|The Biddle and Smart Building|
In our continuing series on where authors get their ideas, today we welcome six-time Agatha Award nominee Edith Maxwell, author of The Quaker Midwife Mysteries and The Local Foods Mysteries, as well as award-winning short crime fiction, under her own name and The Country Store Mysteries and The Cozy Capers Book Group Mysteries as Maddie Day. When she isn’t killing people on the page or wasting time on Facebook, she enjoys cooking and gardening. Learn more about her and her books at her website and the Wicked Authors blog.
Quaker Midwife Mysteries Origin Story
Why do I write a mystery series set in a late nineteenth-century New England mill town with an independent Quaker midwife in her twenties as amateur sleuth? Let me tell you.
I’ve lived north of Boston in the northeast corner of Massachusetts for thirty years. For all that time I’ve been a member of Amesbury Friends Meeting (Quaker) but lived in other towns and drove to church on Sunday mornings.
In the summer of 2012 we downsized and bought a house in Amesbury. I already had friends here and loved the historic town full of brick mill buildings and a river that runs right through downtown. And now I could walk to Meeting, but I didn’t know much about Amesbury’s history before moving here.
The next spring I read a newspaper article about the Great Fire of 1888 in Amesbury. The town was world-famous at that time for its graceful well-built carriages, and the fire on the night before Good Friday burned down most of the factories on Carriage Hill. The disaster was only saved from being worse by rain that fell during the night. The Biddle and Smart building was one of the few saved, and the rest of the factory owners resolved to rebuild.
After I read that article, I was strolling to our lovely simple Meetinghouse built in 1851 one First Day (that is, Sunday) morning when a short story popped into my head about the Quaker mill girl who solves the mystery of the arson. Historically the Great Fire wasn’t from arson, but it could have been. I wrote that story, and “Breaking the Silence” was published in Best New England Crime Stories 2014: Stone Cold (Level Best Books, November 2013).
I didn’t want to let the setting and characters go, so I invented the girl’s midwife aunt Rose Carroll, based on my previous experience teaching childbirth education and helping women through labors, both at home and in the hospital. I wrote Delivering the Truth, and sold the series to Midnight Ink. Each of the first three books have been nominated for an Agatha Award for Best Historical Novel, including Turning the Tide this year.
I’m excited Charity's Burden, Quaker Midwife Mystery #4 is out, and I am happy to announce the series is moving over to Beyond the Page Publishing with book five. Look for Judge Thee Not to release this fall! There will be at least two more in the series after that. Note: A revised version of this post appeared on the Short Mystery Fiction Society blog.
Delivering the Truth
A Quaker Midwife Mystery, Book 1
After an 1888 Massachusetts town’s carriage industry is torched and a man is stabbed to death with Quaker midwife Rose Carroll's knitting needle, she is drawn into solving the mystery. A factory-owner's mistress is also murdered, leaving her one-week-old baby without a mother. While struggling with being less than the perfect Friend, Rose draws on her strengths as a counselor and problem solver to bring two murderers to justice.