A former Spanish teacher, Marilyn Levinson writes mysteries, romantic suspense, and novels for kids. As Allison Brook she writes the Haunted Library mystery series. Other mysteries include the Golden Age of Mystery Book Club series and the Twin Lakes series. Today Marilyn joins us to discuss the origins of Halloween. Learn more about Marilyn and her books at her website.
The Haunted Library Mystery Series takes place in Clover Ridge, Connecticut, where Carrie Singleton is the head of programs and events. She is the only person, besides her four-year-old cousin, who can see and talk to Evelyn Havers, a former library aide who haunts the library. Carrie’s feline Smoky Joe is the library’s popular resident cat. Her boyfriend, Dylan Avery, is an insurance investigator. Carrie finds herself embroiled in solving mysteries and murders. Evelyn often helps her, except when the suspects happen to be her relatives.
Halloween has become one of our most popular holidays. It certainly wasn't the case when I was growing up in Brooklyn. Then we did our best to avoid the boys running around with chalk in their hands intent on drawing a line down the back of our jackets while they shouted "Halloween!" These days it's the second most popular holiday regarding sales and decorations. Pumpkins abound on doorsteps and in windows, the colorful fruit of autumn. (Yes, it's technically a fruit because it has seeds though we think of it as a vegetable.)
Halloween began with the Celtic celebration of Samhain—the midway point between the fall equinox and the winter solstice—the end of harvest and a time of increasing darkness and the advent of winter. For those of us in the U.S., it's the start of our holiday season: Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas/Chanukah/Kwanzaa, which occur around the Winter Solstice and the shortest day of the year. No big surprise that all three are holidays of light.
The ancient Celts celebrated Samhain with bonfires, many of which burned sacrifices. They feared that the dead might return at this time of the year and wore costumes to scare away the ghosts of the dead. When the Christian reign began, Pope Gregory the Third instituted All Saints Day on November First; the eve before became All Hallows Eve and evolved into Halloween. Countries created their own unique way of celebrating the holiday. In Mexico, November First became El Día de los Muertos. Instead of fearing the dead, Mexicans picnic in cemeteries and share the day with their departed.
Holidays evolve as society changes. We in the United States celebrate Halloween with decorations, parties, and costumes. The dark side of the unknown aspect of Halloween still intrigues us, but a playfulness has set in as well. For many years now, children have worn costumes to go Trick or Treating. Now many adults dress in costumes. Instead of Trick or Treating, they attend private parties or take part in a parade. There are several popular costume parades such as the one in Greenwich Village in Manhattan every year.
Death Overdue, the first book in my Haunted Library series, starts out in October. My sleuth, Carrie Singleton, has a low-level job in the Clover Ridge Library in Clover Ridge, CT. She's bored and restless and ready to move on. Which is when she is offered the position of head of programs and events at the library. To find out why Carrie decides to stay in Clover Ridge, how she gets involved in a cold case and a recent murder, and how she meets her future boyfriend, you'll have to read Death Overdue.
Carrie is well aware that Halloween is a huge event and makes sure that the library is decorated accordingly—with cutouts of skeletons, pumpkins and black cats. She also arranges a Halloween costume party for adults, the first in the library's history. All those who attend—including library staff—must dress as a literary or movie character. Carrie comes as a female Sherlock Holmes. Others come as Snow White, Captain Jack Sparrow, Alice in Wonderland, Superman, Scarlett O'Hara, and Santa Claus. She hires a magician to perform and a storyteller who tells ghostly and grizzly tales. After that, the guests parade around the room while a group of judges choose the best and the funniest costumes. A good time is had by all. Except when Carrie leaves, she discovers that someone has broken a window in her car. The dark side of the holiday—and of all mysteries.
A Haunted Library Mystery
Carrie Singleton is just about done with Clover Ridge, Connecticut until she's offered a job as the head of programs and events at the spooky local library, complete with its own librarian ghost. Her first major event is a program presented by a retired homicide detective, Al Buckley, who claims he knows who murdered Laura Foster, a much-loved part-time library aide who was bludgeoned to death fifteen years earlier. As he invites members of the audience to share stories about Laura, he suddenly keels over and dies.
The medical examiner reveals that poison is what did him in and Carrie feels responsible for having surged forward with the program despite pushback from her director. Driven by guilt, Carrie’s determined to discover who murdered the detective, convinced it’s the same man who killed Laura all those years ago. Luckily for Carrie, she has a friendly, knowledgeable ghost by her side. But as she questions the shadows surrounding Laura's case, disturbing secrets come to light and with each step Carrie takes, she gets closer to ending up like Al.
Now it's due or die for Carrie in Death Overdue the delightful first in a new cozy series by Allison Brook.