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Monday, June 20, 2016


Like her sleuth, Susan Cory is an architect practicing out of a turreted office. Like Iris, she has a brown belt in karate. She lives in Cambridge, MA with her architect husband and her bossy mutt, not a Basset hound. Learn more about Susan and her books at her website. 

Why Architects Make Great Amateur Sleuths—and Crafty Killers

The mystery world is littered with sleuths who are cops, P.I.s, countless lawyers, bookstore owners, caterers, ministers—practitioners of every profession but my own, architecture. Aren't we problem-solvers? Don't we find ourselves deeply enmeshed in other people's lives? Don't we passionately defend our beliefs? Clearly the architecture world has been ignored as a mystery setting, and architects have been neglected as sleuths and, yes, murderers.

In my graduate program alone at Harvard's GSD, I found a setting ripe for murder. Egos were flying, and critics would reduce sleep-deprived students to tears and screaming matches at final juries. Later, out in the real world, a tiny handful of architects would claim all the plum commissions, as a single architect each year would be awarded the Pritzker Prize, ratcheting them to Starchitect status.

Several years ago, I decided to remedy this oversight by writing the Iris Reid Mystery series. Iris designs houses in Cambridge, MA, while her loyal Basset hound, Sheba, sleeps nearby inside the fireplace hearth. Iris spends her days hunched over a drafting table in her turreted home office, or butting heads with sexist contractors at construction sites. She spends her nights with the sexy neighborhood chef. Her loyal friend, Ellie, has her back.

I started writing the first book, Conundrum, in my head while attending my own 20th GSD reunion, reconnecting with backstabbing, competitive classmates. (In fairness, there were plenty of nice, normal fellow students, but they aren't as much fun to write about as the prima donnas.) In this book, Iris also returns to her 20th Architecture School reunion, only to discover the body of her former GSD boyfriend at a neo-Modernist house she's designed. That did not happen to me.

In the second book, Facade, Iris agrees to teach a design studio at GSD. A charismatic Dutch starchitect, also teaching that semester, lures Iris into his world. When a local schoolgirl goes missing after visiting the man's office, Iris is his only alibi. But can she actually vouch for his innocence?

Fa├žade, Book 2 in the Iris Reid series

Smart and gutsy architect, Iris Reid, is plunged into the dark world surrounding a missing Cambridge schoolgirl. One of the girl's last visits was to Xander DeWitt, Harvard's handsome guest starchitect, who denies that they ever met. Only Iris can provide an alibi that will allow DeWitt to keep his perfect life. But can she actually vouch for his innocence?

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Angela Adams said...

Bits of real life generally influence an author's work. Enjoyed the post, Susan.

Susan Cory said...

Thanks,Angela. The only problem is when people can't tell which parts are the fiction. I had to make Iris an orphan so my mother would stop asking, "Is that supposed to be me?"

Susan Cory said...

Thanks, Lois, for hosting me on Killer crafts and Crafty Killers!