Monday, October 10, 2016

Meera Lester's "The Murder of a Queen Bee"

Meera Lester is the author of nearly two dozen nonfiction books and the proprietress of the real Henny Penny Farmette, located in the San Francisco Bay area. Raising chickens and honeybees, she draws on her life at her farmette as the basis of her Henny Penny Farmette mysteries.

Here Lester dreamcasts an adaptation of her second Henny Penny Farmette mystery, The Murder of a Queen Bee:
At the start of one of my mysteries, I create an “incident board.” This board contains the names of my story’s characters, their relationship to the victim, and columns for motivation, opportunity, and means to commit murder. On the board, I tape magazine photos of my sleuth, the victim, and the suspects. The English actress Honeysuckle Weeks her Foyle’s War role as Samantha (Sam) Stewart embodies many of my 37-year-old sleuth Abigail Mackenzie’s Abby’s features, qualities, and vulnerabilities. Like Weeks, Abby looks younger than she is. She has shoulder-length reddish-gold curls, a dusting of freckles over her nose, and the capable hands of a farm woman—efficient at kneading bread, cutting capped cells of wax on a frame of honey, or taking down a perp with Judo moves she learned as a cop back in the day. Like Weeks, Abby projects a blend of being forthright and inquisitive while also demonstrating a quiet vulnerability (especially in the romantic arena). On personal issues, she remains intensely private.

The actress Katherine Heigl could easily portray Officer Katerina Petrovsky, Abby’s former cop partner and best friend in Las Flores, California. A career-ending injury to Abby’s right thumb (her shooting hand) also ended her ability to play the violin (a private joy). In The Murder of a Queen Bee (like A Beeline to Murder, the first book in the series), Abby works at carving out a new life as the owner of a rundown farmette. She ekes out a living growing and selling her heirloom vegetables and fruits, keeping chickens and bees, and harvesting lavender honey. And occasionally, she’ll take some part-time investigative work with the local DA’s office. It’s Kat who isn’t afraid to speak up about Abby’s “money pit” or the ticking of Abby’s biological clock. Because she knows Abby wants to “nest.” Heigl has done sassy and empathetic aspects of characters in her various roles and she looks a lot like Kat. Bryan Cranston would fill the boots of the enigmatic Chief of Police Bob Allen. Few people can understand the chief. Abby compares him to an onion--multi-layered with a small, insecure boy at the center.

Murder is the necessary critical situation that launches each of my mysteries. I write them cinematically—that is visually descriptive and patterned as an emotional roller-coaster. Abby working through the ensuing investigation dictates how the story unfolds. Add in an entertaining coterie of friends, a generous helping of charm, a dash of small town flavor, the twist of a second or third murder, and a satisfying ending and you get escape fiction that’s a fun read.
Visit Meera Lester's website.

--Marshal Zeringue