The butler did it, as the saying goes, but in Susan Juby’s new murder mystery, the butler is the one tasked with solving the crime.
Juby, a Nanaimo author well-known for her young-adult novels, held a book launch for Mindful of Murder on Tuesday, March 15, at Vancouver Island University’s Malaspina Theatre.
Mindful of Murder’s protagonist is Helen Thorpe, a Buddhist and a newly trained butler who gets called back to her previous workplace, a Discovery Islands spiritual retreat called the Yatra Institute, following the death of her former boss.
Juby said she’s fascinated with butlers – she thinks of them as “calm, gracious and present,” she said – and knew she wanted to write about a butler detective.
“I wanted an investigator that was fresh, interesting – an investigator’s all about the way that they solve crimes. Everybody should have a very particular way,” she said. “And so I spent years … working on this book, trying to come up with an investigator with something special to bring to the investigative process.”
The setting was inspired by the Hollyhock retreat on Cortes Island, a place Juby has visited often, but her fictional Yatra Institute turns up the dial with its competitive meditation and flower arranging and martial-arts inspired dance.
“I want things to be funny and somewhat light – sometimes ridiculously light – just to give you that feeling of being cozy and in an environment that’s sort of nurturing, at the same time as there’s a problem to be solved – that problem being a homicide,” she said.
Asked if her YA readers will follow her to the murder mystery shelf at the bookstore, Juby said she supports writers who change genres and has felt that same support so far.
“And people who like to laugh like to laugh, and I hope this makes people laugh,” she said.
Juby says Mindful of Murder might turn out to be the first in a series of mysteries. She’s thought about what’s next for her butler protagonist, who was supposed to have taken a wonderful job with a wealthy American family before the death at the Yatra Institute sidetracked those plans.
“My idea is that she will go to be with the family and then they will second her out to people who have emergencies, and so she’s never going to get a break,” Juby said. “She has to keep stumbling into murders. I’ve got lots of ideas for what Helen can do next, but we shall see.”
For more information, visit http://susanjuby.com.