Saturday, October 24, 2009

At Witt's End -- The Importance of Location

Don't be taken in by the sweet smile on the face of the woman shown here. Yes, Beth Solheim LOOKS like the kindly lady next door who bakes donuts for all the neighborhood kids, but she's actually a WANTED SERIAL KILLER!!!!

Oh, wait. Wrong picture. Uh... Mmm... Right. My serial killer blog is scheduled for next week. (blush, blush) Sorry about that, Beth.

Okay. I'll start over.

Beth Solheim actually is a kindly lady who lives in the lake country of northern Minnesota. (Think Lake Bemidji, cold winters, tons of snow.) I don't know if she bakes donuts for the neighborhood kids, but I do know she shares her life with a wonderful husband and a menagerie of wildlife critters. Blessed with two grown children and two grandsons, Beth is very much like the main character in her Sadie Witt mystery series: she was born with a healthy dose of imagination and a hankering to solve a puzzle. She learned her reverence for reading from her mother, who was never without a book in her hand.

By day, Beth works in Human Resources. By night she morphs into a writer who frequents lake resorts and mortuaries and hosts a ghost or two in her humorous paranormal mysteries. She's visiting Cicero's Children today to tell you a little about her upcoming book, AT WITT'S END, and to discuss the importance of location in a mystery novel. So, without further ado, here's Beth!


Thanks, Mary! And hello everyone!

As readers well know, settings can be as important to the story as the plot, especially in a cozy mystery series. Cozies welcome readers back time and time again to a small community or a friendly neighborhood where returning characters confront a new adventure.

Cozies are a fun read and engage the reader by shadowing an amateur sleuth who solves crime in a gentle manner—no blatant violence, graphic sex or jarring profanity. Cozy characters are often eccentric, funny, likeable, and the kind you’d enjoy visiting on a regular basis. Settings have equal significance. Each locale offers unique features, seasons, structures, or lends credibility to the profession of the amateur sleuth.

I decided to use a resort situated next door to a mortuary as the setting for my Sadie Witt Mystery Series. That location suited the wacky twin sisters who own the At Witt’s End resort and the occasional ghost who moseys over from the adjacent mortuary. Glorious sunsets, wildlife, the sounds of gentle lapping waves, and the scent of fragrant pine are peppered throughout the story.

Sadie Witt sees the dead. She’s a flamboyant character who uses unorthodox means when challenged with the task of helping the recently departed solve their issues. Some of these issues place Sadie in harm’s way. Because the Witt’s End Resort is centered in a tight-knit community, Sadie is able to draw on her life-long experiences and her cohorts to solve a murder. Settings have to blend with the character, as well as their beliefs and their lifestyles. Sadie may visit a metropolitan area, but would never choose to live there.

A small community and the freedom to experience the beauty of nature are important to me. I live in resort country in Northern Minnesota and only have to step out my patio door to relish the wonders of nature. We have a gray fox who visits daily and two fawns to love to nibble on bread I toss to them. An occasional bear wanders through and raccoons compete with the fox for attention. I drew on these experiences when building a world for my Sadie Witt Mystery Series and a few of these critters show up on the pages now and then. So do some of the zany characters who frequent our Minnesota resorts.

A death coach is expected to counsel patients experiencing life-threatening illness. But that’s not the case for sixty-four year old Sadie Witt, owner of the Witt’s End Resort, because her clients are already dead. They checked into Cabin 14, where no guest leaves alive. Her guests will be shocked to learn that the flamboyant Sadie is their conduit to the hereafter. Clad in the latest fashion trends (fads typically reserved for those without sagging body parts) and sporting hairdos that make bystanders want to look away but can’t, Sadie realizes that one of the guests had been murdered and must work against the clock to untangle the web and prevent further mayhem.

Five guests, all with hidden agendas, must help Sadie solve the murder and protect the mysterious contents of a black leather briefcase. They are ill prepared for the unorthodox manner in which this colorful woman leads them on their final journey.

I hope you enjoy my visit to Cicero's children. I’d love to hear your comments, so please email me at

Visit my Blog, Facebook and Twitter pages and check back for updates. -- AT WITT'S END, released by Echelon Press in early 2010



  1. The book sounds fascinating. I love small town mysteries to read and write about.

    Fun post. I'll be looking for the book.


  2. Hi, Beth,

    I'll also be looking for your book. I love books that take place in the great white north.

    Julie Godfrey Miller
    Duluth, Minnesota

  3. Marilyn, Thanks for the comment. I love small town mysteries, as well. Lots of rich characters and settings.


  4. Julie,

    A fellow Minnesotan! Thanks for stopping by. The first two books in the series take place in summer, then the third hops on over to deep snow and deep trouble.

  5. Thanks for inviting me to talk about settings, Mary. I always look forward to Cicero's Children and the information and updates you present.

    As far as making donuts? Nope, but I sure know the way to the bakery. I think that's why they're still in business.


  6. Great post! I love the pictures of the wildlife visitors Beth has and the idea of incorporating your chilly setting. I'll look forward to reading "At Witt's End."

    Mystery Writing is Murder