—college classmates—who in the book are all linked to a shared past. When you get that many women together something is bound to happen.
In my mystery writing I'm pushing toward a grittier tone. Murder is serious business and people expect there will be blood.
One thing I'd like to say to aspiring writers: You never know if you can write a book until you do it! I love what I do.
By Jennifer Campaniolo