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Monday, March 13, 2023


Halifax, Nova Scotia
Donalee Moulton is a writer and freelance journalist. Her mystery short stories have appeared in Cold Canadian Crime and Black Cat WeeklyHung out to Die is her first full-length mystery. She’s also the author of The Thong Principle: Saying What You Mean and Meaning What You Say and the co-authored of Celebrity Court Cases. Learn more about Donalee and her books at her website

In the right place

Locating your characters where they belong


Céad míle fáilteThis Gaelic expression means “a hundred thousand welcomes.” If you live in Nova Scotia, as I do, this is an expression you will have seen for much of your life. (Pronouncing it is a different issue altogether.) A hundred thousand welcomes in any language speaks to the type of people you are likely to encounter when you come here and the values they place on such encounters.


Riel Brava – attractive, razor-sharp, ambitious, and something much more –

is the lead character in my new mystery, Hung Out to Die. He lives in Elmsdale, Nova Scotia, about a 40-minute drive from Halifax, the province’s capital. In East Coast parlance, Riel is a come from away. 


Fact is, I could have placed Riel in the middle of anywhere. The murder is not location specific. The victim does not fall from the Brooklyn Bridge or mysteriously appear atop Old Faithful, places that are singular. Nova Scotia made sense for me as a writer, and it made sense for Riel as a character. I live here; I know this province better than any other place. I can write about it with ease, and with a personal perspective.


For Riel, who lives uncomfortably in a world where people hug each other because they care and share the pain of others because their brain is wired that way, being in a place where he does not have roots, where he is an outsider, mirrors what goes on within Riel. It’s the right place for him.


Because I am from Nova Scotia, I can also authentically and naturally insert elements of life here. Take the language, for instance. You may discover some new words such as bejesus and tinchlet. There will be expressions common to the area. “Bless your heart” is one you’ll hear a lot in Nova Scotia, and Riel hears it as well. 


There is also food that has Nova Scotia marinated into it, as Riel discovers when he has a donair for the first time Donairs are a Halifax specialty and considered by some to be Nova Scotia’s official food. Aficionados spend a great deal of time discussing the nuances of the dish, thin slices of spiced beef on a warm pita, sprinkled with diced onion and tomato, and swimming in a sweet, garlicky sauce. 


One of the things I have learned as a writer is that I am in control, and I am not in control. I can decide to situate a character in a particular place, and the character will let me know if that is the right place as the writing unfolds. In the case of Riel, he ends up in the dark of winter at a deserted row of cottages called, what else, Céad míle fáilte.


I did not see that coming. I have a feeling Riel did.


Hung Out to Die


Meet Riel Brava. Attractive. Razor-sharp. Ambitious. And something much more. 


Riel, raised in Santa Barbara, California, has been transplanted to Nova Scotia where he is CEO of the Canadian Cannabis Corporation. It’s business as usual until Riel finds his world hanging by a thread. Actually, several threads. It doesn’t take the police long to determine all is not as it appears – and that includes Riel himself.


Pulled into a world not of his making, Riel resists the hunt to catch a killer. Resistance is futile. Detective Lin Raynes draws the reluctant CEO into the investigation, and the seeds of an unexpected and unusual friendship are sown. Raynes and Riel concoct a scheme to draw a confession out of the killer, but that plan is never put into place. Instead, Riel finds himself on the butt end of a rifle in the ribs and a long drive to the middle of Nowhere, Nova Scotia.


Why would someone want Norm dead, innocuous Norman Bedwell? A motive for murder is buried somewhere, and self-professed psychopath and cannabis production manager, Riel Brava, works with Detective Lin Raynes, aided by endless exotic coffee blends, to find it. As the noose tightens on an increasingly smaller number of suspects, who knew finding a murderer would be so simple? 


In the end, of course, it isn’t.


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